by Cliff Rold
It’s enough to feel a little sorry for Lucian Bute. The long reigning IBF titlist at 168 lbs. got the marquee name his record lacked, turned in the dominant performance he needed, and by Sunday morning almost no one outside Canada cared.
Such is the way of great fights and their ability to make everything else forgettable.
James Kirkland-Alfredo Angulo was a great fight.
There will be snide, cynical types who point out the fight was really only ‘great’ for three minutes; who will point out Kirkland ran roughshod over Angulo after getting off the floor and almost stopping Angulo in the very first, wild round.
Even if it’s true, if it’s fair to say rounds 2-6 were a sustained violent epilogue of round one, it is also still fair to say a great fight took place. Both men gave everything they had, left it in the ring, and the fans were the better for it.
Bute, in the ring, is superior in a technical sense to both Kirkland and Angulo. He is immensely popular up north and a credit to the game as a sportsman. What he does not have, yet, is the sort of time capsule moment Kirkland and Angulo participated in last weekend.
Bute will have more chances.
Let’s got to the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Bute B+; Johnson B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Bute A; Johnson B+/Post: A; B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Bute B+; Johnson B+/Post: Bute B+; Johnson B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Bute B+; Johnson A/Post: A; B
His relatively easy decision over Glen Johnson is going to be open to critique. Johnson is 42 and did not put on the sort of relentless, subtle pressure clinic he’s known for. Was he showing his age?
Bute had a lot to do with it. The Romanian born titlist showed off a ton of upper body movement, intelligent and varied punch selection, and never had his feet out of place, all while keeping Johnson largely on the outside. To Bute’s credit, he also showed some beard. It’s not like Johnson never landed. His right found a home on Bute’s face and his left jab was effective all night. Late, there were left hooks.
Bute took it and dished better. Missing for too much of the night was Bute’s excellent uppercut but, given the zone the titlist was otherwise in, it was of little matter.
Johnson, who has been robbed more than once, understandably might not be able to accept defeat on the road anymore. However, Saturday he simply didn’t do enough to win and never seemed to notice how far behind he was. There was never the sort of late push he made last year against Tavoris Cloud in another losing effort.
It’s fair to ask if Johnson has run out of wars but, for now, it is more fair to ask how much better Bute might be before he’s done. Sometime next year, the Super Middleweight division will be abuzz about Bute versus the Super Six winner. Whether it happens or not, it will be the fight everyone wants to see.
Bute will have his chance to cast his own shadow then.
Report Card Picks 2011: 38-14
Super Middleweight: Clearly now competing at Middleweight, Peter Quillin exits the top ten. He is not yet rated at Middleweight as there simply is not room for him there yet. Johnson does not slip at 168 and shows off how top heavy the field is.
Jr. Middleweight: Huge shakeup with the Kirkland win. There’s no way to let Kirkland back in the top ten without also factoring in a first round loss to Nobuhiro Ishida earlier this year. So...they are both in. Angulo exits the top ten as does undefeated Vanes Martirosyan. The latter did nothing wrong but the field is crowded in the bottom few slots and, upon deeper consideration, Martirosyan is the odd man out. Fighting some more intriguing competition will help to bring him back.
Lightweight: Ricky Burns crashes the top ten with his compelling win over veteran banger Michael Katsidis.
The weekend results and more are reflected a page away.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]