Boxing promoter Interbox says its undefeated IBF champion, Montreal's Lucian Bute, is at the centre of a budding bidding war.
Interbox president Jean Bedard told QMI Agency that Bute's win Saturday over American Glen Johnson has jump-started negotiations for a new deal to replace his three-fight agreement with the Showtime network.
The $6 million deal runs out following his next fight, which could be against the winner of Showtime's Super Six tournament.
American Andrew Ward is favoured to beat Britain's Carl Froch in the super middleweight fight Dec. 17 in Atlantic City.
Bedard says rival network HBO wants a piece of Bute (30-0, 24 KO), seen by most as the logical choice to face the Super Six champion.
"Our name is already circulating on the HBO side," Bedard said. "Kerry Davis (vice president of sports programming) told me he intends to sign Lucian at the end of the current agreement."
But Showtime might not be ready to let the 31-year-old power-puncher go. Bedard says the network has invited the fighter to Atlantic City, where he'll be ringside for the Super Six final.
"They plan to do a press conference with him and set the table for a possible fight with Froch or Ward," Bedard said.
Bute has successfully defended his belt nine times but he's had difficulty getting respect south of the border. Critics contend that his opponents, other than Johnson, have been weak.
Former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver, a Showtime boxing analyst, lauded Bute's skills but told Sports Illustrated that "it remains to be seen how good he really is."
While the influential website boxrec.com lists Bute ahead of Froch and Ward on its pound-for-pound list, the benchmark Ring Magazine super-middleweight rankings list Bute just behind Froch, with Ward in the top spot.
That would all change if Bute beats the Super Six winner. Interbox's president admitted the superfight would be made on Froch or Ward's terms.
"I don't think Ward will want to fight in Quebec," says Bedard. "Froch could fight in a neutral site or he could invite us into the ring before a good crowd in England. That's the reality."