By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — Carl Froch and Andre Ward agreed on one thing.
They believe only the winner of their fight, not unbeaten Lucian Bute, can stake legitimate claim to being boxing’s best super middleweight. The undefeated Ward, who owns the WBA 168-pound title, and Froch, the WBC’s super middleweight champion, will fight for The Ring magazine’s crown, in addition to the “Super Six World Boxing Classic” championship cup Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
The Montreal-based, Romanian-born Bute (30-0, 24 KOs) holds the IBF super middleweight title. Critics of the “Super Six” tournament insist that the Ward-Froch winner won’t prove his super middleweight supremacy until he beats Bute, who’s expected to face Froch (28-1, 20 KOs) or Ward (24-0, 13 KOs) sometime in 2012.
“I’m sorry to be ignorant, to stop you in your tracks, but Lucian Bute isn’t in the mix,” Froch, 34, told a reporter during a press conference Tuesday at The Edison Ballroom in Manhattan. “I know he’s the IBF champion, but the two names on his record are Brian Magee and Glengoffe Johnson. He got knocked out by a guy, Librado Andrade, in round 12 of his fight. He actually got KOd. The referee [Marlon Wright] picked him off the floor, washed his [mouthpiece] 40 seconds later and the bell was ringing. He won that fight on points, but in my opinion he was knocked out.
“So Lucian Bute needs to fight a couple of top-level fighters before he can call himself the best of the best — one of the top three in the world, one of the top two in the world, like myself and Andre Ward are. But obviously he’s IBF champion and that would [set] the winner of this tournament and the winner of these two glorious belts [on] a natural progression to go to unify the division. So he may get his chance to get an absolute whooping, because that’s what would happen. You’ll see that when it happens.”
The 31-year-old Bute has made nine defenses of an IBF title he won by stopping Alejandro Berrio in the 11th round four years ago in Montreal. The popular southpaw atoned for his controversial win against Andrade by knocking out Andrade with a body shot in the fourth round of their rematch two years ago in Quebec City.
He most recently defeated Johnson (51-16-2, 35 KOs) rather easily in a 12-rounder Nov. 5 in Quebec City. Johnson lost to Froch by majority decision in his previous fight, another 12-rounder June 4 in Atlantic City. Though judge Nobuaki Uratani scored the Froch-Johnson encounter even (114-114), Froch clearly deserved the wide win with which he was credited on the scorecards of judges Mark Green (116-112) and John Stewart (117-111), who also has been assigned to judge the Froch-Ward fight.
“Lucian Bute has to fight the winner [of Ward-Froch] to become the best,” Ward, 27, said. “That’s just the bottom line. With The Ring magazine belt on the line and all the other belts on the line, no disrespect to Lucian Bute, but he’s fought B-minus, C-level competition. And he’s done what he was supposed to do — he got them out of the there. But he’s almost been preserving himself, just trying to wait for the winner of this tournament, while we’ve been putting in a lot of hard work. … We have nothing else to prove, in terms of who’s the best, after this fight. He has to come to us. We don’t have to go to him.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.