InterBox promoter Jean Bedard, who handles the career of IBF super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute, said today on a conference call that he and Bute will pursue a fight with Carl Froch for April 14 -- whether American TV network Showtime is on board with the idea or not.
Saying that Showtime doesn't share their "vision or enthusiasm" for a Bute vs Froch bout, Bedard says that even if it means less revenue without a Showtime airing, they're going to go after that fight. And at last notice, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn was still trying to make the Bute-Froch fight for that date.
It's a bold move by the fighters and their promoters, as Bute still has one fight left on his Showtime deal and they're putting the network in a tough spot here. Turning down Bute vs Froch, which is a terrific fight, just seems daft, but Showtime ultimately wants a fight with Bute against Andre Ward. They timed it so that everything would line up to have them meet after the Super Six, which Ward won over Froch on December 17.
It's just tough to imagine a world where a network has time for something that turned out as horrible as Bute vs Glen Johnson, or something as overall routine as Bute vs Brian Magee, but not a Bute vs Froch fight. Plus, Showtime has told InterBox, Bedard says, that Ward isn't available for April, and to be totally clear, Ward has made no indication that he intends to fight Bute any time soon, essentially downplaying a Bute fight in a similar fashion to what Nonito Donaire has done this week with Guillermo Rigondeaux, except he hasn't called Bute boring.
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So who does Showtime want instead of Froch? Andre Dirrell, according to Bedard. The same Andre Dirrell with no fanbase who has fought once in the last two years. The Andre Dirrell managed by Al Haymon (that theory is gaining legs, fast).
Andre Dirrell is preferable to Carl Froch? Why? Because he's American? Froch probably has more American fans than Dirrell does, plus if the fight's in Canada, who cares?
It's really hard to wrap one's head around this situation. Bute is being told that Ward won't fight him next, so what's he supposed to do? Sit around and wait for Ward to get around to it? Fight Dirrell because of where he was born or who manages his career?
It's not like Bute is trying to slip them some crap fight here, either. He's trying to fight the next-best guy available, who has been featured on and promoted by and hyped by Showtime for three years now.
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I do understand the TV contract situation, and wanting Ward vs Bute, but right now, Ward isn't taking that fight. Bute and Froch are offering them a very attractive show instead, and there's pretty much no fight that Andre Ward can take next (he's rumored back in May) that will be on the level of Bute vs Froch. I doubt we'll see Showtime turn that down.
Plus, realistically, what is Bute going to do? Leave Showtime for HBO? He did that once and it went nowhere, as HBO's only idea for him was having him fight Kelly Pavlik, and that went up in smoke when Pavlik lost to Sergio Martinez. With Showtime having ties to basically all of the top super middleweights, or at least the guys that Bute can have an "impact fight" against, HBO would really have no compelling reason to give Bute a multi-fight deal or anything like that.
What I'm saying is, most likely, Showtime can do Bute vs Froch, which their boxing subscribers will want to see, and still be able to bring Bute back to face Ward after, if Ward actually wants to take the fight.
I just see no way Showtime can really turn this fight down. It's too good a fight and more than anything, they'd just be depriving their viewers of a top-notch super middleweight clash. Bute vs Froch is the wrong fight to take a stand against -- it's really the sort of fight that should be welcomed with open arms, all things considered as they are right now.
If Showtime rejects Bute vs Froch, they're doing a disservice to their customers. It's really as simple as that. And if what Bedard says is true -- and I've no reason to believe it isn't -- they would be giving the indication that they're going to play favorites, which is never good, no matter the network doing it, no matter the favored son. They can't become a playground for any manager or any promoter or any fighter.
Thanks to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com for conference call updates.