Froch and Hague meet for the vacant British title
By Elliot Worsell (September 24, 2004) 
Photo © Mr.Will/
Hometown favourite Carl ‘The Cobra’ Froch returns to his native Nottingham tonight as he looks to maintain his firm stranglehold on the commonwealth super middleweight title, as well as seizing the now vacant British crown at the atmospheric Ice Arena. Derby’s feverish ticket seller Damon Hague, coming off two hard fought duals with Shrewsbury’s Roddy Doran, squares up in the opposing corner, in what will also be the former WBF champion’s first stab at top domestic honours.

Froch, a former world amateur bronze medallist, has racked up an impressive 13 victories thus far as a professional (10 inside) since cashing in the vest and headgear back in March 2002 and has collected English and commonwealth title honours in the paid ranks. Friday night presents the hard hitting 168 lber with the chance to add the most valued title strap on the British Isles to his resume – and catapult his name to the top of the domestic super middleweight tree, where the likes of Joe Calzaghe, Robin Reid and Brian Magee currently reside.

Currently two weeks into his 27th year, the time is nigh to start making waves in a global sense for the loose-limbed puncher. Noteworthy pro victories over the likes of rugged African swarmer Charles Adamu and Canadian slickster Mark Woolnough have seen Froch ascend to the top of many people’s lists of prospects to watch out for in the coming season. But with a Lonsdale strap added to his commonwealth title, the ‘prospect’ tag could decisively be traded in for that of ‘contender’.

Originally, a highly charged domestic dustup with proud Liverpudlian Tony Dodson had been in the offing for the past 12 months and was a matchup that promised to test the true talent and mettle of the Nottingham star. Unfortunately for both participants, especially the luckless champion Dodson, a concoction of unfortunate accidents and subsequent injuries suffered by Tony has seen him omit from the contest on three separate occasions. Through no fault of his own, the British champion had to relinquish the belt following the third withdrawal, paving the way for Froch and Hague to tough it out for domestic boxing’s most prized possession.

Photo © Mr.Will/
For the hungry and spirited Hague, 23-3-1 (11 KO’s), the chance to contest major domestic honours could not have come at a better time. Well into his prime at 33, feeling the strain of a battle ridden 6 year career and having just fended off great rival Doran six months ago, are factors that leave Hague in a chief position to give his all in what is his most pivotal night to date. Defeats to Wayne Pinder (avenged via a second round stoppage victory), an early disqualification setback to Dean Ashton (avenged by a second round technical decision) and a points reversal to the skilful Roddy Doran (also avenged in March with a twelve round unanimous points verdict) have shown up the limitations of Hague in the past. However, against an inexperienced, albeit precocious professional in Froch, the born again Christian may just have the ingredients needed to test the Nottingham hero in what is also his biggest night to date.

One thing’s for sure; Froch won’t have a minute’s rest with the marauding Hague in close proximity. Hague, though no oil painting in terms of work on canvas, very rarely gives his opponents an easy time, and has proven in the past that leaving the arena on his shield is more preferable to leaving via the side exits. If the Derby warrior’s offered a knife, he’ll take a spoon. If he’s granted the winning lottery ticket, he’ll stick to a blue-collar day job instead. He’s that kind of grafter. There’s nothing pretty, or ‘wishy washy’ with this down to earth pro – and as the recent Doran battles showed - if a tough, arduous struggle is forecast, he has no qualms carrying out the commands.

Perhaps worryingly, however - when going in with a thoroughbred super middleweight in Froch - is the fact that Hague’s 27-bout career has been fought mostly in and around the 160 lb middleweight constraints. Even in his most recent appearance up at super middleweight, in the aforementioned struggles with Doran, the Derby man failed to look at ease with his newly discovered 168 lb frame. Incidentally, many believe that had it not been for a prospective clash against mandatory contender and Australian slickster Sam Soliman, Hague may have passed up the chance to move up eight pounds, and instead try and prolong his stranglehold on his WBF middleweight strap. As it happened, the intelligent Derby brawler opted for a ticket churning rivalry with Roddy Doran up at super middleweight.

An aspect the effervescent slugger does have in his favour however is experience and ring craft. Throughout a career that has seen Master’s and WBF titles come his way, Hague has experienced knockdowns, defeats, and most importantly, revenge. Damon knows how it feels to be defeated, and then come raring back to turn the tables. Irrespective of the talent Froch possesses, there won’t be a lot on Friday night that Hague hasn’t been put through before.

Encouragingly for Froch and his Hennessy Sports team, recent performances have seen the Nottingham born champion extended into the championship rounds and dig deep to pull out the desired result. In March he travelled 12 solid rounds with Ghanaian brawler Charles Adamu, picking up a razor thing decision win. Froch has also exceeded the six round mark against well-schooled operators Alan Page and the aforementioned Woolnough. The Woolnough bout in particular showed Froch’s ability to adapt, and successfully revert to different gameplans when the fog begins building up and his buoyant opponent gains confidence.

The importance of those draining, tooth and nail battles cannot be understated as Froch begins careening towards recognised championship status. As witnessed two weeks ago in Carl Thompson’s thrilling five round victory over ten fight novice David Haye, the value of strenuous, sink or swim professional rounds cannot be appreciated enough when travelling into top tier championship class. Froch, having shown he can reverse the scenario when his back’s pinned to the wall, will be in good stead as he begins his march towards global recognition.

Despite Hague’s bravery, guts and unquenchable detremination one expects him to endure a difficult evening. Froch, long armed, and possessing an ability to perfectly judge the range of an opponent to lash in his own shots without being significantly tagged in return, is at the peak of his powers at present and possesses class and natural athleticism that is a notch above Hague’s. Damon will have success if he applies educated aggression, and attempts to rough up Froch, and not allow him room to get off with his own two fisted assaults – but nevertheless, it’s a big ask for a 33 year old, who, though more experienced, is taking his own first real step up in class.

Fiery African Charles Adamu was one knockdown away from handing Froch an early career defeat by adopting similar marauding tactics – and let’s not forget Valery Odin posed some problems to Froch with his similarly hectic style. Standing off from Froch, and showing his power too much respect would be a grave danger for Hague, as that is when the self proclaimed ‘Cobra’ is at his most dominant and spiteful. If the natural middleweight can somehow conjure up the strength to keep pushing Carl back for three minutes of each round, he can gain success. But ultimately, however clichéd, there is no substitute for raw talent – and Froch, compared to Hague, possesses this element in abundance.
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