By Jake Donovan
There will be an eventual rematch between top super middleweights Carl Froch and Lucian Bute. It just won’t be immediate, which is good news for both fighters.
Bute announced Thursday afternoon that he will be exercising the rematch clause in his contract from their first fight. However, the news comes with the caveat that both fighters will head in opposite directions in taking interim fights later this year.
“That was not the real Lucian Bute in that Nottingham ring on May 26,” Bute (30-1, 24KO) vowed in looking back on the 5th round knockout loss to Froch in Nottingham, England.
The defeat was the first of Bute’s career, also putting to an end a super middleweight title reign that lasted more than 3 ½ years.
“I spent the last few weeks reflecting about what went wrong, what happened, and the only thing that is crystal clear in my mind is that I want my rematch with Carl Froch as soon as possible.”
Unfortunately for Bute, his opinion was overruled by promoters for both camps, who agreed that it was in everyone’s interest to have the rivals first face other opponents. The targeted date for the rematch is March 2013, most likely in Montreal.
Terms of the contract called for a two-fight deal in each fighter’s hometown. The first fight took place in front of a rabid crowd in Nottingham, Bute’s first fight outside of Canada or his native Romania. Froch dominated the action from the opening bell en route to scoring the biggest win of his career.
"Froch vs. Bute has already gone down as one of the greatest nights in British boxing history," noted Eddie Hearn, who took over the promotional reigns for Froch prior to last year’s Super Six finals with Andre Ward. "It generated record television audiences and a sold-out arena where fans were treated to what many respected pundits and fighters have described as one of the best atmospheres ever felt in a British fight.”
"Of course, like any fighter Lucian is keen to avenge this defeat and as per our agreement has the opportunity to try to make that happen. Both myself and Lucian's promoter Jean Bedard feel that it is the best interests of both fighters and any future rematch that both fighters will take an interim fight later this year.”
Froch (29-2, 21KO) is being groomed for a November ring return in his native England. Nothing is set yet, though one name being mentioned is Mikkel Kessler, who handed Froch his first pro loss during Stage Two of the Showtime Super Six World Boxing Classic way back in 2010.
The defeat ended Froch’s first tour as super middleweight titlist after a 16-month reign that included wins over Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor and Andre Dirrell. Froch re-entered the title picture later in 2010, dominating Arthur Abraham to pick up a vacant belt.
A June ’11 win over Glen Johnson – in addition to the aforementioned stretch of tough fights – validated Froch’s credentials enough to where the winner of his Super Six finale with Ward would garner recognition as the best super middleweight in the world. That became Ward, who built an early lead and fended off a late Froch rally to take a unanimous decision. The win earned Ward a slew of accolades – Super Six champion, lineal super middleweight king and 2011 Fighter of the Year.
However, it’s Froch who has made the most headlines due to his desire to continue to face the best. The plans that Showtime had in mind was for Bute to challenge the winner of the Super Six tournament, having invested heavily in the round robin series as well as Bute’s immediate future.
Those plans were squashed when Ward – who suffered and further aggravated a hand injury during the win over Froch – decided he was taking some time off and that he and nobody else would decide who and when he fights next.
Showtime balked at the idea of financing a bout between Froch and Bute, but that didn’t stop either fighter from doing everything in their power to make that fight a reality. In an era where TV far too often dictates when fighters get to fight, Froch and Bute decided to put the fight first, of the belief that a network would follow.
One did, as new kid on the block EPIX gladly jumped in and aired the bout live from England. Froch took care of the rest, blowing out Bute in late May to become the talk of the town while Ward – who has since announced a September showdown with Chad Dawson - remained on the sidelines. The fight was lopsided enough to where Froch and his handlers believed Bute would go in a different direction altogether.
Instead, Bute did the right thing – lived by his word of taking some time to reel from the loss, properly reflect on what happened and then determine the best course of action for the future.
“There is no hiding the fact that the result on May 26 was hard on everyone,” reveals Jean Bedard, head of Interbox, who has handled Bute’s entire pro career. “But even in defeat, in the locker room after the fight and the days following the loss, I still felt Lucian had the fire in his belly to come back stronger and demand his rematch with Froch.”
Both sides recognize that the magnitude and atmosphere of the first fight was too great to leave at one and done. Should both fighters win in the interim, it will only heighten anticipation for a return go, especially given Bute’s wild popularity in Canada.
"Froch vs. Bute II in Montreal is a massive event and I'm sure that impressive victories for both men later this year will add further fuel to the fire,” insists Hearn. “We will be looking to announce an opponent for Carl in the next few weeks for another big fight in the UK.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox