Froch poses threat to unbeaten Bute

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Unbeaten IBF super middleweight champion Lucian Bute (30-0, 24 KOs) makes the 10th defense of his crown and the first in his opponent's backyard as he travels to England to do battle with Super Six World Boxing Classic runner-up Carl Froch (28-2, 20 KOs) at the Nottingham Arena on Saturday night.

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Bute has been oft-criticized for both his weak level of opposition in "world title" fights as well as his unwillingness to fight outside of Montreal unless it is to travel to his birthplace of Romania for a more pure form of home cooking. "Le Tombeur" enjoys an 80 percent KO percentage as only the toughest or most fortunate have gone the distance with the hard-hitting southpaw.

Bute holds the interesting distinction of having had 21 consecutive fights scheduled for 12 rounds, as not only his title fights, but all his fights for minor belts and/or ranking eliminators, under IBF bylaws, have been for the championship distance — it is notable that the IBF was also the last of the major sanctioning bodies to eliminate the 15-round distance 25 years ago.

That distinction is something of a moot point, however, as previously mentioned only six men have taken the Romanian-Canadian that distance. Bute has gone a total of 193 rounds — or 6.4 rounds per fight — before achieving a stoppage four times out of five.

As far as the strength-of-schedule goes, Bute's toughest fight was the infamous "long count fight" against Librado Andrade, who put Bute on the mat for 23 seconds, although referee Marlon Wright only counted off nine of those seconds. However, in the rematch, Bute closed the show in four rounds, avenging his only in-theory loss that wasn't.

A decision win over Glen Johnson is the biggest name on Bute's resumé; he has otherwise fought fringe contenders in a sort of alternate universe as far as championship caliber is concerned, thanks to the IBF being seemingly in the back pocket of promoter Groupe Yvon Michel.

However, shenanigans can only take a fighter so far. Froch has a legit pedigree, and he took Andre Ward to the limit in a fight on the biggest stage at 168 pounds. While Ward was ultimately the better fighter on that night and deserves a spot in the top 10 of any pound-for-pound list (your columnist has him fourth), Froch remains the third-best super middleweight in the world as he heads into that ring this weekend.

In addition to the Ward fight, Froch has done battle with Glen Johnson, Arthur Abraham, Mikkel Kessler, Andre Dirrell, Jermain Taylor and Jean Pascal, a who's-who of very good fighters against whom Froch is 4-2, albeit with only a single stoppage (the win over Taylor). Froch has fought much better opposition than has Bute. The experience either augurs well for him, or may be a sign that he is beatable since he has taken two losses at that level.

Against common opponents, the picture is a bit muddier. Bute and Froch have fought the following common fighters with results as indicated:

Glen Johnson (Bute W-UD12, Froch W-MD12)

Brian Magee (Bute KO10, Froch KO11)

Sergey Tatevosyan (Bute W-UD12, Froch KO2 ending Tatevosyan's career)

In two cases Bute has scored the stronger result (a unanimous vs. majority decision and a quicker KO) and in one case Froch scored the vastly superior result (a quick stoppage vs. a decision).

What does this mean for Saturday's contest? It means that two elite-level fighters with no obvious differences between them will settle it in the ring, with the winner getting a potential match (or rematch) against the class of the division in Andre Ward, provided Ward doesn't throw up another artificial obstacle in Bute's way — in his continued efforts to duck the Canuck, Ward might demand Bute get a time machine and travel back to 1986 to fight Sugar Ray Leonard before he'll give him a shot.

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