By Jake Donovan
A loss is only a loss if all you care about in the end is how the scoreboard reads.
Carl Froch remains in the proper frame of mind heading into his May 26 hometown (Nottingham, UK) showdown with unbeaten Lucian Bute. The bout will be his first since coming up short against Andre Ward in last year’s Showtime Super Six World Boxing Classic finals.
Tournament bragging rights were at stake, as well as a slew of belts and the lineal super middleweight championship. Froch gave it everything he had in the fight, but gave away too many early rounds for his late rally to have enough of an impact on the final outcome.
It was performance on which Froch could certainly hang his hat. It just wasn’t a night in which his hand deserverd to be raised – and to his credit, he knows this.
“Yes, I’ve been beat. I lost my last fight,” Froch (28-2, 20KO) acknowledges. “He might be thinking that as, ‘Well he’s coming of the back of a loss.’ But that was against a very good Andre Ward, very tricky sport in the top five, three Andre Ward.
“I’m not here to give him any credit that may stick, but it’s hard to beat Ward. And you know I got beat by someone who’s very, very good. So, I’m not taking too much negativity in terms of a confidence block into this fight between me and Bute.”
It took a lot of compromise and sacrifice on the part of both fighters in order for this fight to get made. First came the declaration of putting the fight in front of the choice of network.
It was assumed that Showtime would the bout, given its two-plus year commitment to the Super Six super middleweight tournament and its current contract with Bute. It came as a surprise when Showtime passed on the fight, though perhaps even more shocking when Bute held a conference call to declare that the show will go on no matter where the fight lands.
The unbeaten titlist lived up to that boast. The bout will air live on EPIX network, with Bute hitting the road to travel to Froch’s backyard. Granted, the move comes with a safety net – Bute is guaranteed a rematch in his adopted hometown of Montreal in the event of a loss this weekend.
Still, Froch remains grateful for an opportunity he believes will put him back at the top.
“To comment on him leaving his hometown I think he’s had to do that now,” Froch believes. “He’s been in the position of always being at home for all of his fights. I think they’ve all been in Canada or North America. So, he’s never really traveled away. I think he fought in his native Romania early on in his career (Editor’s note: Bute also had a title defense in his native Romania as well).
“But he’s never been on the road and defended his title like champions are supposed to do. And again you know move out of their hometown, their comfort zone and box away. So, I think he’s in an important position where he’s had to do that. Let’s give him credit. It’s not easy to come away from home. He’s flying over the Atlantic and he’s coming to my backyard. So, give him credit where credit’s due. He’s taking a big chance and a big gamble. But he’s obviously very confident.”
Despite being forced to sit on the Ward loss for the past five months, Froch also remains as confident as ever. The positive feeling about Saturday is for good reason; the tough-as-nails Brit had spent the better part of the past two years proving to the world that he’s among the very best super middleweights in the world.
Even prior to the Super Six tournament, Froch proved his worth in his title winning effort over then-unbeaten Jean Pascal. He proved his grit in climbing off of the canvas to knockout Jermain Taylor.
When the tournament came along, Froch was believed to be the odd man out and that his rough-and-tumble style could never survive against the level of opposition awaiting him.
Overall, Froch went 3-2 in the tournament. A close, competitive points loss to Mikkel Kessler on the road in Denmark was arguably the most thrilling bout among the pool matchups (bouts taking place in Stage One, Stage Two and Stage Three). Sandwiching the lone loss of his career at the time were big wins over Andre Dirrell (SD12 in Oct. ’09) and Arthur Abraham (UD12, Nov. ’10).
A spot was earned in the championships after being the one to end the Cinderella run of former lineal light heavyweight champion and Super Six super sub Glen Johnson last June. Froch rode a wave of confidence into the finals, but came up short against Ward.
The loss was enough to prove that he wasn’t the best in the world. Where Froch truly belongs remains open for debate. Many believe it’s behind Bute, who remained steady outside of the Super Six tournament, though not exactly against the level of competition faced by Froch or the others in the round robin series.
May 26 will put an end to the guess work, or at least provide a new set of opinions until it’s time to map out plans for the pending rematch.
“This is a great match-up. It’s a great fight. 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 ready to fight me in my hometown and all of the pressure of who’s going to be on. I just think he’s got a mountain to climb. He might shock everybody. You never know. But I’m very, very confident.”
It took a while for Froch to regain that confidence following the Ward fight. There were concerns about his returning to the ring at this high level just five months after the mental drain that came with coming up short in the biggest fight of your career, following two straight years of challenges against the very best that your decision has to offer.
Froch insists there is no time like the present and that he is now in the right frame of mind to take on a fighter like Bute. However, he admits that moving on from that night was perhaps as difficult as any tough moment he’s endured in the ring over the course of his still young career.
“The Ward loss was very frustrating. 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. He’s fast and he was catching me with left hooks and I was pulling out.”
“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.
Instead, it was a competitive loss in which Froch closed the gap considerably down the stretch and never stopped fighting back.
A bout that was devoid of drama was knee-deep in suspense late in the fight once Ward was cut and opted to coast. Froch took his swing but just missed in going for the fences.
“It’s a loss where two of the judges, whether it’s right or wrong, it was 115-113, and I’m sure there’s a scorecard the American and the Canadian very close,” Froch acknowledges. “The fight could’ve been even closer. 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 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.”
The fight was close enough to where Froch believes he can still beat any super middleweight on the planet. Rather than dwell on the loss any further, Froch views it as yet another obstacle to overcome, beginning with a showdown against arguably the second best super middleweight in the world.
“So you know mentally – mentally I’m confident. I’m switched on. 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 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.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to Jake[email protected]