Thursday, May 24, 2012

Soothsaying - Lucian Bute vs. Carl Froch, Ji-Hoon Kim vs. Alisher Rahimov & More

For the second week in a row, the most notable fight on our schedule happens overseas and comes to us at a wonky early/late afternoon hour (depending on your time zone) that we're not very used to on weekends these days. 

The most significant difference between this week and last, though, is that the biggest fight this weekend likely has a bit more potential in terms of action over a number of rounds, and hopefully it provides some cancellation-weary American fans with as much or more entertainment as last weekend's Mikkel Kessler vs. Allan Green clash

Lucian Bute and Carl Froch face off in Froch's hometown of Nottingham this Saturday, while Friday Night Fights is in danger of falling into some sort of solid action match up groove in featuring South Korean pressure cooker Ji-Hoon Kim against Alisher Rahimov, an unbeaten Russia-based Uzbek looking to make something of himself. 

And there's more, with a few prospects and a couple of guys riding the fame earned from facing bigger names.



Born in Romania but based out of Montreal, unbeaten IBF super middleweight belt holder Lucian Bute, 30-0 (24 KO), will be entering the ring in Nottingham as an underdog -- if not in betting odds, then certainly in wading into hostile territory against the now-beltless Carl Froch. 

Bute's eight stoppages in his last ten fights point more to the fact that his schedule has indeed been somewhat light rather than any sort of elite dominance or punching power. The two best names on his ledger are a spotty and relatively weathered Glen Johnson, and Librado Andrade, whose career is on the verge of taking a nosedive. Against the latter, Bute hinted at having a questionable chin and stamina.  

On Saturday Bute will find himself in against Carl Froch, 28-2 (20 KO), and one of the other tops at 168 lbs. -- #3 in fact, according's ratings, which, at this point, are as good as any other. 

In contrast to Lucian Bute, not much about Froch is an unknown quantity, and it's because his recent schedule is among the best, if not the best, in boxing right now. The decision he dropped to Mikkel Kessler could have gone his way without complaint, but his split decision win over Andre Dirrell may have been generous, in spite of Dirrell's miserable tactics late in the fight. The point is, of his last seven opponents, at least three have wandered their way onto numerous pound for pound lists. And Carl Froch comes to fight. 

The given reason this fight wasn't picked up by Showtime was that they (Showtime) preferred an American opponent to challenge for Bute's title. But by "American opponent," they probably meant Andre Ward, who soundly defeated Froch to win the Super Six last December. And Ward didn't seem interested in much of anything until news of a potential match against light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson came through recently. 

So Bute vs. Froch on EPIX is what we got. 

The style match up should at least provide an interesting contrast, as Bute will likely look to use his superior foot and hand speed to stay away between calculated charges forward, and Froch should pursue behind a deliberate yet educated jab, looking to trap Bute and punish from a mid-range or in close. 

Carl Froch has proven hittable, yet generally durable, in wins over Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor and Glen Johnson, and even in his losses to Ward and Kessler. Bute hasn't been hit a ton since his nearly disastrous scare against Andrade the first time out, though, and when he does get hit, he doesn't appear to like it much, and he's not averse to clinching hastily. But for the most part neither man seems to be a huge puncher, though Bute has stopped a number of opponents with body shots. Still, many of his early outs (video) are courtesy of whipping surprise shots, while Froch's power is more of a slow-but-sure grinding type. 

Froch may have slightly more know how inside a ring, but Bute has the better tools to deliver it, and especially from the outside. There's little doubt among the pundit types that Bute is able to out-fox and out-speed Froch en route to a decision, but the near disastrous scare against Andrade in their first bout seems to have carried significant weight for doubters over three years and seven subsequent fights. Against Froch -- who has the edge in experience over quality opposition, and perhaps an advantage in willpower -- slip ups like sticking around in optimum range a bit too long could summon the nightmare. While he ultimately won the decision over Andrade there, it was with a little help from ref Marlon Wright, as Bute was in a sorry state (video).

Being that they'll be scrapping in Nottingham, Bute may have to make his dominance glaringly obvious to win a decision, because stopping Froch is unlikely. He's also never been in with someone as tough as Froch on the inside, which Froch will look to exploit. 

Whether or not Froch's great schedule has worn him out to the point of deterioration is one factor that won't play out until fight time. 



Barring an appearance from Ruslan Provodnikov, who always seems to bring heat on Friday Night Fights, a cameo from lightweight Ji-Hoon Kim is one of the better ways to spend a half hour on ESPN2 at this point. 

The South Korean sports a record of 23-7 (18 KO), which in itself isn't much to write a glowing press release about, but he's a guy who looks to have almost constant kinetic energy. And his favorite early-fight snack is whatever his opponent wants to throw at him. Win or lose, he tends to be in entertaining fights, like this one (video)

Kim doesn't move his head a whole lot, but he's usually tough as nails. He's unlikely to stop a guy with a shot or two either, and his technique is often sloppy, but when he find an opportunity to press the issue, he does. 

Like the above-mentioned Provodnikov, Rahimov, 23-0 (12 KO), favors falling in with his forehead protruding and using plenty of forearms and elbows to set up clubbing blows, as he did in his last win against Saddam Kietyongyuth (video). He's a bit more boxer-puncher than Provodnikov though, and his hands aren't quite as heavy. But he'll stand in the pocket too, albeit with more head movement and shorter punches. Rahimov's options from the outside are better though. 

If the style clash plays out on the inside more than anywhere else, that figures to be good for us fans. But we know where Kim stands on the world stage, which is to say, he's not really on it. He's on the Friday Night Fights level -- not necessarily a loathsome thing. The ball is in Rahimov's court to prove he can get beyond there. 

Former Contender Season Four participants Joell Godfrey, 14-6-1 (6 KO), and Ryan Coyne 19-0 (8 KO), square off on the undercard against Vincent Thompson, 10-0 (2 KO), and Julius Fogle, 15-7 (10 KO) and 1 No Decision, respectively. Also in a 4 round swing bout that might make the televised portion of the broadcast, Leon Spinks III attempts to add to his 1-0 (1 KO) record against Charon Spain, who makes his pro debut. 

PREDICTION: Rahimov by unanimous decision, Godfrey by split decision, Coyne by unanimous decision, Spinks by KO


A determined but relatively one-dimensional pressure fighter, junior middleweight Soto Karass enters this Azteca America match up having not won a fight in almost three years, and that's following a four-year unbeaten streak. His overall record now stands at 24-7-3 (16 KO) and 1 No Decision, and the man needs to have his hand raised post-fight, and badly. 

At 10-1-1 (5 KO), the London-born Moroccan El Harrak is still rebuilding following a 2009 stoppage loss (video) on ShoBox to Lanard Lane, who the verdict is still out on in terms of class. Said was stopped a little early by ref Mark Nelson in that one, but to be fair, he'd been down twice in the 1st round and was taking more punishment in round 2 when the bout was halted. He was fighting back gamely, to his credit, but a clear issue was taking the exact same right hand from Lane, and leaning into it the exact same way almost every time. 

As noted, Soto Karass doesn't have a bag full of world class skills, but he's not exactly hopping trains and carrying a bindle either. His grit keeps him in fights that skill-wise he maybe shouldn't be competing in, and he'll even offer up moments of fine tuning adjustments and well-timed shots. 

Stylistically, El Harrak tends to come forward behind a long jab and an inconsistent high guard, and he fights a bit flat-footed. It's likely he'll meet Soto Karass in the center of the ring if necessary, and he may have success against the wider swinging Mexican. But with three fights in the last two years, El Harrak is liable to get caught with someone on the inside if ring rust is at all a factor, or even out-worked. 

On the undercard, 29-year-old Russian prospect Andrey Klimov (video) puts his 13-0 (7 KO) ledger on the line against 14-5 (7 KO) Mexican Alejandro Rodriguez. Having been stopped twice in the last year, Rodriguez is clearly brought in to lose once more, and exactly how should be the only thing to learn from this bout. 

PREDICTION: Jesus Soto Karass by majority decision, Andrey Klimov by TKO 


On Fox Deportes, Jorge Linares' most recent conqueror (video), Sergio Thompson, goes in against Juan Ramon Solis in a junior lightweight bout. Thompson, at 22-2 (20 KO), looks to continue the momentum he's built up since losing a decision to this week's FNF headliner Alisher Rahimov in 2010 with eight straight wins. 

Thompson is prone to fighting with tunnel vision, if recent fights are any indicator. He was patient enough to wait for an opportunity to counter Linares with a booming right hand though, even if said patience only took 2 rounds to pay off. Solis appears to have a peculiar pot-shotting and reactionary style though, if this video of a 2007 fight is any indicator of what he fights like now, and that could trouble Thompson early. 

In the co-feature, junior welterweight Pablo Cesar Cano looks for his second win in a row since being surprisingly competitive in being halted by Erik Morales last September in a bunk WBC junior welterweight title shot, and he takes on Fidel Muñoz, whose biggest accomplishment is going the distance in a pair of losses to Humberto Soto in the last few years. At 23-1-1 (18 KO), it's worth mentioning that the best notch in Cano's belt is also a loss, except one loss in which he took the fight to a legitimately great in Morales is a far cry from two wider defeats to Soto. 

The 29-5 (23 KO) Muñoz likes to try and bounce in and out with long shots, but retreats quite a bit in the face of pressure, which Cano is likely to deliver. In his most recent loss, a KO defeat (video) at the hands of Claudio Olmedo, he tired quickly before succumbing in the 4th round, but offered up enough resistance to make the bang-up entertaining. 

Both are interesting match ups that could have more long-term implications. 

PREDICTION: Sergio Thompson by KO, Pablo Cesar Cano by TKO


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