When Edison Miranda flopped onto the canvas, Stephane Larouche must have felt a mixture of elation, relief, and pride. There might also have been a tinge of worry. His fighter, Lucian Bute, 26-0, 21 KO’s, had just fortified his status among the world’s best super middleweights with an impressive display, but he was quickly running out of credible opponents.
At 30, the Canadian-based Romanian has entered his prime, yet he must wait until the completion of the Super Six tournament before he can fight the best boxers in the division. He has already cleared out the best B-rated fighters, but few have expressed an interest in fighting the Montreal fan favorite and HBO darling. So, why are so many fighters avoiding Bute, how does he compare against the boxers in the division, and what does the future hold for the hard-hitting southpaw?
A Real Bute
Apart from having useful natural attributes (A tall southpaw), Bute has a punching repertoire to trouble the best in the super middleweight- and light heavyweight divisions.
While he seldom doubles up the jab, Bute throws it as a genuine power punch, and it is often used to set up the straight left down the pipe. More important, however, is his diversity of attack. He often leads with stinging jabs to the rib cage and chest, and uses decent lateral movement and quick feet to throw punches from awkward angles. He tends to work the body more than other boxers, and is an excellent exponent of the left uppercut and hook to the body.
Bute is probably more of a percussive rather than concussive puncher, though his high knockout percentage against durable opposition bears testament to his raw power. He has knocked out his fair share of durable fighters in recent years including Fulgencio Zuniga, William Joppy and Kabary Salem, and Librado Andrade, and can lay claim to being one of the best finishers in the business.
Admittedly, Bute is unproven against A-list fighters, but that is not to say that he doesn’t have a relatively impressive resume. Having started his career at light-heavyweight, Bute was immediately in with harder hitting opposition; and, when he stepped back down to super middleweight, he has almost always been put in against a decent standard of hardened pros. Apart from being badly exposed in his first fight against Librado Andrade, Bute’s chin has looked solid, and his battles against proficient, experienced fighters has made him a smarter fighter.
The fight against the wily Sakio Bika provided a case in point. After getting outboxed in the early rounds, Bute was able to modify his tactics to control the distance, and from there, he not only outboxed his more experienced foe, he even managed to rough up a fighter who is well-known for his awkward, spoiling tactics.
Bute, too, has his fair share of weaknesses. Perhaps that is part of why he is such a fan favorite.
He has a tendency to keep his right hand low, and has been prone to the left hook as a result. He also sometimes leaves his chin out and evades punches using his reflexes rather than taking punches on the gloves. While this in itself isn’t a particular problem (considering his quick reflexes), his tendency to step back when evading punches could land him in trouble against some of the better pressing fighters and ring generals in the division.
Like almost every fighter out there, Bute’s chin is not without question. He only survived a knockout defeat in the first Andrade fight by the slimmest of margins, and when he is forced to box inside his chosen distance, he is there to be hit. In the early stages if the Bika fight, the Australian-based fighter caused him a lot of problems by narrowing the distance. Despite being a masterful boxer on the outside, Bute is yet to prove that he can do likewise when the distance is consistently cut off.
You wonder if he came up against a crafty veteran – in the form of Bernard Hopkins or Joe Calzaghe – how he would react if he were unable to control the distance and if he were to cede the center of the ring? Similarly, given his relatively low punch output, it is not inconceivable that a fighter such as Andre Ward, Andre Dirrell, or Joe Calzaghe, would stifle Bute into relative inaction if he lost the battle of the jab.
The future is uncertain for Bute. He is scheduled to fight in Romania on July 25, but is yet to find an opponent. In order for Bute to keep his IBF belt, he must fight another boxer in the top 15 of the organization’s rankings, which leaves him with few options.
The most obvious choice would now appear to be a rematch against Sakio Bika, after the latter’s proposed matchup against Jesse Brinkley reportedly collapsed. Like their first meeting, this would make for an entertaining bout, though it is difficult to see the outcome being much different.
Unfortunately, there is little else Bute can do in the immediate future. Robert Stieglitz, the WBO title holder is said to have turned down a fight against the Romanian, and it is unlikely that he will get to fight against any of the Super Six contenders until the group stages have concluded. At that stage, Bute will finally get to come up against an elite fighter; and, he would certainly fancy his chances against either of the bottom two Super Six contenders, especially considering that they will all (with the exception of Allan Green) have been through three tough matches against top-level opponents before they fight Bute.
That said, Bute might not have the patience to wait that long, given the potential for high profile, big money bouts against some of boxing’s established stars. Several names have been bandied about, including those of Bernard Hopkins, Kelly Pavlik, and Joe Calzaghe.
The most likely opponent of the three for Bute would probably be Bernard Hopkins. The crafty veteran would fancy his chances of doing a similar job to Bute to the one he did against Pavlik, Bute, for his part, would relish the prospect of being the first man to knock out Hopkins. Hopkins’ powers are on the wane, but this fight would still generate enough interest to excite arouse the curiosity of most fans.
The Calzaghe fight would be even more attractive still, though it is unlikely that the Welshman will go out of retirement to face such a risky encounter, and it would be understandable if Bute were reticent about moving back up to 175 pounds.
The Pavlik fight would also make for a fan-friendly fixture, and if reports that The Ghost is having difficulty making the weight were to be believed, then a fight at super middle would seem viable. However, it seems reasonable that Pavlik will exercise his rematch clause against Sergio Martinez, especially given the success he had in the middle rounds of their recent fight.
Several other boxers from middleweight to light heavyweight have been mooted as possible opponents for the Canada-based fighter. Hopefully, for Butes’ sake and ours, fights against top-class opponents will come to pass sooner rather than later.