By Geoff Poundes
It was mission possible Saturday night when Carl Froch spectacularly succeeded in his assault on Canadian Lucian Bute’s IBF super middleweight title.
On home soil at the Nottingham Arena, fighting in a super-charged atmosphere, Froch out-sped, out-skilled and out-punched an amateurish-looking Bute en route to a fifth round stoppage that turned the super-middleweight division upside down.
Carl put on a virtuoso performance to defeat Bute, 30-1, 24 KO’s, who simply couldn’t come to terms with the Englishman’s jab and following right hand, which exploded with astonishing regularity against the Canadian’s exposed chin. Bute didn’t take a count, but countless times in the less than fifteen minutes of action he looked so discomfited by Froch’s attacks that he might have taken several counts. His own punches failed to deter his challenger, who showed that Bute’s unbeaten record was forged against second-rate fighters while Froch was contesting world titles against the very best in the world.
The Bute that turned up against Froch Saturday night was a strange animal, lacking in just about every department, and demonstrated that his decision to exclude himself from the recent Super-Six tourney was well-judged. The Super-Six champion, Andre Ward, who took a comprehensive decision over Froch to pocket that bauble, has moved up to 175 pounds to challenge Chad Dawson, but may need to return to the division and tangle again with Froch should he wish to prove to the fight-public that he deserves to be number one at 168.
Froch, 29-2, 21 KO’s, looked apprehensive on the ring-walk, perhaps surprised himself by the ferocity of the crowd noise, and the cognoscenti were swapping notes about how Bute would react to the hostility having forged a career almost exclusively in his own back yard. In the event the Canadian looked calm and collected, and applauded his reception as he entered the ring. He stood motionless as his national anthem was roundly booed, an expression of stoic resignation on his face. Froch twitched through his own anthem, which was sung to the rafters by the 20,000 on-lookers. The bookies had Bute as a warm favourite, and are rarely wrong in a two-horse race.
This time they, and the vast majority of the pundits, were utterly wrong. From the first bell Froch, who can look awkward at times, speared Bute with a left jab and following right, and seemed unable to miss. Bute boxed with his head in the air, and his own southpaw jab was ineffectual. In the first round, Froch at times brought his back leg round square in an attempt to land the right, but Bute simply wasn’t quick enough to take advantage.
As early as the second round it was clear that Froch was faster than Bute, and couldn’t miss with that right, and every time he landed, which was often, Bute shuddered to his boots. At the third bell, Froch was so on top he threw caution to the wind, and simply chased Bute around the ring, swatting aside Bute’s weak punches, and landing time and time again with his own right hand. Several times Bute wilted on the ropes, and showed bravery to hang around, but it was a 10-8 round despite the fact that he’d managed against all the odds to keep his feet.
To Bute’s everlasting credit he came out bouncing in the fourth, and took the first half of the round with some back-foot stuff, while Froch caught his breath after his exertions in the previous round, but with thirty seconds to go, Froch pinned Bute against the ropes, landing more right hands, and at the bell Bute tottered to his corner on rubber legs, and it was clear that his fight was over.
He stepped out for the fifth, ashen-faced and with the haunted expression of a dead man walking, and sure enough Froch, blood in his nostrils, pushed him back to the ropes and launched a blistering attack, three right crosses knocking Bute’s head back, before a fourth had him wilting on the bottom rope, causing referee Earl Brown to step in. Froch turned away in ecstacy, and his promoter Eddie Hearn rushed into the ring, and for a moment there was some nonsense as Brown appeared to fudge the stoppage and administer an eight count as Bute swayed against the rope, but happily Bute’s corner stepped in, and took their fighter off the referee’s hands and led him, stumbling, back to his own corner.
It was a stunning victory for Froch, who becomes IBF champion and a world title holder for the third time. There’s a much-publicised rematch clause, with Froch contracted to fight Bute back in Canada, but on this evidence such a match would be pointless. Bute sportingly applauded Froch after the fight, and seemed to accept defeat, but with the Canadian payday in the offing doubtless his backers will have him believing by Monday that he could win a second fight. There were some rumours pre-fight of a foot injury, and Bute’s performance in the UK was so poor, so that he’ll probably want to chance his arm against Froch on home soil.
Froch was delighted with his night’s work:
“It’s still sinking in. After the Andre Ward defeat I was deflated. I came in to the ring determined to put things right. I felt like a million dollars. I was so focussed – I was really on it tonight. Unbelievable – a lot of people wrote me off. The bookies got it wrong. I came to win the IBF title and that’s what I’ve done.”
A breathless Eddie Hearn confirmed afterwards that Froch may need to reprise the performance abroad, and that he’d welcome the payday: “This was his last chance saloon. We’re contracted for the rematch, and we’ll do that in a heartbeat. That was a real one-sided affair.”
On the undercard Ulsterman Carl Frampton, 14-0, 10 KO’s, continued his development and gained international experience when he outpointed Mexican Raul Hirales, 16-1-1, 8 KO’s after 12 rounds of their super-bantamweight fight.
Frampton, 25, is the protégé of Barry McGuigan, the former world featherweight champion, who is touting his charge all over the UK and calling out British super-bantam’s like Scott Quigg and Rendall Munroe. On this showing, Frampton is on a par with any 122 pounder in Europe, and should be in line for a British title fight once Quigg and Munroe are done with each other next month. This win over Hirales earned him an IBF belt (the Inter-continental title, whatever that means).
Hirales came to the ring with an unbeaten record, but had no answer to Frampton’s sheer virtuosity, the young Irishman at times moving in and out, popping the Mexican with lead lefts and rights, and at others circling the ring, frustrating Hirales as he sought to engage the elusive self-styled Jackal in some close-up exchanges. At every turn, Frampton out-boxed Hirales, and if this performance in front of a world-wide audience didn’t set the place alight, it drew plenty of gasps of approval from ringsiders who were crafty enough to recognise superlative ring-craft, particularly in one so young and inexperienced.
This scribe could only find a share of one round for Hirales, even if the Mexican was competitive in each stanza until the eleventh and twelfth rounds, when Frampton set his feet, and determined to prove that he could beat his opponent not only with smart boxing, but also toe-to-toe.
The judges saw the fight similarly, and turned in scores of 120-108, 119-109, 119-109.
Also, Canadian prospect, Pier Cote (19-0, 13 KOs) stopped Mark Lloyd (15-6, 3 KOs) in the fifth round of a scheduled 8-round bout.
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