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imagesFroch admitted that if he lost, he would have retired. Many are saying it was one of the best showings from a British fighter ever.

Most anyone who’s laid eyes on Lucian Bute has liked what they’ve seen. But if there has been a persistent knock on the Romanian born hitter, it’s that he hasn’t been one to seek out the best and brightest foes to test his mettle. He’s been content to invite sub-stellar foes to his adopted home in Canada, critics have said. When word came that Bute would be tangling with Carl Froch, the rugged and skilled hitter from England, on Froch’s home turf, no less, critics had to acknowledge that come the night of May 26, questions about Lucian Bute would be answered.

That they were at the Nottingham Arena in Nottingham, England on Saturday night, but not in the manner in which many experts surmised. Froch mugged Bute, whupped him from post to post, and took him out in round five. At 1:05 of the fifth, after two right crossed which snapped back the head of an overmatched Bute, his corner waved a white flag, and pulled the plug on the favorite. Froch got in his face, rushed him, flurried and then backed Bute up, never giving him room to do any long-range sniping.

Critics will now by and large denounce Bute as protected product, and note that it was no grand plan that his promoters invited oldsters, and journeymen to take on Bute, as he accumulated title defenses. It will be said that they knew what they had in the Romanian, and what they didn't.

The IBF super middleweight champion Bute (age 32; 30-0 with 24 KOs entering; 6-1 ½ lefty; coming off UD12 win over oldster Glen Johnson last November) was 167.75 pounds on Friday, while Froch (age 34; 28-2 with 20 KOs entering; 6-1 righty; coming off a loss in the Super Six finale against Andre Ward; ex 168 titlist) weighed 167.3.

It was a tight first, with Froch not wanting to let the lengthy Bute choose his preferred distance. Froch clanged Bute’s chin a couple times in the second; anything resembling a connect drew a roar from his fans. Froch clearly won the third; he had Bute holding on three times, and had him against the ropes throughout. Froch moved to his left, taking away Bute's dangerous left. His right hand, delivered up close, bothered the visitor early in the round. Bute was eating again in the fourth. Bute's left eye was now swollen and red, and his body language looked even worse. Why did I get on that damned plane, his face said as he went to his corner. Froch didn’t respect his power, or his hand speed, his jab, or anything. Bute froze while the Brit flurried, fury on his face, repeatedly.

Froch finished off Bute early in the fifth, trapping the fatigured Romanian on the ropes, as the ref watched hard, and the crowd went delirious. It wasn't clear if the ref halted it, or the corner threw in the towel, or what, but everyone knew the champ had a fork stuck in him.

There is a rematch clause, but goodness, one wonders if Bute can bounce back from this decisive walloping. Yes, he didn't look like he got untracked, and he might well be more comfortable on his home turf. But Froch bullied him, owned him, and he will need to have some head-shrinking done to get his confidence back. Bring back Jesse Brinkley…

Froch after said it was still sinking in. The now three time champ said he was deflated after the Ward bout. But he said he was never more amped and focused than on this night. He said it would have been the same for 12 rounds, if the fight went into late rounds. “A lot of people wrote me off,” he said. The bookies got it wrong, he said, as well, and many local folks will be flashing wads tonight at the pubs. He said he couldn't afford to be lazy, or flat footed on this night. He gave props to “guru” Rob McCracken, the trainer. Mac mentioned that Mikkel Kessler might be next. (Kessler beat Froch UD12 in April 2010.) Promoter Eddie Hearn called Froch a warrior, and said it was a last chance for Froch. He said a rematch is fine, given that Froch beat Bute up. Will Bute want it, he wondered? Froch said that Bute can punch, and that he is a great champion.

Bute trainer Stephan Larouche said after that Bute can come back, and likely will be back, but they will need to talk, and assess what happened before they sign on to do the rematch. He said he didn't regret going to England, that Bute could have eaten home cooking in Canada forever, but he wanted to test himself. The fighter didn't underestimate Froch, he said, but he did spend too much time on the ropes. That is arguable; Froch made him back up into the ropes, because Bute tasted his power and backed up because of it.

All in all, I do believe we should all first and foremost laud Froch, and his effort, and his willingness to take on the biggest challenges, before we focus on whether or not Bute was a fraudalent fabrication. The Brit's track record at accepting the stiffest challengers, and on this night, kicking the stuffing out of an unbeaten and skilled pugilist, makes him my favorite, to this point, for 2012 Fighter of the Year.

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