Boxing


Can Carl ‘The Cobra’ Froch derail the Lucian Bute Express?

by Geoffrey Ciani - Boxing fans always appreciate boxers who are willing to take big risks and tough challenges, and it is even better when two talented fighters agree to square off in a risky scenario where the outcome is uncertain. Fortunately for boxing fans there is a fight this Saturday that fits the bill when IBF super middleweight champion Lucian Bute (30-0, 24 KOs) travels all the way to Nottingham to defend his crown against former two time WBC champion Carl “The Cobra” Froch (28-2, 20 KOs). This is a rather intriguing high stakes matchup, and one that Bute and Froch both deserve credit for taking.

For Bute it will be a huge step up in class. Bute has successfully defended his IBF title belt nine times, but mostly against mediocre competition and unworthy challengers. This will be the first time Bute has ever taken on an elite level super middleweight. Additionally, with the exception of a recent bout in his birth place Romania, this will be the first time in years that Bute has left the comfortable confines of Canada, as he travels into hostile territory for the first time on the big stage. Bute deserves credit for finally facing a live body and leaving his home turf.

For Froch it is business as usual, a mere continuation of the long and arduous path has he underwent since first beating Jean Pascal to win his world title. He would next go on to score a dramatic come from behind twelfth round knockout against former undisputed middleweight champion Jermain Taylor. After that he immediately endured fighting one difficult battle after another against top notch opposition in the Super Six. That included a toughly contested win against Andre Dirrell, a brutal razor thin loss in an action packed battle with Mikkel Kessler, a one-sided shutout win against former middleweight champion Arthur Abraham, a workmanlike victory against seasoned veteran Glen Johnson, and most recently a loss in the Final to Andre Ward. That marks this as the eighth difficult matchup in a row for The Cobra, and he deserves the continued credit he has received for taking one tough challenge after another.

Both fighters should be applauded for taking this fight. In a sense Lucian Bute is taking the bigger risk in that he is traveling afar to take on a crafty and determined warrior. Then again nobody would have blamed Froch for taking a tune-up match in his home country following his difficult stretch of fights that culminated in the loss to Ward. They each have a lot to lose and a lot to gain. What makes this matchup so particularly intriguing is the fact that we have a battle-tested experienced warrior taking on an unproven title holder who appears to have decent skills but has never beaten a top level opponent. Can Bute actually succeed against a proven commodity like Froch?

The key for Bute is simple. The most important thing for him is to control the range. Bute is a fairly good outside fighter who likes to work behind the jab and use his feet to maintain his optimal fighting distance. Bute needs to keep Froch at the end of his jab, work the body, and unleash uppercuts to keep Froch honest whenever he closes the gap. Andre Ward had an easy time with Froch because he is a master at keeping his opponents either too close or too far away, which disrupts their rhythm and prevents them from finding their groove. Bute is not as slick or as fast as Ward, nor is he as fluid on his feet. Bute simply has less dimensions with which to control the range, therefore it is imperative that he wins the battle of the jabs so he can try and dictate things from the outside.

The key for Froch is also simple. He needs to work his jab, make a fight of it, and rough Bute up at each and every opportunity he gets. Froch needs to continuously apply pressure, both mentally and physically, and break Bute down. But he needs to apply pressure intelligently and not get reckless. He needs to be controlled and measured in his attacks and, when he can, try to set traps. He cannot allow Bute to get comfortable and outjab him. If he continuously finds himself on the receiving end of Bute’s jab he is in trouble! Froch needs to annoy Bute’s focus and try to work his way in behind his own jab. The Cobra needs to be persistent and he needs to land enough meaningful shots that Bute has too much to think about to get relaxed. Froch needs to constantly remind Bute that he is the more experienced fighter.

I think this will wind up being the best fight at 168 since Froch battled Mikkel Kessler in Group Stage 2 of the Super Six Boxing Classic. In many ways I think it will resemble that fight in terms of the quality action that will likely unfold. I can see Bute having some success, because he is probably a little quicker and he is a really good body puncher with a nice jab. Froch has showed some weaknesses to the midsection against Kessler, and the slight speed advantage should help aid Bute early. At the same time, I cannot see him having the same success Ward had at controlling the range against Froch. That plays into The Cobra’s favor. This means there are going to be stretches of the contest where Bute is forced to scrap and mix it up. Ultimately I think Froch wins the inevitable battle of attrition and stops Bute late. After all, Froch has overcome adversity in the past and has shown ability to rally late. Bute has not.

In this particular clash of styles I think big fight experience is really going to be the pivotal difference. Jean Pascal said it best on a recent edition of On the Ropes Boxing Radio (before Bute-Froch was even signed) when he stated: “When Bute’s in a fight with a real boxer, he’s going to see adversity and he’s not going to be able to do anything because it’s going to be his first time facing adversity. He might be fresh, but he won’t have the experience to win those kind of fights, because at that level, talent sometimes is not enough.” I believe these words ring true in this instance.

At the end of the day this fight should be a real entertaining crowd pleaser for as long as it lasts! The man who does what he does best is the man who will win. It is as simple as that. Whatever happens, I expect we will see the best from both boxers. May the best man win!

OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Carl Froch TKO8 Lucian Bute

***

ciani@eastsideboxing

Article posted on 23.05.2012



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