What must Carl Froch do to become a superstar? He's won world titles, thrown down against the best guys around, prevailed in epic slugfests, yet Joe Public is more likely to recognise a gurning train wreck like Dereck Chisora. He's been poorly served by TV and while he lacks the charisma of Ricky Hatton his fighting style is more exciting and his CV is stellar. In the talent-packed super-middleweight division he has fought Andre Dirrell, Mikkel Kessler, Jermain Taylor, Jean Pascal, Arthur Abraham, Glen Johnson and Andre Ward, beaten most of them and been competitive against all. He's certainly come a long way from being the cocky loudmouth who called out Joe Calzaghe. He faces another classy lefty Saturday night in what looks certain to be one of the toughest tests of his career.
The man putting his IBF super middleweight belt on the line, Montréal-based Romanian Lucian Bute, is that rare beast: a slick southpaw who loves to go to the body and loves to knock guys out. He leaves his right arm low but it still shoots up regularly with a jab that keeps his opponents off-balance. He likes to throw a counter left – sometimes an uppercut to the jaw, sometimes a hook to the body. Froch will need to be highly disciplined with his attacks – any sloppiness will get punished by Bute counters. The Romanian has superior hand speed and the best way to neutralise speed is with a strong jab. This is where I think Carl Froch can make life difficult for Bute. When he marshals it correctly – as he did against Arthur Abraham, for instance – Froch's jab is excellent. With a 3-inch reach advantage, he should be able to get off first and if he keeps his jabs snappy, he’ll leave no gaps for those punishing counters.
Bute is the kind of fighter I hate betting against – unbeaten, with a deadly combination of speed, skills and power – but Carl Froch is the most dangerous guy he has faced and has a lot of factors in his favour. He has an exceptional chin. He makes every round competitive. He's highly mentally resilient. He's fighting in his hometown. He's fought better fighters. Although Bute has a slightly higher knockout percentage, if he'd fought the guys Froch has there would be nothing to choose between them. It's a big task to even connect on Andre Ward, never mind stop him and you need a vat of horse tranquilliser to knock Arthur Abraham out. Both guys can take a shot but you have to assume that Froch has the stronger chin. He recovered from his one career knockdown against Jermain Taylor to win with a breathless late KO. Bute, on the other hand, was knocked senseless by Librado Andrade and needed a very generous long count to get to his feet and hear the final bell before Andrade could land what surely would have been a knockout blow.
My gut feeling is that if there is any doubt over some of the swing rounds, the judges will score them to Froch in his hometown. If Froch establishes his jab early on I think he's going to be putting rounds in the bank and giving judges something easy to score (judges love visible clean punching, as they should). He's also got the kind of power that will keep Bute honest. With the price of 3.75 indicating a 26% chance of Froch winning a decision I've got to put the actual chances a little higher than that. Back the Cobra to squeeze out a narrow victory and give Bute his first loss.