Froch batters Bute, takes belt

NOTTINGHAM, England -- Folks around these parts will be talking about what happened at the Capital FM Arena on Saturday night for centuries.

The arena, which seats about 9,000, was standing-room only and deafening for one of the biggest nights in British boxing history: Carl Froch, in his Nottingham homecoming, after fighting on the road for the past three years and in five of his previous six bouts, destroyed Montreal's Lucian Bute in the fifth round to claim a super middleweight title for the third time, stripping Bute of his undefeated record and aura of invincibility.

Bute, who had enjoyed the comforts of home throughout his career and for all of his nine title defenses -- all of them successful -- elected to leave Quebec and challenge himself by traveling to Froch's hometown, leaving money on the table to do it. But Bute found out that going on the road is no easy task, especially when you're facing a man possessed, as Froch appeared to be.

Froch, the betting underdog, fought perhaps the best fight of his career.
After a first round that probably could have gone either way, he shredded Bute. Froch had a huge third round, had Bute nearly out on his feet at the end of the fourth round -- which could have been scored 10-8 despite there being no knockdown -- and then sent his head flopping around like a bobblehead doll in the fifth round for the violent TKO at 1 minute, 5 seconds.

There was some confusion in the final seconds because it appeared as though referee Earl Brown had stopped the fight. But really he had called for an eight count because the ropes had held Bute's limp body up after he had taken a series of savage head shots from Froch.

Thinking the fight was over, Froch (29-2, 21 KOs) launched into a celebration, and the crowd went berserk. Froch's promoter, Eddie Hearn, stormed the ring to celebrate with his fighter before realizing the fight wasn't officially over and scurrying away without Brown seeing him, because the referee was facing Bute (30-1, 24 KOs) and counting. But Bute's trainer, Stephan Larouche, also entered the ring to stop the fight. Finally, Brown called off the fight, just as it should have been.

Despite the messy ending, one thing was quite clear: Froch had, as he said afterward, "done the business" in a brilliant performance.

It was a tremendous rebound for Froch, who had been outclassed by Andre Ward in the December final of the Super Six World Boxing Classic. (By the way, doesn't this Froch victory make Andre Ward look like an even more impressive fighter?)

Froch said the Ward defeat had left him "deflated" and said he had simply been beaten by a better man that night. But on Saturday, Froch was the better man -- by a lot, despite Bute owning the age, height and speed advantages.

"I came in more determined than ever before. I felt like a million dollars," said Froch, who dispensed with his jab and waded in looking to bomb Bute with right hands from the get-go. "I came here to do a job. I was so focused. I was on it tonight.

"A lot of people wrote me off, a lot of the boxing magazines. They're rewriting the script. The bookies got it wrong, too."

All through the promotion, Froch bashed Bute's résumé as being weak compared with his own, even though Froch had suffered losses, albeit only to top opponents -- Ward and a close decision to Mikkel Kessler in a world title fight in Kessler's hometown of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Maybe Froch was right. Maybe it was Bute's mostly second-tier opposition that made him look so good. Maybe Bute has been a bit overrated the past few years, when none of those nine title defenses came against a truly elite opponent (mainly because most of them were tied up in the Super Six that he wasn't invited to).

After the fight, Bute stood and politely applauded Froch when he was announced as the winner, possibly still trying to regain his senses. But now there is an interesting quandary for him: Should he invoke his contractual rematch right to fight Froch again in Quebec?

After the way he was destroyed, it might not be a good idea. But there is, of course, money to be made and an ego to placate, so we could see it.

A Froch-Ward rematch makes no sense, and Froch all but said he has no interest in it. But what about the notion of going to Quebec to face Bute again?

Naturally, Froch would do it. But he had some advice for his vanquished foe: "That's not a very good idea for him after what I just did. I just whupped him. It would be the same thing again."

As the joyous Nottingham faithful streamed out into the warm spring evening and Froch happily clutched his new belt the way he cradles his baby son, Rocco, Bute had disappeared from ringside.

While Froch had a lot of celebrating to do, Bute had even more thinking to do.