It’s not Beirut or Bosnia” is how Carl Froch once described his Nottingham council estate upbringing. But his gang-plagued neighbourhood was still the reason his father encouraged him to box from the age of nine and, three world titles later, the 35-year-old hasn’t looked back. Ahead of a bout with Dane Mikkel Kessler this Saturday, the boxer told ShortList why he’s never been more dangerous.
How do you improve your punching power?
You don’t – either you can punch or you can’t. Get two boxers – same weight, same height, same reach, with perfect technique, and one will be able to punch noticeably harder, because of natural strength. It’s also a myth that skinny people don’t have punching power. I’ve seen weak-looking people hit bags like you wouldn’t believe.
Have you ever gone too far with a sparring partner?
Oh yeah, there’s one at the minute who thinks he has a chance of fighting me – I won’t mention his name, but I’ve knocked him over in sparring. I’ve knocked a few over. It’s intense. I’m in there trying to do damage, simple as that. Often when people spar with me they have agendas, they want to prove they’ve got something. After all, they’re fighting a world champion.
Anyone put you on your backside?
No, I’ve got one of the best chins in the business. I don’t go over. Occasionally I’ve lost my balance after being caught on a good shot by someone bigger than me, but I don’t get knocked down.
What’s the most extreme length you’ve gone to for training?
Downhill mountain-biking. I went down a red route, which is ridiculously hard, and my foot got caught. Next thing I knew I was flying over the handlebars and landed on a tree stump. I thought I’d broken my back, but I’d just bruised my pelvic bone and the bottom of my spine.
What is the best way of building stamina?
I sprint a lot. I try sprinting flat-out for at least three minutes to replicate a round. In the ring, you exert a lot of energy and force in a short space of time, so you need to build the aerobic capacity to do that.
Do you ever eat fast food?
McDonald’s is absolutely fine. I ate it for four weeks in the run-up to my last fight. If I have a chicken salad, that’s 140 calories with a Caesar dressing on it, and the fruit juice it has is healthy, too. I often eat a quarter-pounder with cheese – without the bun – two hours before a training session, and I know it’s going to get burnt off. It’s all about moderation.
No raw eggs, then?
No, but I’ve tried to catch a few pigeons. That was Rocky Balboa-inspired. There was a grey dove in my garden once, and I nearly caught the little bastard. It started to fly off, so I ran for it, diving at it like a lunatic, but it got away. It beat me.
How do you deal with dirty opponents?
When I’m hit low, I hit back straight away without hesitation. And if I don’t hit him, I think, “Right, I owe you one.” If he head-butts me, I’ll head-butt him. I fight fire with fire – I don’t care if the referee picks me up, because you just get a warning for your first illegal blow. The worst fighters are spoilers – they do something dirty and go quiet for the rest of the round.
What’s a good explosive exercise?
Hand-clap press-ups. As soon as you land you’re pushing yourself back up to do the clap, so you have to get some air between your hands and the floor, rather than just slowly push up. It’s all about explosive power in the muscles.
Do you abstain from sex before a fight?
Usually three weeks before a fight, yeah, but it doesn’t bother me. Being good in the sack takes up energy, and as beautiful as my partner is, close to a fight I’m never in the mood for that stuff, as I’m usually physically exhausted after training.