By Cliff Rold
His talent is evident to most. What lingers for IBF Super Middleweight titlist Lucian Bute are questions about what happens when faced the top of his class. He began to answer those questions last year with a dominant decision over rugged veteran Glen Johnson but it wasn’t enough to force a showdown with World Super Middleweight Champion Andre Ward.
He could have bided his time and kept racking up knockouts. Instead, away from the safe confines of Montreal, Bute hits the road for the toughest test of his career.
Across the ring, he’ll find one of the most seasoned battlers in the game. Over seven straight fights, Carl Froch has faced Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Johnson, and Andre Ward at a mark of 5-2. Most men would take a paycheck contest as homecoming reward.
Froch instead has elected to make it eight in a row, beast-style. Will he wish he’d taken a long vacation instead?
Let’s go the report card.
Titles: IBF Super Middleweight (2007-Present, 9 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 167.75 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 167.55 lbs.
Hails from: Montreal, Quebec, Canada (Born in Romania)
Record: 30-0, 24 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #1 at Super Middleweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 10-0, 9 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 4 (Dingaan Thobela, Alejandro Berrio, William Joppy, Glen Johnson)
Previous Titles: WBC Super Middleweight (2008-10, 2 Defenses); WBC Super Middleweight (2010-Present, 1 Defense)
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 167.3 lbs.
Hails from: Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom
Record: 28-2, 20 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #3 at Super Middleweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-2, 1 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 5 (Robin Reid, Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Arthur Abraham, Glen Johnson)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 2 (Mikkel Kessler, Andre Ward)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Bute B+; Froch B-
Pre-Fight: Power – Bute A-; Froch B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Bute B; Froch B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Bute A; Froch A
Froch is neither faster than Bute nor more dangerous on a single shot basis. Based on athletic attributes, Bute should be seen as a wide favorite. This is boxing though, and while it is surely sport the best athlete does not always win. Fighting is a skill and Froch has plenty of skill to offset Bute’s advantages.
Froch is as long as Bute and does a good job making his awkward jab work for him. He knows how to use it to set up his long right hand, which he can alter trajectory on well. Bute often keeps his hands low from the southpaw side and could be open to those rights even as he lands shots of his own.
Where Bute is dangerous is with the uppercut he’s developed both to the head and body. While Froch is a solid body puncher, Bute is better inside. Both have been hurt to the bread basket in the past so moments where each needs a step back to suck in air would be no shock.
Defensively, this fight provides ample opportunity for excitement because both guys get hit. While Froch, against Abraham, and Bute, against Johnson, have had stellar defensive showings, the nights where they get caught are more frequent. Bute got a solid go from Brain Magee last year with Magee not having a ton of trouble finding him. Froch has been in high contact wars with Pascal, Taylor, and Johnson and there were spots of action in the Ward fight (though he took more than he gave).
A fight where both men touch the floor could be in the offing.
If they do, if the contact mounts, the advantage may be Froch’s. He appears, dating to the amateurs, to have the better chin of the two and has shown greater recuperative ability of the two in the sparse moments where either has been hurt.
However, will all of the hard fights catch up to him? And if Bute lands a bomb and hurts him, will Froch still have the will he showed in the past? Conversely, how will Bute handle a hostile crowd? Will years of being the crowd favorite play on his nerves and see him expend too much energy early?
These are some of the questions at hand. This is the sort of fight where the answers should be a joy to watch unfold.
Being at the Nottingham Arena, with his immediate future near the top of the class hanging in the balance, Froch should have more answers come Saturday night. While he’s never seen Bute, he’s seen more of boxing’s challenges than his foe. This fight could end up being an even better version of the wild first contest between Bute and Librado Andrade. Bute has improved his defense and never been close to that sort of trouble again since. Froch can get him there.
Bute’s speed should see him win some of the early rounds but Froch is going to chip away bit by bit. As the rounds wear on, his body shots and right hand will force Bute to work harder and harder to keep ahead with fatiguing affect. By the last third of the fight, Froch should assume control and begin to pull away.
The pick here is Froch by late stoppage or close, but firm, decision with cries of ‘rematch’ lingering in the air.
Report Card Picks 2012: 25-5
Cliff Rold is a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]