New Paradigms: On Carl Froch and Lucian Bute

****

****

It is late October 2011, in Toronto, a time of year when the chill lays siege to your bones. The clouds menace overhead, tumbling like waves, seemingly within reach. In St. James Park, close to 2000 protesters gather; the marginalized voiceless—legitimate and otherwise—congregate in a small park within shouting distance of the epicenter of Canadian finance to give sound to their disparate plight.

A girl in her mid-twenties sits cross-legged on a resilient patch of grass near one of the crowded walkways that snake through the park. Among the cacophony of drums, the impromptu chants decrying social inequality, and the passionately strummed chords of those who have come to find an audience for their own troubles (or at the very least their music), she smokes a cigarette, enjoying her participation in this ephemeral community.

Positioned on the dirt before her is a makeshift placard: bold, black letters on thick cardboard. “I HAVE A UNIVERSITY DEGREE, DEBT, AND NO JOB”—this is her reason for participating in Occupy Toronto. There is an implied injustice in these biographical details, one that has caused the have-nots to lock hands in a show of solidarity. Like many of the protesters in St. James Park this afternoon, the girl assumes that having an education entitles one to a desirable vocation, that accepting the debt required to afford this education is merely part of the wager she is supposed to win. It is an intuitive notion of reward, one with much currency among the group.

But there is a new paradigm at play. With post-secondary education available to a larger number of people, it is no longer the distinguishing quality of potential employees. Now a minimum requirement for many of the jobs pursued by university graduates, education is a necessary but insufficient qualification. Hopefuls must decorate themselves with supplementary plumage to capture the eye of prospective employers. This is a hard truth about one of the consequences of equality: it distinguishes the collective, not the individual.

***

Across the Atlantic, Carl Froch is in preparation for the finale of Showtime’s Super Six Tournament, where he will face undefeated Olympic Gold Medalist Andre Ward. Froch’s position in the tournament final is secured by his performances against a level of competition unsurpassed in the sport.

In less than two weeks, fellow super-middleweight Lucian Bute will face Glen Johnson, a 42 year-old former light-heavyweight who has four losses in his last six bouts, including one to Froch that eliminated Johnson from the tournament. Bute has been cruising recently. With the division’s premier competition committed to the tournament, he has been honing his skills against opponents unlikely to pose any serious questions. This isn’t an indictment of Bute: there is a dearth of competition available to him. To his credit, Bute has looked spectacular since referee Marlon Wright spared him from the lumbering Librado Andrade in the closing seconds of their 2009 fight. Since that scare, Bute has knocked out every opponent he’s faced, including Andrade in their rematch. He is staying busy as he waits for the tournament to reach its conclusion.

***

It is now May 2012, Occupy Toronto’s second rendition has come and gone. So too has Lucian Bute’s unblemished record: his highly anticipated clash with Carl Froch having resulted in an emphatic and definitive fifth-round stoppage for “The Cobra” from Nottingham.

With the exception of a first round characterized by measured reconnaissance, Bute was ground to pieces. Froch controlled when and where the fight was fought, negating Bute’s significant speed advantage by keeping the action in close and throwing vicious and unpredictable punches whenever Bute let his hands go. Froch’s awkward punching left Bute ignorant of where the next punch was coming from and fully aware of where it terminated. By the fourth round the outcome seemed inevitable; Bute’s bleeding physiognomy betraying a painful realization of what was being done to him, and such treatment’s logical conclusion.

In retrospect the outcome can be easily explained: Froch is the superior fighter. Bute has certain advantages—speed of hand and foot, and perhaps one-punch power—but as a fighter, and more importantly, in a fight, Froch is better. But this superiority cannot be reduced to simply psyche, genetics, and praxis. The version of Froch that blitzed Bute is better than the version that entered the Super Six, and the competition he faced in that tournament played a role his improvement. By facing a diversity of elite opponents, Froch has become intimately aware of his strengths and weaknesses, of his ability to absorb and administer hurt at the highest level. Froch has maximized his potential by having to draw on all of it to succeed, which is a testament both to his ambitions as a fighter, and the inherent value of taking risks.

