The super middleweight division continues to deliver the best quality fights in boxing on May 26 when undefeated IBF champion Lucian Bute takes on two-time champion and veteran warrior Carl Froch in the Briton’s backyard of Nottingham. These two fighters are ranked by Proboxing-fans.com at #2 and #4 respectively, and if Bute wins he can expect to become the logical challenger to top dog Andre Ward. A win by Froch not only puts the IBF belt around his waist, but sets the stage for lucrative rematches with either Mikkel Kessler or Andre Dirrell.
Carl Froch (28-2, 20 KOs)
6’1″ tall, 75″ reach, 34 years old
Former Two-Time Super Middleweight Champion
The Cobra is the division’s ironman, the guy who has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is willing to fight anyone who will get in the ring with him. The man’s last seven fights read like a Who’s Who of the 168-pound and 175-pound weight classes, and in six of those fights Froch either prevailed or was very, very competitive. Only Andre Ward has been able to score a decisive victory over him.
Froch is a boxer-puncher, but unlike most of the fighters described by that term, his emphasis is on the puncher part. Froch has good boxing skills and a very good jab, but he is first and foremost a banger, and his defense is rooted in a cast iron chin and in getting his offense going.
Lucian Bute (30-0, 24 KOs)
6′ 1/2″, 72″ reach, southpaw, 32 years old
Current IBF Super Middleweight Champion
Le Tombeur remains the great unknown of the super middleweight division. This is not to say Bute isn’t a serious contender and solid beltholder, but instead it points directly to the simple fact that Bute chose to sit out the Super Six tournament, and therefore his resume as a 168-pound isn’t quite up to snuff. In any other division, Bute’s long list of wins over fringe contenders and bottom-of-the-top-ten types would be reasonably impressive, but not at super middleweight. His most formidable opponent to date has been Glen Johnson, a guy who has lost every big fight he has been in for the last four years. Bute’s status as a top guy in his weight class is based squarely on his undefeated status, proof that not losing in middling fights often profits a man more than having a mixed record in big fights.
Even so, Bute was Super Six material and is certainly a top-of-the-top-ten class fighter. He is a quick, powerful boxer puncher. His style is usually quite aggressive, using quickness and fluidity to skillfully apply hurt to his opponents, but he has proven capable of switching gears into matador-mode, using mobility and the southpaw stance to stymie the opposition.
Bute vs. Froch Preview & Analysis
Conventional wisdom suggests that Bute will defeat Froch, because Froch has never done very well with boxing stylists. Jermain Taylor was on his way to a clean decision win when Froch pulled out a come-from-behind knockout in the last round; Andre Dirrell dropped a controversial points loss to Froch, despite fighting in a hesitant, insecure fashion all night; Andre Ward dominated him; and even Mikkel Kessler was able to use his rigid, Continental boxing skills to rack up the points. The Cobra has always been there to be hit for a guy quick enough or defensively skilled enough to survive doing it, and Bute is undoubtedly faster than Froch.
This match-up isn’t quite as simple as that, however. First, experience counts for something here. Froch is the best fighter Lucian Bute has ever fought, but Bute is pretty run of the mill by Froch’s recent standards. Simply put, Froch could choose to out-slug or out-box any one of Bute’s best opponents and expect to win.
Bute doesn’t have the power to dent Froch’s chin, both men are roughly the same age, and Froch is still looking very fit despite taking some tough punishment over the last few years. Froch is also the stronger and rougher man, so Bute would be unwise to use clinching or infighting as a tactic in this fight. Ward is a sneaky thug on the inside, and Kessler remains the physically strongest man in the division, so neither of them had that worry. This puts Bute into Dirrell and Taylor territory, where Froch had a very hard time while ultimately winning.
One more thing to think about is that Froch has the tools to nullify Bute’s southpaw advantages. The men are about the same height, but Froch has longer arms, and that translates into Froch being able to sling his straight right at about the same range that Bute uses to stick his right jab. The fulcrum for any contest between southpaw and orthodox fighters is lead foot placement. If Froch can consistently keep his lead foot on the outside of Bute’s, it puts him in position to throw his most powerful punch almost as handily as if it were his jab. This is another reason why Bute must stay mobile and cannot afford to mix it up with Froch, because Froch is a good enough boxer to be competitive in a footwork contest if he doesn’t have to follow Bute around at the same time.
Bute vs. Froch Prediction
Bute is in the biggest fight of his career and against his most formidable opponent, so I expect him to start semi-cautiously, force Froch to follow him, and try to establish the jab and rip off short, fluid combos while staying on the move. Froch’s main hope is that Bute finds him so easy to sting that he stops and tries to land more leather, which is when Froch can either come on and roughhouse or place his feet and unload his power.
If nothing else, however, Bute learns from his mistakes, and I doubt he will ever repeat the hell for leather assault that almost got him knocked out in the 12th Round against Librado Andrade. Against Froch and with so much on the line, Bute will do everything in his power to avoid heated exchanges, let alone getting drawn into a war. That is not to say that this fight won’t have its moments, but I have a hard time seeing Froch gaining any traction against Bute without either Bute getting tired in the late rounds or making a major mistake. Bute has never shown a lack of late fight stamina, and he is no dummy; therefore I don’t see this fight as being close or muddy enough for the hometown advantage giving it to Froch.
Prediction: Lucian Bute UD12 Carl Froch