by Cliff Rold
Making his third straight start at the electric Bell Centre in the town he call home, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 31-year old Romanian IBF Super Middleweight titlist Lucian Bute (28-0, 23 KO), scored his fifth consecutive stoppage and seventh successful defense, overcoming an intense challenge from 35-year old Brian Magee (34-4-1, 24 KO) of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Bute scored three knockdowns on the night, along with an uncredited fourth, ultimately finishing matters in the tenth round.
Both men weighed in below the division’s 168 lb. limit, Bute at 167 ¾ and Magee at 167 ½.
A measured pace carried the opening frame after an early frantic burst from both men. Bute, relaxed in front of his typically ecstatic crowd, controlled much of the space of the round with his southpaw right jab. Magee, also a southpaw, landed a hard left cross late to get Bute’s attention.
In the second, the action went often to close quarters. Magee used the chances in the clinches to thump in body blows. Bute struggled to find a home for his right hook. It was a game of right hands in the early going of the third. Magee landed a hook first. Moments later Bute answered and took the immediate counter before ripping Magee underneath to slow the Irishman’s charge.
Near the minute mark, it was the left hands on display; Magee rattling Bute over the top and Bute let his left to the body hang a moment too long. Bute closed the round with a raking right and left to the face, each shot leaving an echo along with the imprint of leather.
Magee was again in Bute’s face in the fourth, a left and right connecting near the corner as Bute wore an expression of surprise at the gameness of his foe. At the minute mark, he put a one-two on Magee, followed moments later with a snapping left uppercut. Magee countered with the left but Bute replied with a left and, catching Magee overaggressive, a right behind the ear near the ropes that clearly buzzed Magee.
Round five was another scrappy three minutes, both men landing thudding blows to the face at range and wicked little body shots in close. Magee struck first in the round with an eye catching right hook but, as had been the case in the previous rounds, Bute used accuracy and greater speed to keep himself a step ahead of each Magee attempt to accelerate the action.
Scoring matters took a stark turn in Bute’s favor in the sixth. Countering an attacking Magee, Bute slipped a left underneath, a shiv to the ribcage that dropped Magee to a knee. Magee rose immediately, referee Pete Podgorski waving him on after a look, and Magee promptly ate a lead right hook. He was in no trouble the rest of the round.
Scoring was the least of concerns in a seventh round that ended with Magee looking close to an end. In the final minute, Magee dropped in such a way that Podgorski assumed a low blow and Bute was warned. Replays showed no low blow had landed. It was instead a perfect uppercut to the chest and solar plexus area and should have been ruled a knockdown. Magee didn’t bother with any real delay, and he could have since the ruling was low blow. Instead, Magee jumped back into the fray and Bute put him right back down with an even harder body bomb. Podgorski correctly ruled a knockdown the second time and began the count. Magee beat it and made it back to the corner.
Rounds eight and nine were steady, Magee trying to get into the fight and occasionally landing a big left, Bute generally outboxing Magee behind an educated jab. The troubled waters of round seven seemed to have been weathered by Magee.
A roar from the crowd in round ten indicated appreciation for the work of Bute as Magee looked hurt to bring the waves of trouble roaring back. Magee, with tremendous courage, dug deep and slung the best hooks he had left to briefly back a reserved and confident Bute up. Bute was merely riding it out, waiting for the opening he had to know would come.
This time, it was not to the body. A left underneath touched the point of Magee’s chin, dropping him to all fours. Podgorski called it a night at 2:04 of round ten.
The always classy Bute was respectful of the effort Magee made. “Brian Magee is a good fighter, a very good fighter. He’s got a hard head. He’s very tough.”
Bute commented through interpreters that he saw openings to the body beginning in the fourth and Bute’s work to the body is becoming some of the best in the business. He dropped the dependably chinned Librado Andrade with a body shot in their rematch and planted Jesse Brinkley in his last defense. Magee, whose only stoppage loss in a long career before Bute had come at the hands of the excellent Carl Froch, is the latest example. That he closed with the left uppercut was a reminder of the weapon that first got him to world prominence, an example of the growth he is making in his prime.
Asked about whether he’d like to fight outside of Montreal, where he has made all but one start in his career since 2005 (the other being in Quebec City), Bute stated he would. “It’s my dream to fight in Madison Square Garden and in Las Vegas.”
The big cities and big lights of the U.S. could be on Bute’s horizon. Left out of the Super Six Super Middleweight tournament that has dominated his division in the last two years, Bute has been impressive and earned increased acclaim as the real “Super Seventh.”
Much of the discussion after the Magee fight centered on a showdown with former titlist Mikkel Kessler (43-2, 32 KO). If Bute wants to be waiting to challenge the Super Six winner, Kessler would be a big scalp to take on the way.
Kessler stated he’s up for the challenge and willing to travel to Montreal. “I’m more than ready,” Kessler said after the fight, speaking as part of the broadcast team for Showtime. “When you sit down here as a commentator, I’d rather be up there fighting. He can have his hometown. I don’t care. I’ll kick his ass anyway.”
Kessler was a prominent part of the Super Six before being forced to leave the tournament with an eye injury. A former unified titlist who was last seen becoming the only man to defeat the rugged Froch, Kessler provides Bute the sort of fight that is a main event in any city. Time will tell if fans will be able to look forward to that one.
The card was televised on U.S. premium cable outlet Showtime as part of its “Championship Boxing” series, promoted by Interbox.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]