It is difficult to argue that Bute lost to Froch because he prepared for his sternest test against inferior opposition, especially with Froch being as dominant as he was. Moreover, Bute’s willingness to face Froch on the Englishman’s home turf is proof that he too has grand aspirations. But Bute did look flustered and confused throughout the bout. When landing punches that failed to produce the expected damage, getting hit with punches he didn’t expect, and especially when he was hurt, Bute looked like a fighter ill-prepared for the worst contingencies, and these contingencies are always closer to the surface in challenging fights.

Considering both fighters, it can be said that quality opposition stands to improve a fighter, even if mediocre opposition isn’t necessarily detrimental. It stands to reason then, that fighters looking to actualize their potential would readily seek out risk. Anyone familiar with the sport knows that such ambition is actually rare, with fighters often delaying the possibility of defeat for as long as possible rather than discovering where their professional ceiling is. It is difficult to criticize this strategy both because the critic isn’t taking the punches, and because the capitalism that drives boxing is predicated on maximizing earning while minimizing risk.

Whatever the justification for the path of least resistance may be, it leads to a situation where fighters (and promoters) speak of injustice while collecting two paychecks a year from a network that televises their mismatches, where stardom is assumed merely because others have achieved it; where a sense of entitlement balks at the spirit of competition, and the privileged dress themselves in the garb of the less fortunate. But last Saturday, that mentality was turned on its ear, when Froch—who may have more of the supplementary plumage than any fighter in the sport, and seems to view fighting the best as an end in itself—put in the best performance of his career, reaping all of the accolades. Oh, that this fearlessness, too, would become a new paradigm.

****

Follow The Cruelest Sport on Twitter & Facebook and follow the only boxing website with its own Theme Song!

Topics: Boxing, CARL FROCH, Lucian Bute, Super Middleweights

Want more from The Cruelest Sport?  
Subscribe to FanSided Daily for your morning fix. Enter your email and stay in the know.
  • Andrew Fruman

    Hi JT,  nice piece.  As you say, it’s impossible to criticize Bute’s career choices when you consider the sport’s economics, but it certainly not the best path for reaching one’s true potential.  If you took the most talented of baseball players… let them feast on minor league pitching for 10 years, and then at the age of 32, threw them into the majors – they would almost certainly have issues.  Bute looked like a guy that had never seen a real nasty slider, and couldn’t cope.

  • jet79

    Hi Andy,
    That’s an apt analogy, especially considering how quickly Bute was out of the fight. He got behind in the count, and then it was over.
    I hope Bute comes back from this, though an immediate rematch might be a mistake. He got absolutely tuned on Saturday. Still, I give him a lot of credit for going to Nottingham to fight Froch – that kind of risk taking is so rare nowadays. 
    It’d be ideal if both Froch and Bute are rewarded for taking the risks they did, showing more reticent fighters that such a pursuit of glory is to be emulated.
     

  • Michael Nelson

    Hey JT,
     
    Froch probably should get more credit for three and a half years without a soft touch, eight straight bouts with perceived contenders.  I’m guilty of shrugging it off, with most of the fights being struggles, but when putting it within context of today’s environment, it is an awe-inspiring feat. 
     
    Good call on Bute’s lack of adverse experience.  The Andrade struggle was a distant memory, and even then, the scare only emerged in the final minutes of the bout.  He had never faced rough waters within the first few rounds.
     
    I’d suggest moving Bute carefully over the next year before setting up a Pascal fight if possible.
     
     

  • jet79

     @Michael Nelson
    Hi MN,
    I’m guilty of the same oversight re: Froch. I thought Dirrell beat him, the Kessler fight could’ve gone either way, Johnson had some success against him; I figured Abraham was cowed by the time he fought Froch, and Ward handled him. But when you take Froch’s run as a whole, win or lose, it’s incredible.
    The Pascal fight is intriguing for a number of reasons, the atmosphere in side the Bell Centre being one of them. Froch – Pascal is a nice fight too, what with the history, and you know Froch would go to Montreal to do it.
    I’m with you on the careful rehabilitation of Bute. That was a pretty good thumping he took, and it raised some concerns (for me at least) about how he measures up against the best in the division. Lucky for Bute and his team he can make plenty of money while he gets back on track.
    It understand if Bute stays away from Froch for as long as possible, but hopefully he takes a run at Kessler or Pascal in a year or so.
     

  • FunkyBadger

    Very insightful, steel makes steel, as they say.
     
