Carl Froch: Froch has been underappreciated for the past several years in spite of his accomplishments, including two major super middleweight titles and victories over Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell, Arthur Abraham and Glen Johnson going into his fight against Lucian Bute on Saturday in Froch’s native Nottingham, England. Now you’d have to be hopelessly cynical not to appreciate Froch for what he is: One of the best fighters in the world. Bute came into the fight undefeated and feared, a rising star in most estimations, and Froch tore him apart en route to a thrilling fifth-round knockout that gave him his third 168-pound title. And Froch (29-2, 21 knockouts) did it his way, with his awkward but effective style and overwhelming ferocity that that reduced one of the hottest fighters in the world to helpless prey. The home crowd loved every minute of it. And why not? Froch was nothing short of spectacular.
Lucian Bute: Froch reiterated what a lot of us said going into the fight, that Bute (30-1, 24 KOs) was unproven as an elite fighter for lack of top-tier opposition. His most-impressive victory probably had been over a 42-year-old Glen Johnson. He also had rarely ventured outside his comfort zone of Quebec. Well, as it turns out, Bute is not as good as many of us had believed. The Romanian-born Canadian was unable to solve Froch’s awkward style, as Mikkel Kessler and then Andre Ward did to a good degree. Bute seemed lost at times. And Froch simply seemed to be the physically stronger of the two; he imposed his will, particularly after he hurt Bute on several occasions. I wouldn’t write Bute off; good fighters lose. His next fight against a good opponent will be very telling.
Froch: One could argue that Froch should’ve been disqualified if the rules were followed to the letter. Froch’s promoter Barry Hearn, believing the fight had been stopped, excitedly jumped into the ring to celebrate while referee Earl Brown was in middle of an eight count. That’s an obvious DQ unless there’s something I’m missing here. The fact that Hearn rushed out of the ring when he reality set in seems to confirm his mistake. Bute’s handlers then stepped through the ropes, apparently determined to save their man from further punishment, and the fight was stopped One could also argue that it’s a good thing Brown didn’t disqualify Froch. The hometown hero deserved his sensational victory. It would’ve been a shame had it lost over a technicality.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Andre Ward: One thought going into Bute-Froch was that Bute, undefeated at the time, probably would beat Froch to set up an eventual showdown for super middleweight supremacy with Ward. However, Froch’s victory left no doubt as to who is the 168-pound king. Ward outclassed the man (Froch) who then outclassed the man (Bute). Now it seems fortunate that Ward has opted to face Chad Dawson because there might not be any significant challenges for him in the super middleweight division. If Ward beats Dawson – and he probably will –Andre or Anthony Dirrell could turn out to be the biggest threats to Ward as long as he remains a 168-pounder. Froch? As good as he looked on Saturday, I don’t see how anything would be different in a rematch with Ward.
Pier Olivier Cote: I love fighters like Cote, who have both outstanding ability and the desire to knock the head of their opponents every time they step into the ring. Cote (19-0, 13 KOs) demonstrated that again by stopping tough journeyman Mark Lloyd in the fifth round of a scheduled eight-round junior welterweight bout on the Froch-Bute undercard. The Canadian outclassed the Briton from a technical standpoint but also showed the fire – and punching power – that fans embrace. Of course, it’s too early to know whether Cote will become a star; he has yet to face an elite opponent. All I know is I like what I see. And I look forward to seeing it again.
Death of Johnny Tapia: No one who has followed the life and career of Tapia was shocked at the news that he had been found dead Sunday at his home in Albuquerque, although the cause of his death has yet to be determined. Tapia’s nickname was Mi Vida Loca, My Crazy Life. And that it was. It was marked by tragedy since he was a child. His mother was murdered, he had several stints in jail and he overdosed on drugs but cheated death at least once, which are just three examples of what he endured in his crazy life. Many of us – probably Tapia included – expected the craziness to catch up to him in this way. That doesn’t mean the news isn’t sad. Tapia (59-5-2, 30 KOs) was an excellent action fighter who collected five major titles and invariably gave the fans their money’s worth. He was a true warrior who will be sorely missed.
Froch: ”After the Andre Ward defeat, I was very deflated. I was here tonight to put right a wrong. I came here more determined than I’ve ever been before. … I’ve been guilty of switching off in the past but tonight I’ve been very focused.” Evidently.