by David P. Greisman
It’s been a long time since Lucian Bute has been on top.
It’s been nearly four years since Bute lost his world title, after all, when he suffered a crushing fifth-round technical knockout defeat against Carl Froch back in May 2012.
At the time, Bute could be considered one of the three best super middleweights in the world. Andre Ward was the true champion, the winner of the “Super Six” tournament. Froch was the runner-up. Bute was excluded from the tournament.
He had been a titleholder since 2007 and had defended it successfully nine times over the span of four years. There had been shaky moments, including a win in his first fight with Librado Andrade in 2008 in which Andrade had Bute out on his feet in the final seconds. And there had been doubts about his quality of opposition.
Whatever the reality of Bute’s talent, it’s hard to begrudge him for losing to a fighter the quality of Froch, though the loss did established that Bute was not one of the best at 168. His time in the sport since then hasn’t reestablished him as among the best of the current crop of super middleweights either.
He came back later in 2012 with a win over the limited yet undefeated Denis Grachev, then had 14 months out of the ring before returning to face Jean Pascal at light heavyweight, losing a unanimous decision. Bute then had another 19-month layoff before stopping Andrea Di Luisa in August 2015. He had a competitive loss to James DeGale last November and put up a decent fight in a draw with Badou Jack this past Saturday, although most observers felt Jack deserved the nod.
Still, Bute sees his past two performances as a good sign.
“It was a very, very close fight in my view,” But said afterward. “It’s encouraging. Even if I’m 36, I showed everybody I’m still at the top of the 168-pound [division] and it motivates me to continue. I don’t feel like quitting, and I want to face the winner [of DeGale vs. Jack].”
Bute is now 32-3-1 with 25 KOs.
Pick up a copy of David’s book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide. Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]