Carl Froch proved himself as one of the finest fighters on the planet by destroying IBF super-middleweight title-holder Lucian Bute to become a three-time world champion in his home city last night.
The popular 34-year-old from Nottingham in England was regarded as the underdog heading into the contest with unbeaten Romanian Bute, who was making a rare foray outside of his Canadian stronghold.
But Froch proved emphatically that defeat by Andre Ward last time out was by no means the beginning of the end for him, stopping the stunned Bute in the fifth round to add the IBF crown to the WBC belt he held twice in the past.
Froch, whose record read 28-2 with 20 early wins coming into the fight, admitted in the build-up to the contest that he had much to prove after losing to Ward in the Super Six tournament final in America before Christmas.
He was at least able to rely on home support for the first time in three years after a daunting run of fights on foreign soil while Bute, 30-0 with 24 knockouts before tonight, also wanted to answer his critics who questioned his unblemished but untested record.
Roared on by a partisan crowd at the Capital FM Arena, Froch started positively.
After a cagey opening 30 seconds it was he who landed first, but received a warning for hitting on the break after the follow-up exchange.
He was the aggressor throughout the first round but found Bute ready with the trademark counters.
Bute landed a strong southpaw left in the second as Froch jabbed his way in successfully.
Froch won the second round too, finishing it emphatically with a right hand, left hook combination which hurt Bute.
Bute landed a good jab and left but Froch responded immediately and hurt his man with a succession of ferocious shots.
Bute was on wobbly legs and clinging on desperately.
Froch mercilessly marched forward and Bute still stood despite a hurtful right uppercut.
Froch was threatening to punch himself out, winging in shots, but also paused for breath to try to find the finisher.
Bute landed two counter lefts and somehow survived the round but Froch undoubtedly sensed the finish was in his sights.
Both men traded leather in the fourth as Froch hammered home a powerful right and followed it up with a flurry. But Bute, to his credit, planted his feet and fired back wilfully.
Froch jumped in with a right which had Bute in peril once again and another looked like forcing the end.
Bute, however, was saved by the bell as Froch landed a fierce left hook at the end of the round.
Bute was timid and unsteady when the fifth round got under way.
A right hand rocked his head back sickeningly and another, after several unanswered shots, forced him down with only the ropes holding him up.
Referee Earl Brown began administering a count – the crowd believed he had called it off – but when Bute’s corner entered the ring to spare their man further punishment, Froch’s redemption was complete in spectacular style.