By Jake Donovan
Unbeaten super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute never had a doubt that Carl Froch was going to be his next fight. His promoter, Interbox revealed as much in a media conference call last month on his behalf, insisting that – in the absence of a showdown with lineal champion Andre Ward – no other fight piqued his interest as much.
Bute – born in Romania but who lives in Canada, where he is a huge draw - and Interbox felt so strongly that they were willing to forego the opportunity to appear on Showtime, as the network for whatever reason offered resistance over airing such a fight.
Those plans have not changed one bit. If anything, they intensified the moment that the IBF – whose title Bute has held for more than four years – installed Froch as the mandatory challenger in its most recent rankings earlier this month.
"With this decision, the IBF offers the best fight to the fans for the mandatory defense of Lucian," said Jean Bedard, Interbox president. "We really want to go forward for this fight. InterBox and Lucian we all agree that we have to do everything in our power to make the fight with Froch.”
The decision to make Froch the mandatory challenger was met with skepticism from some boxing circles. The Brit was previously unranked due to his status as WBC titleholder prior to his points loss to Andre Ward in the Super Six World Boxing Classic finals last December.
It’s common industry practice for an ex-champion to have his handlers lobby for a ranking in the weeks following his previous title run, which is what took place last month. The move made sense, as Froch himself was preparing for a proposed two-fight set with Bute, though well aware that he needed to be ranked in order to receive the title shot.
“Froch came into the rankings at the beginning of the month,” Lindsay Tucker, IBF Championships Chairman, explained of the Brit’s out-of-the-blue ranking. “When a fighter loses a title, the promoter will often contact the sanctioning bodies – in this case, the IBF – and request a ranking. We review the case, and if it’s justified, then we approve it.”
Froch was placed as the number five contender in the rankings, with the top two spots “Not Rated” and to be filled via ordered mandatories. The only actual fighters rated higher were Edwin Rodriguez and Arthur Abraham.
The problem that the IBF has encountered as of late was filling the mandatory slot. No fewer than one half-dozen fights have been ordered in the time of Bute’s previous mandatory defense – a 4th round knockout of Jean Baptiste Mendy in his native Romania last July – only for each fight to fall through for one reason or another.
Looking to have Bute fulfill his mandatory obligation by the sprint, the IBF felt the wisest move was to elevate Froch to the top spot, based on his previous achievements and the fact that those rated higher are being moved in a different direction.
“Sometimes no matter how hard we try, we can’t get it done,” Tucker insists. “Donovan George was in two ordered eliminators. One fell through because his opponent (Pablo Farias) was injured. The next guy in line was Andrade, but that was canceled the day of the fight due to the size of the ring. We ordered the fight again, but it never happened.
“We notified Bute that the deadline for his next mandatory defense was approaching and that the leading available contender to take the fight was Carl Froch.”
Given his reaction, it’s safe to say that it was the best news Bute has heard in a while.
"I’m happy that Carl Froch is my mandatory challenger,” stated Bute, who has already begun training camp even though the two sides are still negotiating the fight. “Before leaving for my training camp, I told Jean Bedard I am ready to fight Carl Froch, even in England. Let’s get this done!”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]