By Jake Donovan
On paper, it’s not the fight to determine once and for all the best super middleweight on the planet. But not every fight needs such clarification. Some fights are worth watching on its own merit.
Saturday’s showdown between Lucian Bute and Carl Froch at the Nottingham Arena is such a fight.
Lineal super middleweight champ Andre Ward opted to sit this one out, nursing injuries and wounds from his own points win over Froch in their Super Six finals last December. Chances are that the unbeaten Oakland native won’t be around to face the winner, as rumors have swirled of a potential fall showdown with light heavyweight king Chad Dawson.
All of that is fine. Bute and Froch were eager to face each other this weekend. They’re eager to fight again in Canada later this year if it comes to that.
Bute (30-0, 24KO) was universally regarded as the best super middleweight NOT in the Showtime Super Six World Boxing Classic. The unbeaten titlist now gets his taste of tournament life, having easily outpointed Super Six semifinalist Glen Johnson last November and now facing the runner up.
Froch (26-2, 20KO) went all around the world to prove his worth as a top super middleweight. The irony is that his tour began at home, defeating Andre Dirrell in Nottingham way back at the beginning of the tournament in Oct. ’09. Saturday’s event marks his first fight back in his hometown since then.
How close is this fight, on paper? The Boxingscene.com staff is virtually split down the middle on how the fight will play out.
PREDICTIONS – BUTE vs. FROCH
“Froch by unanimous decision. Froch's higher volume, (Bute averaged just 49 punches thrown per round in last 6 fights, Froch averaged 67 per round in his last 6 fights), boisterous home crowd and much higher level of recent competition will serve him well. Froch has fought champions in six of his last seven fights. Froch's busy jab will further inhibit Bute's offense, which will help him win enough close rounds to capture a razor-thin decision.”
- Bob Canobbio, Compubox (Froch)
“Hometown advantage for Froch could prove to be a major factor. Still, Bute would have never accepted such a dangerous assignment without knowing what he’s getting himself into. Froch will give Bute hell, but come up just short in the end in a tightly scored split decision in favor of the defending titlist that leaves the house fighter dejected and disgruntle.”
– Jake Donovan (Bute)
“I like Froch. The combination of better opposition (Super Six) and home turf (Nottingham) should be the tiebreaker in a close fight down the stretch, when he'll still be posing questions that Bute's never been asked. UD 12, say 116-112.”
- Lyle Fitzsimmons (Froch)
“Bute TKO late. Statement fight and I think Bute is ready to show the world he has a claim to being the best Super Middleweight in the world.”
– Ernest Gabion (Bute)
“Bute W12. A motivated Froch will come out like a lion in front of his hometown crowd, but I think his right hand and bodywork will be negated by Bute's speed, movement, and accuracy. I like the southpaw Bute to pull out a close, gutty victory in a bout that will make the cries for a fight with Andre Ward even louder..”
– Ryan Maquinana (Bute)
“Froch By Dec: Being at the Nottingham Arena, with his immediate future near the top of the class hanging in the balance, Froch should have more answers come Saturday night. While he’s never seen Bute, he’s seen more of boxing’s challenges than his foe. This fight could end up being an even better version of the wild first contest between Bute and Librado Andrade. Bute has improved his defense and never been close to that sort of trouble again since. Froch can get him there. Bute’s speed should see him win some of the early rounds but Froch is going to chip away bit by bit. As the rounds wear on, his body shots and right hand will force Bute to work harder and harder to keep ahead with fatiguing affect. By the last third of the fight, Froch should assume control and begin to pull away. The pick here is Froch by late stoppage or close, but firm, decision with cries of ‘rematch’ lingering in the air.”
– Cliff Rold (Froch)
“Part of what makes this fight interesting is this is Lucian Bute's biggest and toughest fight of his career. Up until now Glen Johnson is the biggest name on his resume. Leaving his comfort zone and fighting in hostile territory for the first time in his career, I still think Bute does enough to earn a win. Froch will test him and take him to brink much like Librado Andrade did but Bute will use his crafty style and sheer talent to outbox the rugged Froch. Bute by Majority Decision.”
- Luis Sandoval (Bute)
“This is what can’t be denied about Saturday’s IBF super-middleweight championship: Froch has fought far superior opposition than has Bute, who in a rare occasion won’t have the luxury and comfort of fighting at home. How Bute mentally and psychologically handles the 9,000 rabid British supporters this Saturday may well ultimately dictate whether he returns to Canada with his title intact. He can do this by methodically outpunching Froch. Or he can accomplish this with a knockout, and Bute undoubtedly has the potential to deliver. He has one of the prettiest and most-devastating right uppercuts in the business. And Bute thinks inside the ring, using his angles to apply pressure. But he’s also meeting a guy who was the runner-up in the Super Six tournament. Yes, Froch looked awkward and slow against Andre Ward in the final, but Froch’s pedigree is far more impressive, having met Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham and Glen Johnson. Bute, too, has met Johnson, his former sparring partner. Otherwise, should we be impressed with his victories against Brian McGee or Jean-Paul Mendy, not to mention Jesse Brinkley and Edison Miranda? It’s possible Froch, at 34, has nothing left in the tank after a series of tough fights. But it’s also possible he’ll become world champ for the third time, adding to his legacy. And Bute, subconsciously or not, might have the rematch clause in the back of his mind, knowing he can’t lose - even if he does. Bute’s stronger, but we like Froch, via split-decision.”
- Herb Zurkowsky, Montreal Gazette (Froch)
"For years since capturing his IBF super middleweight title, Lucian Bute was an enigmatic figure for the boxing community. What we have understood very well over these years are two simple facts: 1). His potential is truly enormous; 2). He hasn't really been tested yet (even in the first Andrade fight). On Saturday he should be at the very heights of his potential to defeat a very determined fighter and a very underrated boxer in Carl Froch. Bute is no Ward yet. He will probably dominate Froch at the beginning with his finesse but he will fade late in the fight after the Brit's re-adjustment and due to his not-so-perfect defense and questionable stamina - and just in time to make it a toss-up fight. I have no clue who will win it - twelve round draw is my choice for this collision.
- Alexey Sukachev (Undecided, Draw)
"Bute will dominated the fight in the second half before breaking down in the championship rounds. I expect Froch to come close to a stoppage in the final rounds but being unable to close the deal. Bute will win a close split decision.
- Osman Rodriguez (Bute)
Total picks: Lucian Bute 5, Carl Froch 4, Undecided 1
The EPIX broadcast airs live from Nottingham at 6:00PM ET/3:00PM PT. Fans can also watch online at EpixHD.com or – if in the area – on the jumbotron monitor in Times Square.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments via e-mail.