    I think Froch was noticably better in close than he ever was before he fought Ward – he kept hitting Bute with a short left hoojk over his shoulder after lunging in with the right. But Bute looked all at sea, last time I saw someone tossed around like that was when Katsidis threw Kevin Mitchell around like a chew-toy – turns out afterwards that Mitchell’s training had been all over the place… any news of that surfacing for Bute?

  • thenonpareil

     @Rouge I am only approving this because you are impossibly hot!  You have a good shot of being MISS TCS 2013! 

  • thenonpareil

    Hi JT, 
    no one in America is going to follow Froch’s lead, that’s probably a given.  I’m like you and Nelson–not really sold on Froch’s technical acumen, but still impressed at what he has done over the last few years.  We can certainly use more like him in the sport.  
    I’d like to say that Bute is not nearly as bad–or as untested–as people are saying in retrospect.  I think that takes a bit away from Froch.  Bute did fight Andrade (twice), Glen Johnson, and Bika–and these three guys, at the time, were not considered walks in the park for anyone.   Froch was just smarter in the ring, more physical, and he cracks pretty hard, I would guess…
     

  • thenonpareil

     @FunkyBadger Hi MW, 
    aren’t you glad I don’t write about Froch anymore!?!?  
    I’d say the key to his victory–other than power Bute was unable to handle–was his ability to control space and range.  Bute was in trouble the second the opening bell rang and he began trying to press Froch…not his game at all.  Then, Froch was much smarter regarding range.  Whenever he got close to Bute, he did so behind punches.  When he moved back, it was for defensive purposes only and he was well out of range.  Bute moved in too close to Froch without punching, leaving him stranded in a no man’s land.  Bute was easily confused by Froch, who is a pretty cagey fellow in there.  
    As far as training, Bute insisted leading up to the fight that his camp was tip-top even with the toe infection he suffered.  I have my doubts about Froch’s technical ability, but I think he’s a smart fighter and Bute was no match for him in the brains department.  And when he saw Bute befuddled, he went after him the way a pro is supposed to, not like some of these guys who think they’re paid by the antic….

  • jet79

     @thenonpareil 
    Hi CA,
    Full disclosure, I had forgotten about the Bika fight until watching him rough up Dyah Davis this Saturday.  Bika is a rough customer, and Bute’s win over him is indeed an example of him facing live fire. Bute has indeed faced some tough guys (certainly more than is required to be made a star by HBO) even if his run doesn’t rival Froch’s.
    No, I don’t expect anyone to follow Froch’s lead…which means I might have to make a placard in St. James Park in protest.

  • jet79

     @FunkyBadger 
    Hi MW,
    Steel makes steel alright, and that’s the stuff Froch is made of. As per CA’s comment, it seems all was well with Bute, he just met a better man. Nothing wrong with getting beat by somebody who’s better than you, and Bute’s handled the loss with class. It’s that kind of rational and professional response to defeat that has me confident that Bute will eventually test himself against the best. Mind you, a Froch rematch probably wouldn’t tell us anything we don’t already know.

  • FunkyBadger

     @thenonpareil Heh… I have to say I agree with pretty much everything you’ve written about Froch previously:
    -he’s slow
    -he loops his punches too much
    -his balance and footwork are horrible when he moves forward
    -he can’t fight a lick on the inside
    -he gets too easily impretzelated with his long arms
    -he’s as tough as old boots and loves a scrap
    -he’s pretty smart in the ring
     
    I thought he was going to be in trouble against Bute, could see him shambling forward into that left-uppercut all night.
     
    The thing I’m enjoying almost the most, is watching a fighte’s evolution, he made mistakes before that he’s not making now – he had Kessler stunned and nervous around round 8 of their fight but stood off and posed, instead of finishing. Against Ward he couldn’t really get anything working inside, but got a lot more “dirty” hits in on Bute – elbows, forearms, cuffs with the inside of the gloves.
     
    If he can stick all that together with the jab then he’s a handful for anyone.  Fun to watch too…

  • FunkyBadger

     @jet79 True, Bute acted like a gent all the way through.
     
    I wouldn’t mind seeing a rematch, but not immediately. Froch-Kessler II surely has to happen. Wouldn’t mind seeing Bute have a go at Dirrell either, especially after the latter’s Twitter broadside (the most convincing assault he’s put together for a couple of years).

TEAMFeed More The Cruelest Sport news from the Fansided Network

Hot on the Web From golf.com