By Jake Donovan
As Lucian Bute prepares for his ring return this weekend, the pressure of a winning performance looms as a rematch with Carl Froch hangs in the balance. Bute’s 2 ½ year title reign ended – as did his run as an unbeaten fighter – with his humbling 5th round knockout loss to Froch earlier this year.
The fight contained a rematch clause regardless of the outcome, even though it was known that it would eventually cause a problem down the road. Adonis Stevenson’s position as a mandatory challenger to the IBF super middleweight title stands in the way of a belt being at stake if and when Bute and Froch meet again early next year as previously discussed.
Bute still has to get past unbeaten Denis Grachev this weekend in a light heavyweight bout, which airs live on Wealth TV from the Bell Centre in Montreal. Two weeks later, Froch makes the first defense of his third title reign when he faces Yusaf Mack. Assuming both win, a head-on collision is planned for the first quarter of 2013, also at the Bell Centre.
Stevenson and his handlers are fine with that scenario playing out. All they’ll ask in return is that the title is made available for when he next steps into the ring.
“It’s clear that they have a rematch, which is perfectly fine business,” Yvon Michel, Stevenson’s promoter, told Boxingscene.com on Tuesday afternoon. “But it’s clear that according to the IBF it will interfere with the mandatory.”
Rule 3.B of IBF’s championship policy specifically mentions its discouragement of rematch clauses in contracts for any fight in which its title is at stake:
No contract for a Championship contest shall contain any clause or any provision, whatsoever, guaranteeing or in any way assuring or promising either contestant a return Championship contest where such clause or provision interferes with the mandatory defense of a title.
Stevenson became the mandatory challenger by winning two separate sanctioned elimination bouts in 2012. His first step towards contention came when he drilled Jesus Gonzalez in just 99 seconds this past February. The win earned the 35-year old Stevenson (19-1, 16KO) the #2 ranking, but it was his 12th round stoppage of Donovan George in mid-October to earn a future shot at Froch’s title.
The hope was that the title shot itself would come against Froch. Ever the realists, Stevenson’s team is already bracing for Plan B. That said, they are not above working out a fair compromise for all parties involved.
“I don’t believe that the way the first fight (between Bute and Froch) developed that they need for a title to be at stake for their next fight,” Michel theorizes. “Adonis Stevenson fighting for the IBF title would mean the world to him.
“If they sign for Froch and Bute and guarantee that the winner next faces Adonis, I would have no problem. But I know they won’t do that.”
Michel insists that his top super middleweight was willing to step up to the plate at any point during Bute’s lengthy title reign. They never received a phone call then, and aren’t expecting one now - from Bute, or from Froch for that matter as well.
“We are not in Carl Froch’s future plans,” Michel firmly believes. “He’s dreaming of a rematch with Mikkel Kessler or Andre Ward. I understand that, it’s only business.
“Lucian Bute fought in 10 championship fights. In his search for an opponent he could have fought Adonis Stevenson. They have no interest then and he has no interest now. If he beats Froch, he will look for a higher profile fight.”
Rather than sit on the sidelines any longer than necessary, GYM Promotions would rather cut to the chase and begin championship plans as soon as possible.
“Adonis’ next fight will be for the world championship,” Michel guarantees. “If it has to be for the vacant title, that’s perfectly fine.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox