In a bit of a surprise twist, the IBF has named Carl Froch its mandatory challenger to the 168-pound title held by Lucian Bute, which means that once again, talks for a Bute vs Froch showdown in April will likely resume.
Bute (30-0, 24 KO) is currently targeting an April 14 date, which had been discussed with Froch's team, but negotiations fell through. They went from negotiating a two-fight deal to a normal, one-fight deal, and then Froch's side decided to put off the fight for the time being. Bute has had no significant discussions for an opponent other than Froch.
Froch (28-2, 20 KO) was last known to be looking at a May 5 date at home in Nottingham, against either Librado Andrade or Noe Gonzalez.
Whether or not being named mandatory challenger changes Froch's desire to fight next at home in the UK is unknown, but InterBox's David Messier says it may be possible to get Bute to go on the road to defend his title against Froch. Bute has always treated mandatory challenges seriously in the past, and the IBF allows for nine months without a mandatory title fight. Bute last fought one of those in July of 2011, against Jean Paul Mendy in Bute's native Romania.
The two sides have 60 days to agree to a fight, and there is a chance the fight could be pushed back to late May if that satisfies one or both parties. To date, Showtime has still shown no interest in carrying the bout, which is bizarre, but the teams were willing to go without them last time that became a potential roadblock.
This news certainly doesn't mean the fight will happen. Bute could request a waiver and pay a $20,000 fee to put off a Froch fight and take a different fight, while still keeping his belt, and that may very well happen, but it's an interesting development about what would be a very interesting fight, and we'll have more as soon as more comes up.