By Thomas Gerbasi
There are few certainties in sports, but you can always be pretty sure that the Dominican Republic will produce major league shortstops, New York City will deliver top-notch point guards, and Pennsylvania will make quarterbacks.
Another surefire bet is that Europe, particularly England, will make some of the best 168-pound fighters in the world. Joe Calzaghe, Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank, Robin Reid, Stevie Collins, Sven Ottke and Richie Woodhall are just a few of the names that have graced the division over the years, and when all is said and done, you can expect to see the name of Nottingham, England’s Carl Froch featured prominently among that group.
Winner of 28 of his 30 pro bouts, Froch is a two-time WBC super middleweight champion, a finalist in the Super Six 168-pound tournament, and on his way to a third title in his division should he beat longtime IBF titleholder Lucian Bute this Saturday in Nottingham Arena.
The bout will air live on premium network EPIX (Saturday, 6PM ET/3PM PT), as well as on its website (EpixHD.com) and on the jumbotron above Times Square in New York City.
“This is a great matchup,” said Froch on a recent media teleconference. “It’s a great fight, and anybody can win it. I feel I’m going to win the fight, I really do. I promise that I’m going to beat Bute. He’s not mixed with my sort of level before and I just think he’s got a mountain to climb. He might shock everybody. You never know. But I’m very, very confident. He’s coming over here; he’s going to get beat. I’m going to be IBF champ and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I win that belt.”
Given his aforementioned accomplishments, it’s been no surprise that the 34-year old has never lacked for confidence. He is coming off the worst loss of his pro career in the Super Six final against Andre Ward (a bout a lot closer on the scorecards than it was in reality) last December, but you wouldn’t know it by his bluster heading into the Bute bout.
And frankly, he should be confident. He’s fighting in his hometown for the first time since his 2009 win over then-unbeaten Andre Dirrell, and despite losing to Ward, fighting someone who has long been seen as perhaps the best super middleweight in the game (and certainly the best one not in the Super Six tourney) is almost as much of a prize as he would have gotten if he won the fight.
“I’m switched on,” said Froch. “I’m ready. And I’m not licking my wounds. I’m not sulking. I’m not feeling sorry for myself because I lost my last fight. I’m really not. I’m taking confidence from that loss. I know where I went wrong and I know what I need to do to put it right. And if I can beat Lucian Bute I’m going to be a three-time world champion. That’s the kind of stuff legends are made of.”
Well, maybe not legends, but let’s just say that puts Froch on the right track. In fact, while Ward is widely considered to have earned his spot atop the 168-pound pecking order, no one in the division has faced the level of competition the Brit has consistently. He owns wins over Reid, Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Dirrell, Arthur Abraham, and Glen Johnson, with his only losses coming to Mikkel Kessler and Ward. He acknowledges both defeats and his conquerors, but that doesn’t mean he accepts them.
“The Ward loss was very frustrating,” he said. “It was one fight that was on the buildup I knew it was going to be a hard night’s work. I knew it was tricky. I knew it was a spoiler. I know what he does. What he does, he does well. I know where I went wrong. But again, it wasn’t a loss where I go back to the drawing board and say I don’t belong at this level, I’m not good enough. You know, ‘I’m not a very good fighter, it’s time to retire.’ It wasn’t one of those losses. I could’ve won the fight. I mean, would’ve, should’ve and could’ve - and I got beat fair and square by the better guy on the night. But what I’m saying is it wasn’t meant for me and you know it didn’t kill my confidence, it really didn’t. I look to Ward what a great fighter he is and I came very close to anyone else has come to beating him. It was a close fight.”
It was also the type of fight Montreal’s Bute has never been in before. Sure, the 32-year old southpaw’s record is perfect at 30-0, but beating Johnson, Jean-Paul Mendy, Brian Magee, Librado Andrade, Jesse Brinkley, and Edison Miranda doesn’t exactly compare to Froch’s body of work. “The Cobra” agrees.
“I don’t think Bute is as good as Ward and I’m not sure if he’s as good as Kessler or Andre Dirrell or Jermain Taylor,” he said. “I really don’t because he’s only fought Brian Magee and Glen Johnson.”
He’s right, but despite his level of competition, Bute is a talented fighter who has earned his title and his place in the division hierarchy. But he will never be accepted as the true king of the division until he starts beating the men who already proved themselves in the Super Six, namely Froch, Ward, and Kessler (who returned to action last week after a nearly one year layoff with a big knockout of Allan Green). Maybe that’s why the Romanian-born Bute decided to travel to England and Froch’s backyard to defend his title in front of a hostile crowd, while Ward sits and waits, possibly for a September meeting with light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson. That’s an intriguing matchup, but not one that whets the appetite like Ward vs. Bute.
But Froch’s looking to spoil that dream fight, just like Nigel Benn scuttled Gerald McClellan’s plan for superstardom in their tragic 1995 bout and Joe Calzaghe did the same to unbeaten Olympian Jeff Lacy in 2006. There’s just something about a battlin’ Brit defending his home turf in front of thousands of screaming and chanting fans.
“It’s not just the noise,” said Froch. “It’s the feelings, the vibrations. You can feel the noise. You can’t just hear it. It’s deafening in the arena. I mean I know he’s fighting in front of 17,000 or whatever it is in the Bell Centre (in Montreal), but they’re a very reserved crowd that sort of sit there and behave and don’t make much noise. The atmosphere in the Nottingham Arena, he’s not going to be ready for that.”
And Froch expects that Bute won’t be ready for his punches either. The way he sees it, that belt belongs to him. It’s his birthright. And he’s going to attempt to take it by any means necessary.