By Jake Donovan
Carl Froch rallied from the crushing defeat at the hands of Andre Ward with the biggest win of his career, stopping Lucian Bute in five rounds Saturday evening in Nottingham, England.
The official time was 1:05 of round five.
After spending the past two years facing nothing but the best super middleweights in the world, Froch would have been forgiven for seeking a soft touch in life after the Super Six tournament. Instead, he set his sights on Bute, if only to prove that he still belongs at the top level.
“I feel very, very satisfied of a fantastic performance,” Froch said taking apart the previously unbeaten Bute. “I made a few mistakes but I have to give Lucian Bute credit. I fought from round one, giving everything. The mental focus was second to none.”
The first two rounds were fought on relatively even terms. How the rounds were scored depended on your viewpoint. Froch enjoyed success in moments, scoring with a right hand early in the fight and again the second round. Bute was able to land in combination, though his lack of activity didn’t serve him well in fighting on the road.
Froch showed the difference in big fight experience was evident in the third round. A close fight quickly evolved into a rout as Froch virtually landed at will for most of the round. Bute’s only defense was to clinch and hold on for dear life.
Things would only get worse.
Bute enjoyed a brief turnaround in round four, but never to the point of keeping Froch at bay. A left hand had Froch momentarily on his heels, but never to the point of being taken out of the fight. That was the ultimate difference in the fight; Froch was able to take his opponent’s best and keep coming. The same could not be said of Bute, who after faring well for most of the round was in trouble towards the closing moments of the fourth.
Froch recognized a fighter in trouble and went in for the kill in the fifth. A flurry began the rally, as Bute was battered and bloodied in attempting to cover up along the ropes. Froch refused to let the moment pass, unloading with power shots. Bute never went down, but the referee recognized that the unbeaten super middleweight was only being held up by the ropes, thus calling for a knockdown.
Confusion followed, though never to the point of controversy. Bute was so badly out of it that Froch’s handlers thought the fight was waved off. His team began celebrating in the ring while Bute was being given an eight count. Technically, a disqualification could have been called had the referee been aware of what was going on while his back was turned to Froch’s corner.
Instead, Bute’s corner saved the evening of any controversy by entering the ring at the end of the mandatory count, requesting that the bout go no further.
Froch improves to 27-2 (21KO), picking up his third title in the process. Bute falls to 30-1 (24KO) in his attempted 10th defense of the title he captured more than four years ago.
The evolution of the fight began shortly after the most disappointing moment of Froch’s career, during the post-fight press conference following his points loss to Andre Ward. When asked about the possibility of a showdown with Bute, Ward instead skirted the issue and announced he was taking his career in a different direction.
Negotiations for a Froch-Bute showdown appeared to hit a stumbling block when Showtime – which invested heavily into the Super Six tournament – decided to pass on the fight. The unofficial reasoning was that Showtime preferred to have Bute face the winner of the Super Six as opposed to the runner-up.
One network’s loss was another’s gain, as EPIX was more than happy to jump in and provide live coverage of the event.
Even before network coverage was decided, Bute insisted that the plan was to face Froch. The feeling was mutual, as Froch was anxious to prove his worth at the top level of the super middleweight division. Settling for second place after two years of facing the best the division had to offer wasn’t good enough for the Brit, who remains convinced he is the best 168 lb. fighter in the world.
Saturday’s performance certainly didn’t alter that perception. The evening couldn’t have went any smoother for Froch, though by his own admission the fight didn’t go completely as planned. Saddled with the label as a brawler, the initial plan was to keep Bute at the end of his jab. Instead, Froch struck paydirt early and fell in love with his power perhaps a bit too much for his own liking.
“I was in there to box and move,” Froch admits, acknowledging that his jab was never at all a factor in the fight. “I caught him with a good shot in round one, but I also got caught with a careless shot in round one.”
It didn’t take long for Froch to regroup. By the end of the third round, Bute had to realize he was in way over his head. The Romanian-born, Canada-raised southpaw tried his damnest to turn things around in the fourth, but by rounds end appeared to be all out of tricks.
Froch knew this and had every intention of ending the fight soon thereafter.
“I feel absolutely electric,” Froch revealed. “I know what was inside my heart and I knew why I was fighting. When you know why you’re fighting and in front of your backyard, that’s when you know to quit. I performed out of my skin.”
The question now is how well he performs in his third tour as a super middleweight titlist.
Part of the agreement in staging this fight was the possibility of a rematch in Bute’s adopted Canada. The dominant nature of Saturday’s fight severely affects the marketability of such a fight, a point that is not at all lost on Froch.
“In all honesty, if it were me I would seriously reconsider not taking the rematch,” Froch said in viewing the future from the perspective of the losing fighter.
If not a return go with Bute, then what next awaits Froch?
A showdown between Ward and Froch was the dreams of the Showtime brass as the Super Six approached the finish line. Such a fight obviously means next to nothing at this stage, even if still competitive on paper.
The biggest remaining fight would be a rematch of the Super Six finals between Ward and Froch.
Naturally, Froch is game for such a fight and not at all regretful over what transpired last December.
“Andre Ward is a tricky He has the win over me and I had a very, very bad night. I needed that loss to kick me in the back side. I needed it to hit the gym, hit the bag and grit my teeth.”
The end results of such adjustments were displayed on Saturday evening, leaving Froch right back where he left off prior to last year’s Super Six finals.
In the televised co-feature, Carl Frampton won a unanimous decision over Raul Hirales in a battle of unbeaten 122 lb. prospects. Scores were 120-108 and 119-109 (twice).
The scores were accurate yet deceptive, as Hirales was there every step of the way. Unfortunately for the road warrior from Mexico, those moments couldn’t be strung together long enough to take more than one round on any of the official scorecards.
Frampton, who fights under the watchful eye of Hall-of-Fame former featherweight champ Barry McGuigan, improves to 14-0 (9KO). Hirales heads home with his first loss, falling to 17-0-1 (8KO).
Unbeaten 140 lb. prospect Pier-Olivier Cote scored a fifth round stoppage of Mark Lloyd in the televised preliminary bout. Cote showed no signs of ring rust after a near seven-month break, taking apart the pedestrian Lloyd, who provided little effort in front of his countrymen.
Cote dominated the action from the opening bell and had Lloyd hurt on several occasions. Lloyd’s greatest attribute in the fight was his penchant for frequent clinching, which drew a warning from the referee in round four.
Once Lloyd was forced to fend for himself, the fight was a done deal. Cote scored two knockdowns in the fifth before the bout was called off at 2:45 of round five.
Cote improves to 19-0 (13KO) with his latest win as he continues the ascension from prospect to contender. The 36-year old Lloyd suffers his third straight loss in falling to 15-6 (3KO).
The bout marked the first for Cote since a two-round destruction of Jorge Luis Teron last November. The 27-year old was set to face Mauricio Herrera this past February but was forced to withdraw.
Bute-Froch and Cote-Lloyd aired in their entirety on EPIX, while Frampton-Hirales was picked up in progress during round nine.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments via e-mail.