Unfinished business for Bute
In August, Lucian Bute realised the dream wasn’t over. A spate of injuries, patchy form and the loss of his treasured world title had left the Canadian’s confidence dented and his career lurching towards retirement. The spark had gone. That all changed two months ago when the former IBF super-middleweight champion brushed aside Italian Andrea Di Luisa in four rounds at the Bell Centre and the belief returned. Remarkably, it was Bute’s first victory since November 2012 and afterwards the darling of the Quebec boxing scene fought back the tears as devoted fans chanted his name.
“It was a great moment for me because in the last few years it’s been difficult,” Bute (32-2, 25 KOs) told Boxing Monthly earlier this month. “Before my last fight, I had a long break – 18 months without a fight – so when the referee stopped the fight the emotion just came out. It was a great night. I needed this feeling.”
Bute was once feted as the avoided fighter at 168lbs, but struggled to regroup after Carl Froch ripped away his IBF title in five rounds in May 2012. The Romanian-born southpaw subsequently dropped a 12-round decision to Canadian rival Jean Pascal in an unsuccessful foray into light-heavyweight waters. But on 28 November at the new Videotron Arena in Quebec, Bute has a chance to reclaim his old crown from another Englishman James DeGale in a fitting moment of boxing symmetry.
“It is part of boxing...the injuries, the bad luck and the losses,” said Bute, now advised by the influential Al Haymon. “I feel good. I feel healthy, fresh, everything is okay with my new team and, of course, we will be ready on 28 November.
“I’ve been working with [conditioner Angel Heredia]. For my last fight, too. He is good. He knows everything about physical preparation. We are a good team together. We have a nice atmosphere and it is a pleasure for me to work with him.”
Having suffered in the cauldron of Nottingham Arena when Froch wrested away his title in front of a partisan crowd, the tables have been turned and this time Bute has the home backing. Promoter Pierre Duc of Interbox believes this presents a notable advantage for his man.
“I think it’s huge frankly and we’re going to see that on 28 November,” Duc told BM. “I remember a couple of years ago when Lucian was fighting [in the UK] against Froch, how loud and intimidating the crowd was. And I think the folks in Quebec – all the Lucian fans - will want to make sure they replicate that this time. Home turf advantage is not the absolute factor but I think it plays an important role.”
The love affair between the Quebec public and Bute was evident in the aftermath of his win over Di Luisa. Adulation was written on the faces of people who would not normally constitute your average fight crowd.
“Lucian was adopted by pretty much everyone in Quebec,” said Duc. “He brought a lot of casual boxing fans into the arenas, people who were not necessarily boxing fans, but big supporters of Lucian Bute. Lucian brought more of a mainstream audience into the industry and that’s a component people are not talking about, but something huge that Lucian has accomplished. He was champion for a long time [10 defences of the IBF title] but he always made himself available. Lucian really has nurtured that relationship with the fans. Every boxer in Quebec is benefitting now from the work that this gentleman has done.”
Duc, a long-time friend of Bute, has noticed a sudden shift in the fighter’s demeanour since that confidence boosting win over Di Luisa.
“The look in his eyes. I’ve known Lucian personally for a long time and, in the last two years, it was like he had lost that [fire], but it came back this summer and we can all see it. It looks like the flame is back.”
“I think he might be a bit underrated in this fight,” continued Duc. “He’s not the first athlete to have phenomenal success and then had to take a step back. His return in the summer proved he’s still got it, a clean fast victory. Now people are very happy that they can start believing again.”
That same conviction has returned to Bute who is eager to prove his mettle and reclaim his former belt from fellow southpaw DeGale (21-1, 14 KOs).
“James is one of the best. I don’t know if he is the best,” Bute told BM. “He is a world champion. Maybe he is the No.1 at 168. But it won’t be easy for him. Because I felt [the atmosphere] when I came here. When I fought Froch, it was like he was the champion. The people, the fans were all for Carl. He had a good energy behind him. It will be the same for me on 28 November. It is a big opportunity for me to prove to everybody that I am one of the best in the division.”