Reigning IBF super middleweight champion Lucian Bute (30-0, 24 KOs) faces his sternest test to date when he tangles with former two-time WBC champion and Super Six finalist Carl Froch (28-2, 20 KOs) in Nottingham, England this Saturday.
While Froch has the edge in quality of opposition and the hometown advantage, Bute possesses the skills and intelligence necessary to win in a hostile environment.
Froch will give Bute the kind of grueling fight the Romanian-Canadian has yet to experience, and the matchup will be a display of world-class boxing for 12 rounds. In speculating that the fight will go the distance and that most rounds will be hotly contested, Lucian Bute will need to maintain his composure and stick to a fundamentally sound game plan.
With that said, let’s look at three keys to a Bute victory:
Froch is an awkward fighter who keeps his left hand low and shoots punches from his waist. His hooks come from unorthodox angles and he uses these winging shots to pin opponents in his midst and back them up.
In order to avoid getting trapped in a Froch-vacuum of wild hooks, Bute needs to use intelligent movement. Froch’s straightest punch is his sledgehammer right hand, and Bute, as a southpaw, needs to circle to his right to avoid this punch.
If Bute can maintain his distance from Froch’s right hand, it will create openings for straight left hands down the pipe. Also, since Froch’s jab is often thrown from his waist, Bute will have opportunities to slip the punch and counter with right hand shots of his own.
The most important thing for Bute to do is box and move consistently, which should give him angles for punches and prevent him from becoming a stationary target for Froch’s heavy blows.
Despite Bute’s knockout percentage and one-punch KO ability, it would be shocking to see him stretch Froch. This is where body punching enters the equation.
Froch has proven countless times that he has a granite chin, but his somewhat awkward style can create openings for well-timed counters. Bute has demonstrated that he is an elite body puncher (look at his KO of Librado Andrade), and he will need to commit to working Froch’s body in order to slow down the Englishman and take away his legs.
When Froch moves forward, swinging his awkward hooks, Bute would be advised to close the range between them by slipping punches, stepping in and digging hooks to the body. Bute will especially have opportunities to land his left hook and uppercut to the body if he is able to evade Froch’s right hand.
Body punching, in this fight, will help Bute keep Froch in an awkward space where the Englishman’s hooks will be hitting nothing but air. The last thing Bute wants to do is let Froch dictate the range at which the bout is contested, and the most effective way to do this is to commit to the body and move in and out of range.
Be First and Throw Combinations
Bute is an exceptional combination puncher. He has tremendous hand speed, and he knows how to vary exchanges by throwing to both the head and body.
By traveling to Froch’s hometown of Nottingham, Bute will be hard-pressed to steal rounds unless he is consistently active. In order to do this, Bute needs to initiate exchanges with precise combinations. If he throws one punch at a time against Froch, Bute will risk getting swarmed by the Englishman.
In order to discourage Froch’s forward movement, Bute needs sustained three-plus punch combinations that can at least halt Froch’s forward progress. The fact that Bute throws straighter and faster punches bodes well for this, but it is still up to Bute to throw his combinations without exposing himself to counters.
Instead of backing up as Froch throws punches and moves forward, Bute needs to plant himself when the Englishman crowds him. This will be Bute’s best chance to dig to the body, and Froch’s hooks often land on unsuspecting opponents as they retreat and wilt under his pressure.
By throwing first, Bute can incorporate combinations into his overall movement, and he will have to expect to combine this with a willingness to stand and fight when Froch returns the favor with his assaults.
Ultimately, Bute-Froch is an intriguing fight. Though Froch has faced a better quality of opposition, Bute is certainly no slouch, and the nine title defenses of his IBF strap speak to this. Despite fighting in a hostile environment, I expect Bute to prevail by a score of 116-112.