Bute steps out to face Froch
Super middleweight champ accepts former titlist's road challenge for Saturday
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com
CASTLE DONINGTON, England -- Super middleweight titleholder Lucian Bute has made nine defenses -- seven by knockout -- since winning his world title in 2007 and is considered, at worst, the second-best fighter in the 168-pound weight class, behind unified champion Andre Ward. Yet Bute still strives for respect and has taken a big gamble in the hopes of achieving it.
For a change, Bute is fighting on the road, and he is doing so even though he doesn't really need to, because he can make more money staying at home in Montreal or in nearby Quebec City.
But because Bute wants the respect that goes with being a traveling champion, he will defend against Carl Froch, a former two-time titleholder and the Super Six World Boxing Classic runner-up (behind Ward), on Saturday night (Epix and EpixHD.com, 5:30 ET preview show, live fight coverage beginning at 6 ET) at the sold-out Capital FM Arena, which will rock with Froch's fans in his hometown.
"For me, it's the right time to come away from home and defend my belt, and in my heart I believe I will be victorious," Bute said. "I've been criticized for not fighting away from home. I remember when former super middleweight and light heavyweight champion Joe Calzaghe fought away from home at the end of his career, he received the respect he deserved for doing that, and that's what I am looking to do."
A native of Romania who recently gained Canadian citizenship, Bute is a major star in Montreal and throughout the province of Quebec, where he regularly draws big crowds. But that blessing has also been something of a curse because nowhere else can he make the kind of money he earns by fighting at the Bell Centre in Montreal or the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City.
But Bute is tired of critics saying he only fights amid the comforts of home. All but one of his defenses have been staged in either Montreal or Quebec City, with the outlier taking place in Romania in a fight considered to be the biggest boxing event in the history of the country.
In fact, all of Bute's professional fights have been in Canada or Romania, except for three early in his career that took place in the United States: his fifth fight (in Atlantic City, N.J.), his sixth fight (in Boynton Beach, Fla.), and his eighth fight (in Boston).
Since that Boston fight in 2004, Bute has been a homebody. But no more.
"I think he's had to do that now," Froch said of Bute leaving Canada. "I think his defenses have all been in Canada or North America. So he's never really traveled away. I think he fought in his native Romania early on in his career. But he's never been on the road and defended his title like champions are supposed to do, you know, move out of their hometown, their comfort zone and box away. So I think he's in an important position where he's had to do that.
"And, you know, let's give him credit. It's not easy to come away from home. He's flying over the Atlantic and he's coming to my backyard. So give him credit where credit's due. He's taking a big chance and a big gamble. But he's obviously very confident."
Bute (30-0, 24 KOs), a 32-year-old southpaw, had originally hoped to fight Super Six champion Ward, but talks for that deal never really got off the ground. So Bute and InterBox promoter Jean Bedard targeted Froch, 34, who, unlike Bute, has been a road warrior.
When Froch had a world title, he defended it in the United States against former middleweight champ Jermain Taylor before the start of the Super Six and then fought four of his five tournament bouts on the road.
Froch (28-2, 20 KOs) opened the tournament at home in Nottingham with a victory against Andre Dirrell in October 2009, but he then packed his gloves, losing a close decision to Mikkel Kessler in his hometown of Copenhagen, Denmark, facing Arthur Abraham in Finland and then fighting in Atlantic City in the semifinals against Glen Johnson and the final against Ward.
Bute recognized what Froch had done, which was part of the reason he agreed to travel to England.
"We made Froch an offer to come to Montreal. He turned it down," Bute said. "And maybe he was right saying that he was away from home for awhile. He wanted to fight at home. So we just told his promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport, make us an offer."
Hearn did just that, and Bute and Bedard accepted the fight, even though they are probably leaving money on the table. Bute is OK with that.
"We're going to go defend the belt in Froch's place and we'll prove everybody wrong that I'm only fighting in Montreal," Bute said. "So I asked to go out to prove myself."
Froch freely admits that he is very happy to be at home for a change.
"I know where I am, what time I'm there, what I'm doing, my food's correct," Froch said. "I know what I'm eating and when I'm eating it. I'm surrounded by my family and friends, and I can feel the love and the warmth. And I know it's my town in Nottingham and all the crowd's going to be cheering for me. And that's a big difference.
"It might motivate Bute to be away from home. It depends on what kind of person you are and what your personality is. And I've proven I'm good on the road. I'm well-traveled. I can always perform on the road. But I don't care who you are or what you say or what your mentality is or what your personality is -- I just think it's better to be around familiarity and around comfort so you can relax and you have faith and you're confident and you succeed in life, including boxing."
Froch believes that Bute's decision to come to Nottingham was made because he has a rematch clause in his contract in the event that he loses, and that the rematch would be in Canada.
"Let's not forget he's got the taste in there of the rematch clause in the back of his mind," Froch said. "I don't know well enough to say what he's thinking. But he's probably got the comfort of the safety net of knowing that if he gets beat, he's got the rematch back in his hometown of Montreal. So he's got that in the back of his mind. He's in a good position from that point of view.
"But I'm sure he's going to be coming over here to defend his title and it becomes the toughest fight of his life against the best fighter, as far as I'm concerned, to ever box him."
Bute brushed off the notion that he decided to travel because of the hometown rights he would have in a possible rematch.
"Maybe he's saying that to convince himself or to explain to himself why I did agree to fight in Nottingham," Bute said.
Although Froch said he respects Bute for coming to his hometown -- even with the rematch clause to protect him -- he is far less complimentary of Bute's rťsumť. He has given Bute credit only for wins against former light heavyweight champ Glen Johnson and Brian Magee, who went on to claim an interim super middleweight title after Bute knocked him out.
"I don't 100 percent know if he's good enough to mix it up at the top level, but I'm going to find out," Froch said. "But before this fight, I would say he's not fought anybody. He doesn't deserve to be ranked No. 1 or No. 2. Lucian Bute, on paper, is overrated."
When told of the cocky Froch's remark, Bute responded: "I'm not surprised that he said that. He keeps saying bad stuff all the time. When he comes to fight, he likes to do that kind of comment, but I know who I am, I know what I did, and I know what the work I have put in is. And let's see what's going to happen on Saturday."
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