by Charles Jay
Lucian Bute, the IBF super middleweight champion who is scheduled to fight in a unification fight against former WBC champion Carl Froch on May 26 in England, has developed an ailment in his foot that could put that upcoming date in jeopardy, Boxing Insider has learned.
Bute, who is currently training in Florida, developed a foot blister, which turned into a painful infection as of Saturday, and suffered discoloration that ran up his leg to the knee area. It prompted a trip to the hospital, and sources were not overly optimistic that he would be able to fight according to schedule.
No other details were immediately available, and no final determination has been made about the fight. If Bute could not make his May 26 date, it would likely just push the date back a bit.
For Bute, who had defended his crown against Glen Johnson with a 12-round decision win last time out, this looms as an opportunity not only to pass his toughest career test, but to possibly achieve a higher profile. Froch has a 28-2 record, suffering both of those losses in Showtime’s Super Six tournament against Mikkel Kessler and Andrew Ward, but also scoring wins over Arthur Abraham, Andre Dirrell and the aforementioned Johnson in the tourney.
Bute, who is 30-0 (24 KO’s), was a notable absence from that tournament, preferring to stay outside of it, continuing to defend his belt under his own terms. He won the IBF title in October 2007 with a stoppage of Alejandro Berrio and has made nine successful title defenses, all but one of which was held in Canada, which became the Romanian native’s adopted home under the promotion of Interbox. The 32-year-old southpaw pitched almost a perfect shutout over Johnson on November 5, winning by scores of 120-108 on two of the judges’ scorecards and 119-109 on another.
Froch was installed as the official mandatory challenger for Bute’s title by the IBF, though he is currently rated #5 as a super middleweight. Bute has not fought a mandatory defense since beating then-undefeated Jean-Paul Mendy last July in Bucharest. This matchup will bring into someone else’s hometown for a change.
The Froch-Bute fight is slated for the Nottingham Arena in England, and undefeated (13-0) super bantamweight (122-pound) Carl Frampton, the current Commonwealth champion, is going after the IBF Inter-Continental championship against fellow unbeaten Raul Hirales (16-0-1). Other notables are on the card, which will be televised by Sky Sports; Kenyan-born Erick Ocheing, the reigning British light middleweight champ, has a defense planned against A.A. Lowe; undefeated southpaw middleweight John Ryder (10-0) is to fight Luke Robinson, and Ryan “Tank” Aston, a 6-0 middleweight, is scheduled to appear. Also, unbeaten Pier Olivier Cote, a stablemate of Bute’s and the IBF Inter-Continental champ at 140 pounds, has a bout with UK veteran Mark Lloyd.
Bute has been trying to prepare for the noise that he would encounter in Froch’s hometown, by turning up the crowd noise during his gym sessions. In fact, the noise was so loud that he couldn’t even hear the bell rings between rounds of sparring, or his trainer’s instructions during the rounds, as he revealed in an interview with ESPN.
Despite being the “road team,” Bute is nonetheless a favorite in all the online sportsbooks; wagering on him would require laying anything from -175 to -225.
If his infection is serious enough that Bute indeed must miss the date, and is out for an extended period, Froch could choose to keep the appointment with Sky in Nottingham anyway. There were tentative plans to have a fight there in May with either Librado Andrade or Noe Gonzalez, according to reports, before the situation with Bute and the IBF developed. Both suffered early stoppages in fights during April – Andrade to Rowland Bryant and Gonzalez at the hands of Adonis Stevenson – so other possibilities would have to be found. One would think, however, that he wouldn’t want to risk his mandatory position.