By Cliff Rold
Not like that.
Sure, it was hilarious to see Carl Froch listed as a sizable underdog in some quarters. He deserved far more respect. In a fight with plenty of picks going to each man, Froch having his hand raised at the end was no upset.
Few saw a blowout win coming.
Let’s go to the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Bute B+; Froch B-/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Bute A-; Froch B/Post: A-; B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Bute B; Froch B/Post: C-; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Bute A; Froch A/Post: B; A
Those who find the idea of tune-up fights in the two-three fight a year era distasteful have a hero in Froch. The Englishman is everything a top-level fighter should be, and should be expected to be, in 2012. More on that in a moment.
There are some calls of ‘exposed’ aimed at now-former IBF 168 lb. titlist Lucian Bute and they border on the unfair. This was more a reminder that Bute, as good as he looked recently, is a vulnerable fighter. Librado Andrade wasn’t the only fighter ever to touch him; even Brian Magee seemed to get some reaction when he landed.
Froch exposed those vulnerabilities for sure and he did it by initially outboxing Bute. He tricked Bute by going left, into range of Bute’s right hand, and then going back to his right and landing shots Bute didn’t see coming. He tagged the Romanian in every round, stunning him in the first before rocking him bad in the third and fourth.
Froch, because everything he does isn’t pretty, rarely gets credit for his in-ring smarts. He knows what he’s doing. It doesn’t mean he can’t be outfought or outboxed, but it takes tremendous effort to do it. Bute landed some hard shots and found out how tough a man he had in front of him.
In the pre-fight report card, it was noted that Bute had an edge in athletic categories but boxing, as sport, does not always reward athletes first. Bute, if he gets his head back together, is still a tough out. He just got in with a man who was more fighter than him Saturday. It doesn’t mean Bute didn’t beat Glen Johnson soundly, walk through Andrade in their rematch, or dominate Sakio Bika in a way no one else at 168 lbs. has.
Bute entered and left a world-class fighter. He just wasn’t as good as his numbers. What he does from here will determine just how much stuff he really has. As a plus, he stayed on his feet and kept trying Saturday. His recovery skills are in doubt. His heart shouldn’t be.
As to Froch, in eight straight fights he has fought nothing but real foes and is rewarded for his results. Bute joins Jean Pascal and Andre Dirrell as the third undefeated fighter to leave with their first “L” in that stretch, and joins Jermain Taylor in being unable to finish. In retrospect, his softie was Arthur Abraham, and that’s no softie.
The big question for Froch is will he make it nine straight without a lighter touch. Given his track record, a step down would be a bigger shock than his walking though Bute last Saturday. If one is only going to fight twice a year, making every fight counts is worth a mint. Froch won’t go down as the best anyone ever saw, but we will know about him than many fighters assumed better at times because his quality of opposition yields answers.
It’s what every fan should demand.
Report Card Picks 2012: 26-5
Super Middleweight: Froch returns to the number one contender’s spot, one ahead of the first man to defeat him. A rematch with Mikkel Kessler is a natural with Andre Ward-Chad Dawson in the offing and Froch’s 3-1 mark against superior foes since the narrow Kessler loss gives him an overall edge despite their head-to-head result.
Jr. Featherweight: While no notable results came in the last week, the decision to send Nonito Donaire into a unification clash with Jeffrey Mathebula is worth mention. It’s a better fight on paper than Donaire-Cristian Mijares and a tough fight for the Filipino talent. Mathebula was unfortunate in two split decisions with Taklani Ndlovu and Celestino Caballero and hasn’t been stopped since 2003. This is a solid offering in the rapidly cresting 122 lb. field.
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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]