Tonight, after four consecutive fights on the road, Carl Froch returns home to Nottingham for what is arguably the most important bout of his career, as he bids to win his third world title at Super Middleweight. Standing in his way is undefeated IBF champion Lucian Bute.
We all know the deal with Froch at this point; the SuperSix’s ironman and perhaps the best value for money competitor in the sport. Many in boxing say they want only the biggest and best fights, but very few ever stay true to their word, Carl Froch has. Since capturing his first world championship back in December 08, The Cobra has taken the toughest route of anyone in Boxing, moving from one grueling test to the next, in what has become one of the most daunting runs in the history of the pro game.
If Froch has fought the division’s elite, Bute’s opposition could be classed as just acceptable – not unqualified, but very much unfavoured. His decision to sit out the SuperSix frustrated fight fans, while leaving him to contend with some of the second tier talent of 168. The best win on his record came last time out, when he soundly out-boxed Glen Johnson over 12 lackluster rounds. The normally game Johnson falling into sparring partner mode; either unwilling or unable to change the pattern of the fight.
Bute will have the advantage in speed, but so to do most of Froch’s opponents; that one won’t faze him. Bute is also physically the bigger. He has the frame of a light heavyweight boiled down to Super Middle; that could go either way. It may give him a strength advantage, but it could also be causing him stamina issues. He has a tendency to fade late in fights, even when he is the one controlling the pace.
I give Froch a clear edge in both stamina and conditioning. Even in the Ward bout where he was beaten decisively, he finished the stronger of the two fighters. Froch knows how to dig deep and pour it on late, so if Bute does run out of steam, he will be in for a miserable time trying to see out the clock. Both are a little suspect defensively. Froch takes some flack for relying on his rock solid chin too often, but he does slip and ride shots well as well, so it’s not too often he gets caught flush. Bute is hittable to. There’s no question Andrade had him out, Brian Magee was able to tag him some also, and neither of them possess anything like Froch’s talent.
They both favour staying in punching range. Froch likes to lead with his jab on the front foot, while Bute prefers counters off the backfoot. Bute gets his shots off well when he establishes his range, while taking few in return. He has an ability to disguise his shots well, slipping in powerful snappy short punches, good body work and a really sharp uppercut. Froch has been very successful at disrupting opponents’ rhythm. He has an excellent jab, which he connects with from all kinds of awkward angles and distances. He’s an underrated ring technician, he mixes well between boxing and fighting, but most of all, he just brings a tenacity and relentlessness that wears on foes.
The big intangible here is home field advantage. Bute has never really fought in enemy territory. His last time fighting outside of his home or adopted home was back in 2004, when he went to America as only novice pro. He has been training with crowd noise from Froch’s past fights playing in the background, which suggests to me it’s something that his team has at least been thinking about. This will not be subtle shift for him either; he’s used to boxing in front of 10,000+ of his own fans, so it will be interesting to see how he handles a complete reversal of roles.
I sense this will be a rough, tough, long hard fight, and that’s the type of battle I will always choose Froch in. I think he stays in contention early, and really pushes the fight in the second half to eek out a razor close decision.
Prediction: Froch by decision