NOTTINGHAM, England -- Carl Froch climbed the stairs to the press conference table slowly, a pair of designer sunglasses dangling from his t-shirt, a cocky smirk creasing his face. This was his show. Six months after dropping a career-defining fight against Andre Ward, Froch was back, in another big fight, against Lucian Bute, for another big payday with another chance to put his name in the mix for the top super middleweights in the sport
Which of course begs the question: Who exactly won the Super Six?
Officially, Ward is the Super Six champ. Last December in Atlantic City, Ward punctuated an exhausting 168-pound tournament that almost interminably stretched out over two years, lighting up Froch over 12 rounds, peppering him with left hooks, sticking and moving, sticking and moving while a frustrated Froch struggled to keep up. The final scores -- two judges scored it a head-scratching 115-113 for Ward, while another gave Ward a more reasonable 118-110 edge -- were not indicative of the clinic Ward put on in the ring.
Unofficially, Froch won, big time. One of the missions of the Super Six was to manufacture marketable stars, using Showtime's cash and exposure to saturate the market. Froch certainly became one. Ward, at least, was an Olympic gold medalist when he entered the tournament. Froch's claim to fame was that his girlfriend, Rachel Cordingley, was a looker.
But Froch won fans quickly, with his brash, cocky attitude and crowd-pleasing, come-forward style. And despite the loss, Froch became one of the most marketable super middleweights in the division.
"It wasn't a loss where I go back to the drawing board and say, 'I don't belong at this level, I'm not good enough,'" Froch said. "It wasn't a, 'You know, I'm not a very good fighter, it's time to retire. It wasn't one of those losses."
Indeed, while Ward was expected to get the bounce from the win, it is Froch who has cashed in. With Ward on the shelf the last few months with a broken hand, Froch suddenly became the most appealing Super Six opponent. Enter Bute, the co-king of the division who longed for a shot at Ward but was more than willing to settle for Froch. On Saturday, Bute (30-0) will defend his IBF title against Froch (28-2) at Nottingham Arena (6 p.m. ET, Epix/EpixHD.com).
"Lucian Bute on paper is overrated," Froch said. "I've been in with [Jean] Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell, Mikkell Kessler, Arthur Abraham. I don't need to reel them all off, but very top-level, elite fighters. Look at Bute's resume, you don't know the names. That doesn't mean he's not a great fighter and he's not good enough to go in there and beat [anyone]. But what it does mean is we don't know. We just don't know."
Froch will have the advantage of fighting in a friendly environment. Bute is the champion, and routinely attracts crowds of more than 15,000 in Canada. But Bute has been criticized for never fighting outside of Canada or his native Romania. Fueling the criticism is the gift Bute got in a 2009 fight with Librado Andrade, where Bute appeared to be knocked out in the 12th round but was saved by a generous count by the referee. It's because of those criticisms that Bute was willing to travel to England and fight Froch on his home turf. Among Bute's preparations: Piping in recordings of Cordingley, who is very vocal at Froch's fights.
"He's never been on the road and defended his title like champions are supposed to do," Froch said. "Let's give him credit. It's not easy to come away from home. He's flying over the Atlantic and he's coming to my backyard. Give him credit where credit's due. He's taking a big chance and a big gamble."
Froch is taking a gamble, too. At 34, Froch doesn't have many big fights left. He was outclassed against Ward and a similar beating by Bute would likely end his days as a major network headliner. Froch has suggested this week that retirement is just around the corner; that corner could come a lot quicker if he absorbs another one-sided defeat.
"Mentally I'm confident," Froch said. "I'm switched on. I'm ready. And I'm not licking my wounds. I'm not sulking. I'm not feeling sorry for myself because I lost my last fight. I'm really not. I'm taking confidence from that loss. I know where I went wrong and I know what I need to do to put it right. And I can beat Lucian Bute. I'm going to be a three-time world champion. That's the kind of stuff legends are made of."