By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Every now and then, you just know.
Based on the research I’d done and live fights I’d seen heading into last week, I honestly couldn’t imagine a circumstance where a long-time super middleweight elite like Carl Froch wouldn’t have what it took to withstand whatever a more-decorated, less-accomplished Lucian Bute had to offer.
I thought Froch was fast enough, conditioned enough and – most importantly – could take a good enough shot to grind down an opponent who’d struggled with the likes of Librado Andrade and hadn’t been forced to answer a lot of other hard questions during a nine-defense run over four years.
But that said, even I didn’t expect such a dominant effort.
And, over 13-plus minutes of what Sky Sports ringside man Adam Smith correctly called a “comprehensive beating,” even I couldn’t have foreseen what a force Froch was about to become.
Now a month shy of age 35, the always-confident Englishman suddenly has a fistful of fights that’d provide a fair bit of intrigue – not to mention a nice chunk of change – while keeping him at the top of the 168-pound conversation for at least another year or two.
A contractually built-in Montreal rematch with the deposed Bute, if the ex-champ accepts, would be intriguing if for no other reason than to see if a crowd of 16,000 Canadians against him – instead of 10,000 Brits for him – would have any impact on the new champ’s level of superiority.
And though he had a knee-jerk “fraud” tag hung on him within seconds of Earl Brown’s chaotic fifth-round Nottingham wave-off, only a fool would maintain that Bute doesn’t at least warrant a chance to see if a westward trip across the Atlantic would boost his fortunes.
A notch or two higher on the interesting scale, however, are rematches for Froch against the only two fighters to beat him during a now decade-long career that began at London’s York Hall in 2002.
“Viking Warrior” Mikkel Kessler’s stock has never been higher than it stands after a one-punch poleax of Allan Green two weekends ago in Copenhagen, so an immediate do-over with Froch – assuming Bute declines – would be a huge draw whether staged in Denmark (where Kessler took Froch’s ‘0’ in 2010), Nottingham (where Froch is now 14-0) or anywhere along the 893.83 road miles in between.
My guess, for one, is that it wouldn’t be hard to sign up boxing types for a weekend in Amsterdam.
But that’s just me.
Of course, if domestic tranquility is more your style, perhaps another go-round with consensus top super middleweight Andre Ward – especially if he survives a proposed match with Chad Dawson later this year – would be the shortest path for Froch to get back to the top of the division’s ladder.
The two drew less than 6,000 paid fans to their initial meeting last December in Atlantic City, but, if Ward comes in with a defeat of Dawson and Froch either beats Bute again or handles Kessler, the buzz for a second fight would be enough to warrant a venue in Las Vegas – especially if paired with a solid support bout that would draw meaningful cable television interest.
And hey, even Dawson indeed proves too much for Ward, you can nonetheless mark me down as one who’d pay close attention if “Bad Chad” – who got to 22-0 as part of the Calzaghe-Lacy undercard in Manchester six years ago – made another trip to face down Froch, whether on his Nottingham Arena turf or in a slightly less hostile setting elsewhere in the U.K.
After all, while he was a one-sided victim of Ward’s last winter, don’t forget that Froch was a wide scorecard winner (UD 12, December 2008) over one Jean Pascal – still the only fighter to defeat Dawson (TD 11, August 2010) in the Connecticut resident’s 34 outings since 2001.
Worse fights have been made for lesser reasons.
But as long as Froch is one of the principals, that doesn’t seem like an issue.
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It’s been 25 years since my high school prom and five years since the full-time Florida job became official, but May 29 has always been more memorable because of what was lost – my mother, Alice – 14 years ago today in 1998. Not a day has gone by since where I haven’t thought about her, and I’ll keep trying every day to let little Ryan know what a wonderful grandma she would have been.
Love you, Mom.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
Vacant IBF bantamweight title – Carson, Calif.
Vusi Malinga (No. 1 contender) vs. Leo Santa Cruz (No. 4 contender)
Malinga (20-3-1, 12 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Third fight outside South Africa (1-1)
Santa Cruz (19-0-1, 11 KO): First title fight; Nine straight wins by stoppage (37 total rounds)
Fitzbitz says: “California-based Mexican a little greener, but appears ready to take step into belt-wearing class in this one.” Santa Cruz in 10
IBO cruiserweight title – Carson, Calif.
Antonio Tarver (champion) vs. Lateef Kayode (No. 7 contender)
Tarver (29-6, 20 KO): First title defense; Unbeaten above 175 pounds (15-0, 12 KO)
Kayode (18-0, 14 KO): First title fight; Ninth fight below 200 pounds (8-0, 5 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Kayode is naturally bigger and stronger, but a 43-year-old Tarver still ought to have enough to take the youngster to school.” Tarver in 10
WBA light heavyweight title – Las Vegas, Nev.
Beibut Shumenov (champion) vs. Enrique Ornelas (No. 15 contender)
Shumenov (12-1, 8 KO): Fourth title defense; Third fight in Las Vegas (2-0, 1 KO)
Ornelas (33-7, 21 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Second fight in Las Vegas (1-0, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Shumenov hasn’t shown that he’s ready for the elite of the 175-pounders, but he should continue to feast on second-tier title challengers.” Shumenov by decision
WBO junior flyweight title – Pasay City, Philippines
Donnie Nietes (champion) vs. Felipe Salguero (No. 7 contender)
Nietes (29-1-3, 16 KO): First title defense; Held WBO title at 105 pounds (2007-10, four defenses)
Salguero (16-2-1, 11 KO): First title fight; Unbeaten in 17 fights since starting 0-2 (16-0-1, 11 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Challenger making a long road trip and perhaps a longer step in terms of opposition level – which means a successful title defense is the likely result.” Nietes by decision
WBO mini-flyweight title – Tijuana, Mexico
Moises Fuentes (champion) vs. Julio Cesar Felix (No. 11 contender)
Fuentes (14-1, 6 KO): First title defense; Last three fights ended in split decisions (2-1)
Felix (17-3, 7 KO): First title fight; Two wins over fighters with double-digit victories (2-0, 0 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Fuentes is still early in his title reign, but little-tested Mexican foe shouldn’t stand in the way of down-the-road opportunities.” Fuentes in 8
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. For example, fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Last week's picks: 1-0
Overall picks record: 311-104 (74.9 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.