Carl Froch retained his IBF super middleweight crown with a savage third-round stoppage of Yusaf Mack at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham. Both men were bang on the 168-pound limit but only the champion seemed capable of punching his weight.
Froch (30-2, 22 KOs) tightened the noose in the third round when a bevy of blows had the Philadelphian woozy before a crushing left hook sent him face-first to the canvas. The referee had reached the count of three when it became obvious that Mack had no intention of getting up — the official time was 2.30.
Mack looked in excellent condition but was completely ineffective from the start. Froch has the knack of attacking an opponent immediately after being tagged and he had his man reluctant to engage from the first bell.
The champion unloaded with a flurry in Round 1 and, almost immediately, shortened his strokes to floor Mack with a three-punch combination. The challenger was shaken and continued to ship blows for the remainder of the frame as the home crowd erupted into frenzy.
The second round was slower by comparison but Froch controlled the action with the jab and landed brisk combinations when the American traversed to the ropes. Mack wore the look of a loser and was being tagged with plenty of Froch fireworks as the bell ended the session.
The third was more of the same and when the Nottingham star began clipping the stricken fighter with more headshots the challenger appeared to be looking for a place to fall.
Coming in, Mack had lost four times and, more importantly, he had been stopped four times with each defeat coming against a relentless pressure fighter capable of wearing him down.
That statistic was ominous as Froch is far more seasoned than Tavoris Cloud, Alejandro Berrio and Librado Andrade and infinitely fresher than a 41-year-old Glen Johnson.
All of the above stopped Mack convincingly.
Froch has also been mixing exclusively with world class competition. Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Glen Johnson, Andre Ward, Lucian Bute and Yusaf Mack. Who’s the odd one out on that dance card?
In reality this bout was merely a test of Froch’s psychological fortitude and professionalism. He was supposed to win but the question was could he look good without a “serious” threat in the opposing corner?
The answer was a resounding yes.
It should also be pointed out that this was Mack’s first campaign at super middleweight for almost six years. The Philadelphian was forced to move down from light heavyweight for this opportunity, and chopping off an extra seven pounds wouldn’t have helped his cause.
No excuse, though, because Froch was simply the better man.
The Cobra will now target bigger game at 168. First up will be a rematch with former champion Bute, who he dethroned in spectacular fashion via fifth-round technical knockout six months ago.
A repeat performance would likely set up revenge assignments against Kessler or Ward, his only two conquerors.
Carl Froch plans to fight on for another five years and one gets the feeling he could be a fortysomething well worth watching.
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Tony Bellew vs. Roberto Deliciano Bolonti
In a light heavyweight supporting bout Tony Bellew easily outpointed tough Argentine Roberto Bolonti, surviving a horrible cut over his right eye. Bellew, who was bang on the 175-pound limit, flew out of the blocks in Round 1 and decked his man with a heavy right hand to the head. More of the same followed in Round 2 and Bolonti, who weighed in at 173, was floored again by a perfect left hook counter shot in the third. Still it was Bellew who suffered the most damage as he was clipped in an exchange and blood sprayed under the arc lights. Renowned cuts man Mick Williamson kept Bellew in the game, who played it safe for the remainder of the contest, working steadily behind his jab, while protecting the injury.
Scores were 120-106, 120-106 and 119-107.
Bellew (Ranked No. 10 by RING) improves to 19-1 (12 KOs), and will now target WBC light heavyweight titleholder Chad Dawson.
Photos / Scott Heavey-Gettyimages
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and contributes to various publications. He compiles the boxer profiles and fight breakdowns for Frank Warren Promotions’ official fight programmes. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing