Just how much does Carl Froch want to surpass Joe Calzaghe at the top of the pantheon of great British super-middleweights?
If you listen to the man himself, the idea of being remembered in the same bracket as the undefeated Welshman is something akin to Manchester City toppling city rivals United to the Premier League crown- Froch could not want it more.
Yes, Nottingham’s finest has softened his mantra in recent years- he was once the angry outsider, unable to land the world title shot he most craved while Calzaghe took plaudits on both side of the Atlantic.
Now, however, things are a little different.
On Saturady night Froch (28-2) has, arguably, a final chance at boosting his CV with a truly world class super-middleweight name to settle him, once and for all, in that upper echelon of British fighters.
On the face of it Froch’s record is a resume to contend with but on closer scrutiny, Bute represents the third genuinely high-quality operator at this weight that the Nottingham fighter has faced and he is yet to win one.
How can Froch be considered an all-time top super-middleweight if he hasn’t beaten a world class name at the weight?
Froch’s crown of quality is comprised on three main fights. The first of which, a wide points win over Arthur Abraham in 2010, won the WBC belt for a second time.
Abraham is, in truth, not a super-middleweight and certainly not a world class operator at this weight. His lack of bravery and intelligence across three of his four Super Six battles shows that the Armenian-German can bang a bit but that is as far as his powers go.
Similarly Jermain Taylor was in a major career slump when his chance to take Froch’s WBC crown came in April 2009. Another blown up middleweight, Taylor dominated Froch from the first bell, even flooring the Cobra before tiring badly in the final three rounds, allowing the champion to land a fortunate, if composed, stoppage.
The final gem in Froch’s crown came four years ago when he comfortably beat Jean Pascal at the same venue he will take on Bute on Saturday night. No doubt about it the performance was an impressive one but again Pascal is not a natural super-middleweight- the French-Canadian has found success but only at light-heavyweight.
View the Froch resume through those glassess and it becomes apparent that, home advantage or not, he will struggle, really struggle to make an impact on Saturday.
Yet make an impact he must if he is to claim a place at that top table. Defeats to Andre Ward and Mikkel Kessler- each with varying degrees of competitiveness saw Froch emerge with some degree of credit, but there will be nowhere to run at world level at this weight if the two-time WBC champion comes up short on Saturday.
Bute is not without questions either. His two biggest wins have come against fighters who Froch has also beaten- Brian Magee and Glen Johnson- and the Canadian-Romanian has never fought outside of his adopted homelands.
But the key to this fight is to say that Bute, a notoriously cautious fighter who has never fought away from home, feels confident enough that he will walk into Froch’s backyard to defend both his IBF belt and unbeaten record. This confidence speaks volumes.
Andre Ward said that he was shocked at how slow Froch was during their December dust-up, and in my view, although I really hope I am proved badly wrong, Bute’s brutal body shots and remarkable size for a super-middlweight will mean an easy points win for the undefeated champion. If Froch wins, and it is not impossible that he could grind Bute into the canvas, ‘The Cobra’ will have finally claimed that top level super-middleweight name.
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