To his astonishment and delight Carl Froch found himself being mobbed by autograph hunters and well-wishers as he visited the vast Westfield shopping complex in west London the other day.
So resigned had he become to walking unnoticed through the streets of the capital that for a moment he thought the crowds were descending on the glamour model who is the mother of their child.
But no. Suddenly, Britain’s best boxer is getting the wider recognition his considerable exploits deserve.
Family man: Carl Froch with his girlfriend Rachael and son Rocco
Not a moment too soon. Although perhaps not in time to prevent our world super-middleweight champion from turning his muscular back, at least partially, on this country.
As he heads for Atlantic City and the final of the longest and toughest tournament in the annals of boxing, Froch reveals that he and the lovely Rachael Cordingley are planning to set up home in America.
To those who know him well, it will seem inconceivable that Froch would choose to spend most of each year living anywhere but Nottingham, where he is a very local hero.
Getting ‘The Cobra’ out of his home town has been like pulling a whale out of water.
But the delayed, although still potentially epic, collision between his intensely heavy punching and the slick Olympian skills of Andre Ward on December 17 will be the fifth of his last six fights for which he has had to venture abroad. And he is a man changed by the experience.
Nottingham's finest: Froch intends to leave Britain for a new life in America
Travel broadens the mind and Froch now shares Ms Cordingley’s conviction that the long-term future of themselves, 15-month-old Rocco and the two more sons she hopes to give him lies in the United States.
‘Yes,’ he says. ‘You could say I’ll be turning my back on Britain, although we’ll keep a place in Nottingham.’
That decision is being driven by Froch’s exasperation at public support here, which has been as skimpy as some of the outfits worn by Rachael for her photo shoots.
Froch says: ‘I wasn’t backed by Britain even after I won the world title. That fight (with Jean Pascal) was on ITV but even then British TV never really got behind me. But now I’ve had a couple of big fights in the US, the TV people over there are so supportive.
‘Had my recent series of fights against Andre Dirrell, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham and Glen Johnson been given proper exposure, I’d have been a household name in Britain a while ago. But only now are Sky giving me the platform I think I should have been getting for years.’
Boxing clever: Froch (left) beat Arthur Abraham in the Super Six tournament
Not that he blames Sky entirely for coming late to the party, explaining: ‘There was a political situation which was part of the problem.’
Following his split with long-time promoter Mick Hennessy, he describes himself as ‘very happy’ working with Eddie Hearn, who has assumed responsibility for boxing within his father Barry’s multi-sport Matchroom company.
Given victory over Ward in this Super Six final — in which he also hopes to add the Californian’s WBA belt to his WBC world super- middleweight title — Froch is plotting a further unification bout with Canada’s IBF world champion Lucien Bute and a blood-and- thunder return match with Kessler in which he is ‘confident of avenging my only defeat’.
Then the jewel in the crown: a step up to light-heavyweight to challenge legendary Bernard Hopkins — at 46, boxing’s oldest ever world champion — in a fight which would realise Froch’s ambition to fill the City Ground, home of his beloved Nottingham Forest.
America may be the future but this is not a man to forget his roots. Not only in the East Midlands but those which run deep to his Polish ancestry.
Shooting the breeze: Sportsmail's Jeff Powell deep in conversation with Froch
The iron genes in this hardest of fighting men were forged in his family’s ancestral homeland and tempered in the Second World War. Although both his parents were born in England, Froch is conscious that ‘my grandfather fought for his country, survived the horrors of the war and then suffered seriously hard times.
‘That Polish hardness, the toughness, that fight-to-the-death warrior mentality is with me in the ring. It’s my origin. It’s my heritage.
‘My grandfather’s starvation and deprivation are part of my metabolism and that makes it easy for me to make the weight as a boxer. I wasn’t born to excess.’
A typical Polish ability for building work is evidence of that.
We are talking in his and Rachael’s pleasant but unpretentious house in a Nottingham suburb. This was originally a bungalow to which Carl’s enthusiasm for DIY has helped add a couple of rooms beneath the roof.
Double act: Froch with Rachael
While his fists perform demolition work in the ring, the creative talent in those hands often attends to repairs at the several rental properties in Nottingham and London which represent the family’s financial security.
A Polish immigrant who has just moved into one of the terraced houses telephones to report that the washing machine has broken down.
‘OK, Wladimir,’ says a world champion in training for the biggest fight of his life. ‘I’ll fix it or replace it over the weekend.’
The next caller is a builder responding to Froch’s complaint about shoddy work in his and Rachael’s en-suite bathroom. ‘Stuff it, I’ll still pay you,’ he says. ‘But I wish I’d done the tiling myself.’ Just as he painted a Union Jack on an entire wall of his new conservatory.
