"It wasn't the most impressive performance I've seen from Lucian Bute, but having said that, he got the win against a guy who's very tough and strong at light heavyweight. ... Bute didn't look to me like he was fully motivated, fully switched on. He took his time, he labored the first two or three rounds, just sort of used his jab, moved around. Didn't do much work, and it's hard to then change your mindset and get something going after a sluggish start, and he seemed to have a bit of a sluggish fight all the way through.
"I think the good sign for Bute, he picked it up at the end and he finished very strong. He had some good moments in round 11 and a really, really good 30-second burst in round 12. He dominated and took control late on and finished strong. And did what he had to do to win. And I don't know who he's going to fight other than me to get himself back in the driver's seat. I think the fight with myself needs to happen if he's serious about staying in this sport."
Bute (31-1, 24 KO) says he's not paying much attention to Froch:
"Even when I had the best performance of my career, Froch spoke ill of me. This is not a surprise to me. He's been talking bad about me for years," Bute said in a televised interview in Romania.
"Every person has a right to their opinion. But for me, he should focus on his fight in two weeks and I hope he will win. A fight against Froch will be very significant, for me and for Quebec."
But the fighter's trainer Stephane Larouche indicates that work is needed to prepare for a spring 2013 rematch with Froch, and he doesn't sound entirely pleased with the performance. Bute says he is pleased with how he fought against Grachev, and says the fight was good for his confidence.
"We can not jump to the ceiling," said Larouche. "Lucian found a way to win, but it was not perfect. We gave him a score, somewhere between 6 and 7 out of 10. With the kind of defeat that Lucian suffered in May, he went very far. ... We still have work to do before returning against Froch in March."
For his part, Grachev says that Ismayl Sillakh was a tougher opponent -- "more versatile" -- than Bute was. Grachev upset Sillakh earlier this year.
Personally, I'm still all in for a Froch-Bute rematch. It makes sense for both of them financially, it's contractually obligated, and part of me thinks that Bute does have a much, much better performance in him against Froch than he showed the first time. Or, if he doesn't, then we find out for sure. The super middleweight ranks aren't exactly brimming with better opponents for Froch than Bute at the moment, and it's still a money fight in Montreal.
Froch faces Yusaf Mack on November 17 first, though, and he has to get through that one. He's expected to, but Mack isn't going to come to Nottingham ill-prepared, either. If Froch takes him too lightly, it could be a lot tougher than most figure.