Thursday, March 1, 2012
Lucian Bute to fight Carl Froch
By Dan Rafael
Super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute, who has made all nine of his title defenses in front of raucous hometown crowds, will enter hostile territory to meet former titleholder Carl Froch on May 26 at the Capital FM Arena in his hometown of Nottingham, England.
"It's my goal to fight the best boxers in the super middleweight division," Bute said Thursday. "Carl Froch belongs in the elite of the super middleweight division and it will be a great fight. I am very confident and it will not faze me fighting in enemy territory.
"Supporters of Carl Froch will live their greatest disappointment. The IBF belt will fly roundtrip Montreal-Nottingham and back."
As good as Bute has been since winning a world title in 2007, the rap on him was that he always had the comfort of fighting at home. He won the title in his adopted hometown of Montreal, where he has become a major star, and has made eight of his nine defenses either in Montreal or Quebec City, with one homecoming fight in his native Romania.
"We are delighted to have agreed to terms for what I believe will be the biggest night for British boxing in many years," said Eddie Hearn, Froch's promoter. "I have to respect Lucian and his team for agreeing to enter the lion's den and face Carl in his hometown of Nottingham, but am fully confident that Carl can become a world champion again on this epic night."
Froch (28-2, 20 KOs) has been the opposite of Bute (30-0, 24 KOs) -- a road warrior since 2009.
He defended his title in Connecticut against Jermain Taylor and then had four of his five fights in Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic modified round-robin tournament away from home. Other than outpointing Andre Dirrell in the opening round of the tournament in October 2009, the rest of his bouts were on the road.
Froch went on to fight Mikkel Kessler in his native Denmark (a tight loss), easily outpointed Arthur Abraham in Finland, outpointed Glen Johnson in the semifinals in Atlantic City, N.J., and then lost a lopsided title unification fight to Andre Ward in the final in December in Atlantic City.
Returning home means a lot to Froch.
"It's a dream come true to get this opportunity to become a three-time world champion in my hometown of Nottingham," Froch said. "The Super Six was an incredible journey for me but I missed fighting in the UK and it was important that Eddie and I made that happen, and for it to be for a world title is the icing on the cake. I'm ready to go to war all over again."
When the Super Six ended, Showtime, which bankrolled the tournament, hoped to have Ward face Bute, who was not invited into the tournament but later signed a multi-fight agreement with the network. The payoff was supposed to be the Super Six winner facing Bute at the end of the contract.
However, Ward was not interested in the fight -- at least, not yet -- and he was only recently cleared to train after suffering a fractured hand days before the fight with Froch.
At the news conference following Ward's win against Froch, he denigrated Bute by saying he had to first beat a top opponent to earn a fight with him.
That left Bute, 32, to look for the next best fight besides Ward, which was Froch, 34.
"Andre Ward wants Lucian to fight an A-level fighter. This should happen in May, and after he will have no more excuses to avoid Lucian," said Jean Bedard of InterBox, Bute's promoter.
"We really wanted to press forward with this fight. We've been insistent, made some concessions, but it was important to realize this is a fight that Lucian, our fans and our partners wanted," Bedard said. "Also, I am convinced that Lucian will silence the critics. Lucian is showing great courage in agreeing to defend his title in enemy territory."
Showtime, however, is not interested in the bout. Froch, as the Super Six final loser, was not on the network's pre-approved list of opponents Bute could face.
After Showtime rejected the fight, it granted Bute an out from his contract to fight Froch, although it said it still has the rights to Bute's next fight, which would be the last of his network deal.
There is no American television home yet for Bute-Froch, but the promoters have the right to sell it to any network that is interested. HBO has already declined the fight.
Bedard told ESPN.com that they are willing to go through with the fight without money from American television.
When Bedard and Hearn began negotiating, they conceived of the deal as a two-fight scenario with each fighter getting a fight in his hometown. The deal they wound up with gives Bute a rematch clause if he loses, with the rematch slated to take place in Canada.
"It is great news that Carl has landed this fight as it is one that we have wanted for a long time," said Rob McCracken, Froch's trainer. "I have always been confident that Carl will beat Lucian, and I will have him fully prepared and in the best possible shape on May 26."
Stephan Larouche, Bute's trainer, is also confident.
"Lucian has already fought outside Canada in his professional career," Larouche said. "This is a great challenge ahead for him on May 26 and Lucian will perform to his fullest as he always does. The style of these two incredible fighters will make for an explosive fight that I am sure boxing fans around the world won't want to miss."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.