By Jake Donovan
The gap between May 5 and June 9 is long enough even if it were loaded with relevant boxing in between. The fact that there is next to nothing to get the audience eager in the time between Floyd Mayweather’s win over Miguel Cotto and Many Pacquiao’s pending showdown with Tim Bradley makes it that much tougher to bear.
For that, we should be grateful that Lucian Bute and Carl Froch were so willing to face one another.
Yes, there are those who wished that Bute was instead facing Andre Ward, the current lineal super middleweight king and the winner of the Showtime Super Six World Boxing Classic. That was the plan from the moment Showtime inked Bute to a three-fight deal last year.
Two fights are already in the books, as Bute was showcased on the network in wins over Brian Magee and Super Six semifinalist Glen Johnson. Both bouts took place last year and Bute was also on hand for the Super Six finals to see who his next opponent would be.
Little did he know, Ward would call an audible at the post-fight press conference to mess up plans.
“I was in line to fight the winner of the Super Six,” Bute (30-0, 24KO) points out. “For a different reason, Ward refuses to fight me and I kind of respect his decision. So, I made a choice. I said I’m going to fight Carl Froch.”
The announcement was a bit of a surprise, but only due to the intangibles surrounding the event. Froch (28-2, 20KO) had spent the past two years and change facing the best super middleweights in the world. It was hardly surprising that – following the heartbreaking loss to Ward – he would be eager to prove himself as quickly as possible.
The shock came in two parts. First was the announcement from Showtime that it would pass on the fight, which would’ve been the third and final of the three-fight agreement between Bute and the network. The working theory is that Showtime prefers for the final fight to be Bute versus the actual Super Six winner, not the runner up.
Still, the decision comes across as spiteful more than practical. If one versus is two isn’t available – especially when number one is out of the mix due to an injury and other reasons – then there is no shame in presenting two versus three in the meantime. It only makes a head-on collision between the winner and Ward that much bigger of an event.
Showtime felt otherwise, which left the event handlers to search for another network. Fortunately they didn’t have to wait long or look very far, as new kid on the block EPIX was more than happy to pick up the fight, which will air live this weekend on its premium network, as well as its website (EpixHD.com) and on the big screen in the middle of Times Square in New York City (Saturday, 6PM ET/3PM PT).
The greater surprise came in the location of the fight.
Froch gained an audience largely due to the exposure gained from the Super Six. Yet, his fan base pales in comparison to that of Bute, who regularly plays to sold out crowds in his adopted Montreal hometown.
Given the economics, it speaks that much louder of Bute’s confidence that the unbeaten southpaw would be eager to travel abroad. The fight takes place at the Nottingham Arena in Froch’s hometown of Nottingham, UK. A huge crowd is expected to be on hand but there stands to reason that there was more money to be made for Froch to travel to North America.
As far as Bute is concerned, making the fight happen was far more important than where it would take place or which network would be airing it.
“We made (Froch) an offer to come to Montreal. He turned it down,” Bute insists. “And maybe he was right saying that he was away from home for a while. He wanted to fight at home. So, we just told his promoter to make us an offer. We’re going to go defend the belt in your place (England) and we’ll prove everybody wrong that I’m only fighting in Montreal. So, I have to go out to prove myself.”
Bute has proven himself for the past several years, though yet to do so against anyone on the level of Froch. In fact, the lone criticism in his career was that it hadn’t advanced very far as he took on a series of stay busy fights while Froch and his Super Six participants spent the past two years fighting the best super middleweights in the world.
Nobody would have blamed Froch for instead searching for a layup for his next fight. The former two-time titlist arguably had the roughest path of anyone in the Super Six – his five total fights took place in four different countries.
Last year’s bouts with Ward and Glen Johnson took place in the United States. A systematic thrashing of Arthur Abraham was staged in Finland (after originally being scheduled for Monaco), seven months after traveling to the lion’s den in Denmark to face Mikkel Kessler. The lone home bout Froch saw was in his Stage One showdown against Andre Dirrell, in which the Brit won by narrow split decision.
Not only was a homecoming long overdue, but would have certainly been forgivable if it came against a much-needed soft touch.
Instead, Froch is anxious to prove he still belongs at the top level of the division.
“I want to secure my legacy by beating Lucian Bute,” Froch states. “I’m a step closer towards securing that legacy. And that’s what I want. So, I’m taking this fight so serious. I’m so confident and I need to be at my best to win. And what an opportunity to my hometown fans in Nottingham; it’s pretty much all on my terms in being in Nottingham, England.”
Winning the negotiation hardly equates winning the fight itself. Froch still has to go into the ring and prove himself against a fighter currently ranked higher in any set of objective rankings. For as much as has been accomplished in the 34-year old’s career to date, a signature win is still lacking.
“People can think what they like on the Ward loss, and they can think OK I lost a close spot to Kessler. People can say what they want. All I know is I’ve been training hard, hard. I’m fit, I’m strong and I’m ready for this fight. I’m looking forward to it and I cannot wait.”
Neither can true fans of the sport.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]