IBF and WBA super middleweight champion Carl “The Cobra” Froch has applauded Clitheroe fighter Luke Blackledge for the stern test he provided in sparring ahead of his Battle of Britain showdown with George Groves.
The four-time World champion, who defeated Mikkel Kessler unanimously in an exhilarating 12-round encounter at the O2 Arena in May, will make the defence of his prized titles against Groves at the Phones 4U Arena on Saturday.
Blackledge has contributed to Froch’s preparation with over 50 rounds of sparring at Sheffield’s Institute of Sport. And the British pound-for-pound king didn’t hold back in his praise for Kevin Maree’s British title contender.
“He’s been doing very good,” Froch said. “Luke’s very fit, very strong, comes forward, he likes to fight, but he can also box a bit. He’s mainly a come forward fighter and he’s very tough and durable. It’s very relentless pressure that he puts on which is great. He’s a hard man to get off you.
“Luke and Groves are different styles of fighters. But he’s definitely helped in my preparation for the fight. He’s given me 10 rounds of really hard, physical graft lately. It was really hard work.”
Froch added: “Sometimes you can’t get that kind of sparring where you can let your shots go, put combinations together, land your shots and your sparring partner is just standing there and looking at you as if to say ‘give me some more because I’m enjoying this’. The physical workout I’ve been getting off Luke is as good as any sparring I’ll ever do.
“I’ll definitely use him for sparring in the future 100 per cent. He’s proven he can last the test of time with me and not many sparring partners do. They’ll come once or twice and then they won’t come back again. But Luke keeps rolling up, jumps in the ring and does his thing. He’s not bothered. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s a gentleman, and a very polite young man in the gym. Luke’s been a fabulous help. I thank him for that dearly.”
While Froch bids to retain his belts, Blackledge’s next challenge hangs in the balance after news that Paul Smith Jnr has withdrawn from their scheduled British title bout on December 7th following contractual issues with promoter Frank Warren. However, Blackledge will still appear on the bill at Liverpool’s Echo Arena.
That would’ve been a pivotal test in Blackledge’s career, but despite the postponement Froch believes he can make a name for himself as a 168lb fighter.
“It’s hard to say how far somebody is going to go based on seeing them once or twice,” he said. “You’ve got to see them in different scenarios in fights, how they respond to getting caught or being hurt with shots, what happens when they’re behind on points and they need to dig deep. You can see the skillset of somebody but you don’t know what they’ve got in their heart or what’s going on in their mind until you see them come fight night.
“But something strikes me about Luke. He’s got the right mentality. He’s not fazed. He spars with me - a four-time world champion - and he just jumps in, gets on with it and lets his punches go.
“His attitude is right, he wasn’t overwhelmed when sparring with me, and that’s a very good attitude to have in the fight game. Never put anyone on a pedestal, just think about what your doing, and that’s what Luke does. That will help him in the pro game but we’ll find out more on fight night.”