Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens, and the rest of you!
Lucian Bute, Canada’s last standing major boxing champion is a champ no longer. The 32-year-old formerly undefeated IBF super middle weight title holder was thrashed by British boxer and former champ Carl Froch Saturday night.
It was a big gamble for Bute, who has primarily fought in his home province of Quebec or his native country of Romania. First, he was in Froch’s home town of Nottingham, and fighting in front of a home town crowd is a boost for any fighter. Second, he was fighting Carl Froch. The only knock against Bute’s run as an undefeated champ, including nine title defenses, was that he had been working hi way through the division’s B-list. (He first “real” test as a champ came last year when he defended his belt against aging former champ and ring legend Glenn Johnson in Quebec City.)
It wasn’t entirely Bute’s fault. The network Showtime hosted the “super six” series, taking the top super middle weights in the world and putting them in a tournament to determine the king of the ring. Bute was oddly excluded and was unable to fight any of the men in the series, including Froch.
Nonetheless, Froch – who handily eliminated Johnson during the tournament, setting up the fight with Bute – was a step up in class. Froch has competed with the best super middle weights in the world and the pressure cooker of the series upped his already impressive game.
So really the fight with Froch was Bute’s most serious test to date. One he failed in spectacular fashion, with Froch battering Bute into submission. The fight was stopped in the fifth round.
It was an odd fight. Froch pressed, coming forward with a steady attack. Bute, a southpaw with a wrecking ball upper cut, slipped and dogged a lot of Froch’s punches. I haven’t seen the punch count stats yet, but I would wager Froch actually missed more shots than he landed. Didn’t much matter though. Because while Bute was getting out of the way of most of Froch’s shots, he wasn’t firing back much himself. When he did it was a single straight left counter. Never effective combos. Afterward’s Froch said the few shots he was hit with confirmed what he had already suspected: Bute was a big puncher and under no circumstances did Froch want to get caught with a flurry.
Bute’s apparent strategy of slip, slip again and slip some more before throwing one punch did little to blunt Froch’s attack. Froch is a beast, and no one is going to blast him out of the ring with one punch. Without having to worry about incoming fire, Froch continued to press and throw heavy punches. And while, as I say, Bute slipped or blocked most of the shots coming at him, he didn’t stop them all. When Froch connected, it looked like Bute had just been smashed in the face with a wrecking ball. His head was snapping back with so much force I thought it might actually come off. He was staggered in round three, baddy hurt in round four where he barely made to the closing bell on his feet, and still on rubber pins, was overwhelmed in round five when the contest was stopped.
It was one of Froch’s best performances to date and easily one of Bute’s worst. Bute just seemed at a loss as to what to do. And he was crushed as result.
Bute was Canada’s only significant boxing champion. The only other big name in pro boxing in Canada was former light heavyweight champ Jean Pascal, who has not fought since being defeated in his historic match up with Bernard Hopkins in Montreal last May.
Pascal is fighting in August for the IBF title against Tavoris Cloud, a boxer who while good isn’t in Pascal’s class, at least on paper.
Nonetheless, it was not that long ago that Quebec seemed like Vegas North when it came to boxing. Pascal and Bute were packing stadiums in Montreal and Quebec City, some of the best fights on the year were being fought in Canada. Now, both champs are dethroned and how big boxing will stay in Quebec, and so Canada, is a bit of a question mark.
Pascal may well become a champ again in August, but his real test will be in title defenses. His main rival will be “Bad” Chad Dawson, someone who he beat during his previous title reign. However, Dawson has since walked through Hopkins and looks better than ever. A rematch between the two champs would be a huge fight, but it is unlikely to happen in Quebec. Chances are Dawson will insist on an American venue and given that Pascal has been so inactive, it’s hard to see how he could force the bout to Montreal or Quebec City.
As for Bute, the question mark is even larger. The overwhelming nature of Froch’s win does make you wonder if the knock against Bute, that he only fought against lower-tier boxers, is true. When finally faced with someone of his own caliber, he was blown out. This is not to say that Bute is finished. He is 30 and 1 for a reason. It seems unlikely that he will retire. But whether he can come back to the top of the sport is unclear. He’ll have to be able to beat Froch, or the man who skillfully defeated the Brit to win the Super Six, American champion Andre Ward. No easy task. And above all, Bute cannot follow Pascal’s lead and stay out of the ring for more than a year. He needs to get back in there, probably overseas or in the US, and start carving out some victories and keep interest in him, and in boxing, alive.
Bute and Pascal could put Canada back on the boxing map, but for now, Canuck boxing has taken a body blow.