As he prepares to cross the Atlantic, Froch will be fighting there as much for Britain as for himself. To that end, he is in even more formidable condition than usual. Although he never puts on much weight between fights, it is remarkable to find him little more than a pound above the super-middleweight limit five weeks before the original date for the fight.
At 9.30 in the morning, he has just finished what he calls his Rocky Run. The route, like Sylvester Stallone’s, climbs steep working-class streets and passes grimy factories. He times all his runs and completes this one in 28min 45sec. ‘Already bang on my fastest target,’ he says with satisfaction.
Rachael brings Rocco to say good morning and she gives her man a cuddle; Carl is still bare-chested. Unsurprising, really, since this loving couple both take their tops off at work. Carl sometimes reminds her to preserve a little of her modesty, even when posing for her sexy 2012 calendar which is about to go on sale here, and dozens of copies of which she is taking to the fight to market in America.
No hare-brained model this one. Rachael is as bright and savvy as her man is intelligent and articulate.
She worries about Carl, too. ‘I get so nervous at ringside that sometimes I feel physically sick,’ she admits. ‘Yet in another way I love the excitement. Carl’s fights are always thrilling and the rounds just fly by. And I just know he’ll always find a way to win. He’s brilliant.’
Training commitments obliged Froch to miss the dinner in London which celebrated Michael Watson’s gallant and extraordinary 20 years of life after he was knocked into a coma by Chris Eubank at White Hart Lane.
The hazards of boxing nag at most fight families but they did not enter Froch’s consciousness until Rocco was born.
‘Never thought about it before,’ he says. ‘But just now and again, when I hold my son, it does cross my mind for a fleeting moment. It will never affect my fighting attitude in the ring. I just think how horrible it would be for Rocco and Rachael if something did happen to me.
‘Then I remind myself that the only boxers who get brain damage are those who dehydrate badly when struggling to make the weight. That’s not me.’
Some boxers shy away from that deadly subject but Froch never ducks a question, let alone an opponent. Rachael says: ‘Although he’s kind to me and he’s a wonderful father, he is so tough in the ring and he always speaks his mind.’
That he does. Even if it might upset a friend or a boxing peer, when he adds: ‘Joe Calzaghe disappointed me by hanging up the gloves before fighting me.
‘It left me to win my first world championship in a fight for the vacant title, instead of having my chance to beat the best in the world.
‘But I’m glad he’s got his life back in order. Him and Ricky Hatton. They were both great fighters who found life after boxing difficult and slipped into drugs and drink.
‘Once they retired that should have stayed in their private lives and it was disgusting that the News of the World set them up to expose them. But perhaps it did them a favour in the end because it made them deal with their problems.
‘I will never go down that slippery slope. I don’t drink. I’m not a party animal. Most of the time I’m in bed by 10.30. And I have the solid base of my life with Rachael and Rocco.’
Nor would he allow himself to under-perform in the ring, as did his mate David Haye against Wladimir Klitschko. He says: ‘David mucked up. Then he went on about his cracked toe. He wanted his fans to know he was injured but it would have been better to say nothing.’
Froch is as harsh a judge as he is a fighter. Yet one of the most controversial figures in British boxing, Prince Naseem Hamed, remains high in his esteem. Not least because his brilliance drew Carl back into the gym, to which he was first taken by his father, but from which he had walked away for four years.
He says: ‘I gave up boxing at 15 and but for Naz I would never have gone back. I used to love watching him. Even though I was out of the game in 2001, I spent almost every penny I had on going to Las Vegas to watch him fight (Marco Antonio) Barrera. I kept a hundred dollar bill in my back pocket in case of emergency, but I was so convinced Naz was going to win that I put it on a bet with a Mexican at ringside.
‘Barrera was brilliant that night, world class. But even though Naz lost he went down fighting and I still loved him. I wanted to pick up where he was leaving off and there’s still a bit of him in me.
‘I mimicked the way he fought. Rob McCracken (Carl’s trusted trainer) is not always happy that I carry my hands low like that, but when I throw my punches from down there, especially the jab, they often don’t see them coming.’
Idol: Froch saw Prince Naseem Hamed (left) lose to Marco Antonio Barrera
Nor does he care that he leaves himself open to be hit. ‘I’m lucky that I’ve got a great chin. Also Ward’s not a great puncher and he won’t be able to keep me off him.’
The received wisdom is that a boxer can only take so many wars. Froch has had five epics in succession, with a sixth in the offing, but he says: ‘At 34, I feel 20. Never been in better shape. I feel like I could carry on for ever. I know one day my body will tell me it’s time to quit. But not for a while yet.’
So there should still be plenty of time for Carl Froch to find adulation on both sides of the Atlantic.
Meanwhile, he slips his shirt over his ripped torso.
Rachael’s is not the only body beautiful in the increasingly famous family Froch.