By Jake Donovan
In a stretch where it seemed to be one disappointing news item after another, Lucian Bute once again helps give the sport a much need shot in the arm.
The unbeaten super middleweight titlist has been on quite a roll thus far in 2012, all while having yet to step foot in the ring. In a calendar year littered with bad news, Bute continues to make headlines for all of the right reasons.
The most recent piece of good news came late Monday afternoon when the Romania-born star gained full citizenship in his adopted homeland of Canada.
“I just experienced one of the most important moments of my life,” Bute stated after being one of 30 participants to gain Canadian citizenship during the ceremony. “I have been preparing for this moment for the past five years. I felt like a true Quebecker and Canadian long ago, but today I am proud to obtain my Canadian citizenship.”
There’s good reason for Bute (30-0, 24KO) to have long ago felt at home. Canada has for years served as a boxing hotbed. Its popularity continues to grow as the sport continues to struggle in identity beyond the elite level on the U.S. side of the border.
Bute serves at the forefront when the conversation is the nation’s most popular fighters. Sold-out crowds aren’t the goal but the expectation when the talented southpaw is the headliner. It’s why all but five of his pro fights to date have taken place in Quebec City since relocating from his native Romania nine years ago.
Even with that in mind, Bute remains a team player amongst a sport of individuals.
American cable giant Showtime signed the rising superstar to a three-fight deal, an indirect acknowledgement that he clearly belonged in its Super Six World Boxing Classic. The understanding was that Bute would be made available for the tournaments winner, a role the long-reigning titlist was willing to honor regardless of how the finals played out.
“I am ready to fight the winner," said Bute while in town during fight week leading into the finale between Andre Ward and Carl Froch in Atlantic City. "If Carl Froch wins, I'm ready to fight in Nottingham to make this fight happen. And if it's Ward, I can go to Oakland."
The winner turned out to be Ward, which in theory should have served as a matchmaker’s dream.
Instead, the post-fight press conference produced everyone’s worst nightmare.
"To be perfectly honest, no disrespect to Bute and his team, but they've sat back and they've fought B-level and C-level guys and he did what he was supposed to do," Ward said to the assembled media during the post-fight presser. "[H]e's just been sitting back, waiting, while we've been fighting for the past two and a half years against top-level competition.
"So I don't have to go to Lucian Bute right now. We're going to sit back and I'm going to rest and we'll see what's next. I think I earned the right to pick the right fight for the right price.”
Bute wasted no time in moving forward with Plan B. His preference was Ward, but would gladly settle for Froch, who – even in defeat – was still high among the best super middleweights in the world.
Once again, Bute’s good intentions were met by poor logic from others intended to be involved.
In theory, a fight with Froch makes the most sense for Showtime given the circumstances. Ward is out for an unspecified amount of time due to a hand injury suffered in the championships last December. Mikkel Kessler – who dropped out of the tournament in 2010 – continues a stop-and-start relationship with the injured list.
That leaves Froch, who throughout the Super Six tournament remained the one contestant willing to take on all comers. Both fighters agreed on terms long ago; all that was needed was a network.
Showtime decided to not serve as that point man.
“After speaking to trainers and sponsors, we all agreed that we have to do everything in our power to make the fight with Froch,” revealed Jean Bedard during a media conference call earlier in the year. “Unfortunately (Showtime) does not share our same vision.”
Bute and his handlers decided that the fighter’s popularity alone was enough to make the fight happen and that a TV network would eventually follow. Sign now, worry about coverage later.
With that came the good news that the best available super middleweight fight to be made was in fact signed and sealed. Not only is the fight a done deal for May 26, but that Bute agreed to travel to Froch’s backyard of Nottingham, England.
Conceding home field advantage was huge for Bute, considering his ability to pack ‘em in whether it’s Canada or Romania. Froch’s fan base is only still growing back home. The irony is that it will take a win over a fighter like Bute for Froch to see a fan base one day grow to his opponent’s level.
Building up Froch’s following was hardly the reason for Bute to persist on fighting the Brit and in his hometown, however. It’s because he genuinely enjoys serving as a champion of the people. Many in the industry toss around the “people’s champion” term, but are just as quick to stop short and instead admit that it needs to make dollars in order to make sense.
Bute’s mere ring presence serves as his ability to make dollars, as evidenced by the crowds he has packed into Canada over the course of his nine-year career. His popularity has been further magnified since becoming a titlist in 2007, with all but one of his nine defenses coming in Quebec City.
The lone “road” appearance was in fact in Romania, honoring his heritage. Bute remains a proud Romanian at heart, but has shown the ultimate appreciation for the nation that has long ago adopted him as its own.
Monday’s ceremony made it official.
“My origins are Romanian, but it is important to me to implicate myself fully in my adopted Country of Canada,” Bute said in celebrating dual citizenship. “I am very lucky to have been received so well in this Country since I set foot here for good in 2003. It is my choice to live here and it makes me happy to know I am a real Canadian citizen now.”
The news came at the right time, as the sport was forced to contend with a sea of bad news. Yet another controversial outcome was produced from a major televised fight in Texas. The death of boxing historian Bert Sugar still leaves an entire industry shaken.
While bad news travels in bunches, there’s always that one feel good story to help turn things around.
As he been doing for as long as he has become a household name and in more than one country, Lucian Bute once again delivered big time in that regard.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter:@JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]