Carl Froch and Andre Ward were there in the beginning.
They will be there in the end.
The Super Six World Boxing Classic went one way and then another, but the tournament’s final link will play out almost as if it had been written into the 168-pound script.
“It’s fitting that we would be the guys,’’ Ward told Showtime.
It is and Froch made sure of it with a fitting strategy that allowed him to score a majority decision over tough Glen Johnson Saturday at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall in the tournament’s second semifinal.
“Me and my trainer have the formula,’’ Froch said as he looked past sportscaster Jim Gray and directly at Ward, who was there for Showtime a few weeks after he secured his spot in the super-middleweight final with a victory over Arthur Abraham. “I believe I can win. I know I can beat this guy.’’
A date and site for the super-middleweight finale has yet to be announced, but it was evident that Froch’s inexhaustible well of confidence was deeper than ever after his skillful victory over Johnson, a 42-year former light-heavyweight champ who was one of the late subs in a tourney full of shuffles.
Against Johnson, Froch (28-1, 20 KOs) found the right combination. Actually, he found several. Combos, round-after-round from the third through the 12th, proved to be the key to a Froch victory that was one-sided on every card but one. Nobuaki Uratani of Japan scored it 114-114. British judge Mark Green of Britain scored it 116-112 and American John Stewart had 117-111, both for Froch, still the World Boxing Council’s super-middleweight champion.
“I didn’t know what that 114-114 score was, to be honest,’’ Froch said.
A single category in the punch stats seemed to sum up Froch’s dominance. The Englishman from Robin Hood’s Nottingham landed 53 combos to Johnson’s 20.
Even Johnson’s corner must have been surprised by Uratani’s scorecard.
“I felt I was in it, but my corner told me to pick it up, because I was falling behind,’’ Johnson (51-15-2, 35 KOs) said.
Early on, it looked as if Johnson’s big right hand might result in an upset. The 33-year-old Froch lets his left hand droop, drift and drop almost to the top of his kneecaps. For Johnson, that had to look like an invitation.
Johnson landed the right, repeatedly. But Froch countered, repeatedly, with energy that fueled an almost dizzy array of combinations. The only sign of Johnson’s right hand was slight swelling beneath Froch’s right eye.
In the later rounds, Froch’s combos would end with a quick, perhaps knowing smile. It was as if he knew he had lured the Jamaican into a trap he had devised, practiced and set weeks ago in the gym.
“He was able to come back with quick counters,’’ said Johnson, who wore Miami Heat colors and logo, yet didn’t fade or fold the way LeBron James and Dwyane Wade did against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. “I kind of fell into his fight plan more than my own.’’
After a cautious couple of opening rounds, Froch’s plan began to fall subtly into place. Johnson began to pick up the pace in the third with an attack designed to get inside of a long jab that Froch threw as he backed away across a wide expanse of blue canvas.
Johnson almost had to look down to see Froch’s left hand. The come-on was irresistible. Johnson began to throw right hands. Before the end of the third, one, then another landed. For a fleeting second, Froch appeared to be stunned. Turns he wasn’t. He was just getting started.
Before Froch’s triumph over Johnson, Mikkel Kessler (44-2, 33 KOs) came back from a 14-month layoff with a sixth-round TKO of Mehdi Bouadla (22-4, 10 KOs) in Copenhagen. Kessler knocked down Bouadla three times. It was Kessler first fight since suffering an eye injury that forced him to withdraw from the Super Six. Kessler beat Froch in April 2010 and lost to Ward in November 2009.
Froch might have the formula.
But Ward has the advantage, at least for now and until the Super Six Final.