After Lucian Bute made a successful comeback on Saturday with a TKO victory over a lesser opponent, we analyse his chances of making a real impact in his division.
Canadian based Romanian Bute was once a force to be reckoned with in the super middleweight division.
He appeared to have everything: speed, technical skill, footwork, movement, and crucially in the packed weight class, power.
Bute’s southpaw stance added an extra puzzle for his opponents - pundits even likened him to the great southpaw Joe Calzaghe. Then one night in front of a baying Nottingham crowd, the wheels came off, when Bute met a certain Carl Froch.
It was a classic step-up in opposition for the unbeaten Bute, with his success depending on one key factor that hadn’t been quantified: did Bute have toughness for the big boys?
Froch answered that question about as emphatically as could be expected. Froch, known for his aggressive hammer-forward style met a tentative and tricky Bute, but he couldn’t warn Froch with his power in the early rounds - as the Nottigham man merely walked through his power punches.
This was the green light Froch needed. Why box it out in centre ring against a faster man with serious skill when you can hammer away with a low guard?
Encouraged by his home crowd - where I was seated - it was clear after the first couple of rounds that the fight was going only one way, and it didn’t favour Bute much. The end of round three saw a shocked and frightened Bute against the ropes taking heavy punches clean on his face, landing little in exchange.
Marked up more than all his previous fights added together Bute staggered back to his corner.
The end of the fourth for Bute was even worse, to add some perspective.
Froch, who recently retired, rarely let his killer instinct fail him, and cut off the ring cornering Bute, battering him with clean accurate punches from all angles as Bute held on for his life. Stalking forward with managing low hands, Froch rocked the visitors head back for the referee to wave off the fight less than a minute into round five.
The verdict: Bute simply wasn’t tough enough.
He made a easy comeback six months later against the lesser Denis Grachev, winning on points where previously he’d have stopped his man.
Then he met teak-fought Jean Pascal, who is as hard as Froch and almost as crude. But lost a decision, then went into obscurity with a shoulder injury.
Recovery time may have done the adopted Canadian some good, recuperation appeared to be needed.
So what does Bute’s comeback fight - where he stopped Andrea Di Luisa in four rounds tell us?
Well, he could cause a stir in the super middleweight division, but whether he could dominate is yet to be seen. Doubtful in fact.
Lucian Bute vs. James Degale
Shortly after his win on Saturday Bute called out British world champion Degale. On paper it’s a good fight: two skilful southpaws with a good amount of power. It’s doubtful that Bute would see round twelve, though, as the Brits pressure - and he knows Bute can be pressured - would mount up and be too much.
Bute vs. George Groves
This would be a thoroughly entertaining fight for the fans, with Groves power and suspect chin, we sense an eventful match-up that could go either way. Either man could force a stoppage at any point passed the halfway mark. We fancy Bute winning a questionable decision.
Bute vs. Andre Ward
Well, Ward cannot be beaten by any man at 168 pounds, that much we know. He’d stop Bute in much the manner he stopped Mikkel Kessler, by simply overwhelming him within 10 rounds.
Bute vs. Arthur Abraham
This would be a risky fight for Bute, but one that he could win should he stick to his boxing and not get carried away slinging punches. Abraham carries some serious power - not so much as he did at middleweight - but for a not-so-tough Bute, it would be risky business trading shots. We fancy Bute by wide decision, where he could steal Abraham’s belt should no one get there before.
Bute vs. Gennady Golovkin
Another fascinating match up here. The smaller Glolovkin is one of boxing’s hardest punchers, and Bute would have to be extra cautious not to get tagged. We doubt Bute would see the 6th rounds should he decide to square off against the Kazakh Thunder.
So there is no doubt that boxing fans will welcome Bute’s comeback in the division, and he will make things more interesting than they are currently.
Though he fancies a shot at the title straight away against Degale, a good move for him would be to get himself matched against Andre Dirrell, who has himself fallen short to both Froch and Regale, and has shown his weaknesses - or a lack of grit along the way.