By Ivan G. Goldman
Carl Froch’s 5th-round destruction of Lucian Bute in Nottingham, England Saturday gave impressive boosts to his own career and the U.S. telecaster, the relatively new EPIX network, which finally bought itself an exciting fight.
Also lifted by the outcome was the reputation of Andre Ward, who now threatens to become to the super middleweight division what the Klitschko brothers have long been to the heavyweights — in a class by himself.
Froch, who appeared so quick and lethal against the well-schooled Bute, was utterly flummoxed against unbeaten Ward last December. Ward, 28, is so far ahead in the rankings that maybe he ought to take on his next few challengers with one glove tied behind his back. He also breezed through Arthur Abraham, Mikkel Kessler, and Allan Green on his way to winning Showtime’s Super Six tournament.
Boring analysts like to repeat over and over that styles make fights, but the fact is, when fighter A defeats fighter B, and fighter B defeats fighter C, fighter A will usually beat fighter C too. Consequently, Bute, who was considered a worthy opponent for Ward on Friday, lost that status the next day, though the damage isn’t necessarily permanent.
Like the Klitschkos, Ward not only defeats everybody, he doesn’t duck anybody either. Very discouraging to his opponents. And he doesn’t look to be moving up anytime soon. In his next scheduled contest, Ward will face Chad Dawson, who’s coming down from light heavyweight to challenge him September 8 at a site to be named. That should be interesting. Dawson hasn’t fought at super middle since February 2006.
If there’s a chink in Ward’s armor it’s not in his ability to win. It’s in his ability to excite fans. Froch, 29-2 (21), and Bute, 30-1 (24), have together stopped 72.5 percent of their opponents. And sure enough, when they locked horns, the contest featured nonstop action and didn’t go the distance. But Ward, 25-0 (13), has stopped only 52 percent of his opponents. He’s a technical fighter — cagey, quick, and hard to hit, but he’s not a devastating puncher. On the other hand, the man has grit. He broke his left hand against Froch and kept using it anyway.
Given the overwhelming nature of his victory, Froch advised Bute not to take advantage of the rematch clause, which would have him face Froch in Montreal. However, Bute has proved in the past that he can work on his mistakes and come back a different fighter. In October 2008 he won a decision against hard-hitting Librado Andrade only because Marlon Wright, refereeing in Bute’s adopted city of Montreal, chose not to notice that Bute was unconscious on the ropes at the end of the fight. But when Andrade came back to Montreal a year later, Bute stopped him in four.
As for the other winner, EPIX, its team of Dan Rafael, Sugar Ray Leonard, Bruce Beck, and Chris Mannix met standards, though production values didn’t appear as polished as those of rivals Showtime and HBO.
EPIX, which is gradually elbowing its way into the premium channels roster, was launched in October 2009 by Lionsgate, MGM Studios, and a branch of Viacom. It has an incestuous relationship with rival Showtime, which is also owned by Viacom, the world’s fourth-largest media conglomerate.
Viacom itself reports to National Amusements, Inc., which also holds a controlling stake in CBS. If you find all that hard to follow you’re not alone. These corporations merge, shed tentacles and grow new ones in a never-ending accounting game designed to beat the world’s hopelessly overmatched tax agencies. Most of the tangled Viacom media octopus is the property of tycoon Sumner Redstone, who turned 88 on Sunday. What does this mean to boxing fans? If we want to see all the big fights we may be forced to subscribe to EPIX in addition to HBO, Showtime, the local Telefutura channel, etc., etc.
EPIX, with plenty of money to burn, has been streaming fights on the Times Square JumboTron to create a buzz. It uses other gimmicks as well, but don’t expect the freebies to last. To find out more about EPIX, look up Redstone in the Yellow Pages under the listing for bloodless media moguls.
Ivan G. Goldman’s latest novel Isaac: A Modern Fable came out in April 2012 from Permanent Press. Information HERE