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Josh Williams is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk

  • Fight Insight: Carl Froch v Lucien Bute

Focused Froch should better Bute

Josh Williams May 25, 2012
Carl Froch has questioned the quality of opponents Lucien Bute has faced © PA Photos
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The IBF super-middleweight king meets a two-time world champion in Nottingham on Saturday - but despite decorated careers, both will feel determined to prove a point.

Lucien Bute, the unbeaten holder of the IBF crown, has yet to unequivocally prove his quality against the highest level of opposition. Carl Froch, meanwhile, will be desperate to make a statement after being schooled by former Olympic champion Andre Ward last time out.

"It was a very bad night for me against Ward and I've got a lot to prove now," Froch said. "This is the comeback from the bitter disappointment on that night in Atlantic City."

While Bute is the odds-on favourite, accusations of hand-picked match-ups have dogged him, and to some extent he remains an unknown quantity - so plenty feel that Froch represents real betting value at 17/10.

"I don't think Bute is as good as Ward and I'm not sure if he's as good as Mikkel Kessler or Andre Dirrell or Jermain Taylor [fighters Froch has faced]. I really don't because he's only fought Brian Magee and Glen Johnson," Froch said.

Drawing parallels between mutual opponents can be misleading, but it is worth mentioning that Froch has already defeated the two standout names on Bute's CV - and done so without too much trouble. No-one is going to dispute that Froch has been in the ring with tougher foes and, with the exception of Ward and Kessler, has found a way to triumph.

You sense that Bute, who has taken the unusual step of travelling to his opponent's backyard (although he has the safety net of a rematch clause back in his hometown of Montreal), feels he needs to prove his credentials as a title-holder - particularly if he wants to entice Ward into the ring. "He's never been on the road and defended his title like champions are supposed to do," Froch said. "So, I think he's in an important position where he's had to do that."

Froch and Bute have both taken care of Glen Johnson in their careers © PA Photos
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Credit to Bute for taking up the challenge, and in doing so he's leaving no stone unturned, reportedly going so far as training while a tape, which tries to recreate the raucous Nottingham atmosphere, blares out. He's even gone so far as to include the cover-your-ears shrieks of Rachael, Froch's wife.

It's crucial that Froch doesn't let the crowd's frenzy melt away his composure. He's a natural entertainer, putting himself in well-matched contests and using his barrels of bravery to keep coming at opponents. This is his first appearance back in Nottingham since October 2009, when he just about got the better of Andre Dirrell in a knife-edge battle, and he's going to want to impress.

"He is a complex kid, and if it doesn't go how he expects, he can get into the frame of mind like, 'I can't be a***d with the boxing and I'll just try and catch him with a big shot'," trainer Rob McCracken said. "Bute is very good at what he does and Carl has to be right on things."

Froch can't just go thundering forward into the line of fire, because Bute is a canny counterpuncher whose thundering blows to the body will reverberate down the legs. Although Froch doesn't possess one outstanding technical attribute, he does have a lot going for him: his chin and heart, mainly, as well as his versatility. We've seen Froch lurching forward on the front foot, and also dictating range off the back foot, as he did to brilliant effect against Arthur Abraham in 2010.

"I've learned how to box, be patient and I've improved my boxing ability and my overall ring crust," Froch said. "So, you're going to see that and solid maintenance after that."

Focus and patience are the two keys here for Froch if he wants to keep himself in the world title picture. Another loss would surely nudge him back towards the domestic scene, which might not be too damaging a prospect (at least financially), with bouts possible against, say, James DeGale or George Groves. But whether a proud man such as Froch would be able to stomach that supposed demotion is debatable.

He can avoid having to contemplate that prospect as long as he keeps his head in the Nottingham inferno.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Josh Williams is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk