By Cliff Rold
Needing a win to shore up a planned rematch with IBF Super Middleweight titlist Carl Froch next year, 32-year old Romanian Lucian Bute (31-1, 24 KO) returned to his home court at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Saturday night and got all he could have bargained for from undefeated 30-year old Russian Denis Grachev (12-1-1, 8 KO) of San Diego, California. Bute came up with a phenomenal final round to seal what appeared to be a fight up for grabs, earning a unanimous decision and the chance to avenge the fifth-round stoppage that stands as the lone defeat of his career.
The fight was contested technically at Light Heavyweight, but both men came in closer to Super Middleweight with Bute scaling 168 ¾ and Grachev at 169. The referee was Benjy Esteves Jr.
The first two round were fairly uneventful, Bute controlling the pace with his southpaw right jab and feet. A couple of head clashes drew nicks on the nose and over the left eye of Bute but he appeared to the form he had before the Froch loss. Business picked up in the third, Grachev able to land some right leads and get Bute’s attention. Bute responded with a big left down the pipe, freezing Grachev in his tracks.
The action improved even more in the fourth. Bute started with a nice left but, undeterred, Grachev came forward. He was looking to chip away, willing to take Bute’s sharper shots to land a hard right to the head or left to the body where available.
Grachev had a big fifth round even while taking some big rights and lefts. In the final minute, a left stunned Bute and forced the former titlist to hold. Grachev shook him off and kept throwing, landing his thudding right and keeping the pressure high.
Round six saw Bute bounce back but it wasn’t easy. Forced to fight harder, Bute dug in and found some wicked uppercuts but Grachev kept coming. He was showing the ability to take Bute’s shots and Bute looked like the fight was taking more from him than the other way around even as he built a lead on the cards.
Grachev’s pressure paid dividends again in the seventh. Bute landed some flashy single shots but it was Grachev touching him consistently until he could do more. On the ropes, Grachev wailed away with some harsh hooks to the ribs as the fight drew closer.
The eighth saw Bute hurt early and Grachev poured it on. Seeming to be seizing control, Grachev ate a big uppercut in the last minute and Bute was able to stem the tide before the bell in an exciting, skillful contest.
Round nine saw the momentum stay in Gracvhev’s corner. Outside of a few sparing shots, it was all Grachev, stalking, pressing, punching, and beating up Bute for lengthy stretches. Bute improved in the tenth, landing some snappy shots and using his legs to create distance but Grachev still got in hard work when he got close. It was a difficult round to score.
Grachev didn’t let Bute stay comfortable in the eleventh. Staying on top of him, Grachev again gave away single crowd popping blows for the chance to grind away. The round closed with a sustained exchange in the corner, both men warring to the delight of the crowd.
Both men clearly needed a big final round. It was the veteran who found it. Using timed uppercuts and quick straight lefts, and deft head movement, Bute came p with what may be remembered as the finest round of his career. Grachev showed guts and, as he had all night, beard, but he couldn’t keep up and saw his chance at victory slip away.
The final scores came in at 115-113, 116-112, and a laughable 118-110, all for Bute. BoxingScene scored the contest 115-113 for Bute.
The loss costs Grachev little as he followed up strong on his career making knockout of contender Ismayl Sillakh earlier this year. Bute sets the stage for a rematch with the lone man to defeat him. Based on Saturday’s action, it could be a steep climb to reverse his fortunes with Froch.
Disaster almost struck but did not for 33-year old Light Heavyweight Allan Green (32-4, 22 KO), 178 ¾, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, as he was able to weather a third round knockdown and force a corner stoppage at the end of seven from a game 40-year old Renan St. Juste (23-4-1, 15 KO), 172 ¼, of Repentigny, Quebec. It was only the second stoppage loss in the career of St. Juste. The referee was Jean-Guy Brousseau.
Green boxed methodically in the first, his left jab popping steadily while he kept his head leaned back and his right hand firm held firm to his face. The southpaw St. Juste took his time to warm up, pressing forward and landing some eye catching lead lefts late. Green grew more assertive in the second, St. Juste’s strategy of landing one big bomb falling short upon attempts. The jab of Green drew blood from the nose of St. Juste.
Matters did not improve for St. Juste in round three. Swelling around the right eye, his nose growing worse, Green began to land combinations. St. Juste started with some hard lefts, and added a couple more as the round progressed, but they had little affect.
Green was having his way with St. Juste again in round four and seemed to be closing in on a stoppage. A pair of lead lefts in the final minute changed the fight dramatically, Green deposited on his rear and left in bad trouble. Green rose and used clinches and shoves to keep St. Juste from landing a finishing blow. Green was rocked again near the bell and went top the corner on shaky legs. The minute of rest served him well, Green able to recover and box smart through the fifth. Green recaptured control of the fight even as St. Juste was able to keep in the thick of things with some troubling body shots.
His face a bloody, swollen mess, St. Juste took a battering for most of round six and still almost turned it around. Hurt with a left uppercut early, St. Juste was pinned to the ropes and worked with a stream of Green power shots. Near the halfway mark, St. Juste got through with a left and Green was hurt. Tying up tight, Green got his senses back and went back to work in a gutsy display. St. Juste got his attention with another left in the final minute but Green stayed on the front foot. St. Juste went to the corner and was asked if he wanted to continue.
He said yes. He wouldn’t say it again after the close of round seven. Unable to land another bomb, St. Juste was left to eat jabs and right hands and was struggling to see them coming. Asked by his corner if he’d given all he could, he said yes and that was the fight.
Green rebounds from a vicious knockout loss to former Super Middleweight titlist Mikkel Kessler in his last fight. He entered the fight unrated but could hope, given his having some name value, for a bigger fight down the road now.
23-year old Jr. Middleweight Mikael Zewski (17-0, 13 KO), 150 ¾, of Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, wasted no time in scoring a one-punch first round knockout of Cesar Chavez (20-2, 9 KO), 149 ¼, of Guasave, Sinaloa, Mexico. Both of Chavez’s defeats have come by knockout but he at least made it to round four the first time around. This time, Zewski timed a perfect right uppercut and Chavez was down before a minute had passed. Writhing on the floor in pain, perhaps with a broken nose, referee Marlon Wright finished the count at 37 seconds of the first.
24-year old former IBF 115 lb. titlist Rodrigo Guerrero (18-4-1, 12 KO), 117 ¾, of Mexico City, Mexico, picked up his second straight win at Bantamweight in a savage affair, earning a stoppage in the eighth round over 30-year old Sebastian Gauthier (22-4, 14 KO), 117 ¾, of St. Jerome, Quebec. It was the third stoppage loss in the career of Gauthier. Guerrero entered still rated in the top ten at 115 by the IBF.
The two men started their contest giving the fans a fierce opening frame. Guerrero, in an orthodox stance, appeared to score a knockdown just moments into the round with a right, but another right while Gauthier was on the deck got Guerrero a warning instead of a ruling in his favor. From there, Guerrero pinned Gauthier to the ropes and got the best of it with right hands out of a southpaw stance. Gauthier kept his feet and fired back, rocking Guerrero just before the bell.
The second round was a reversal of the first, Guerrero being forced to fight off the ropes for much of the first two minutes. A massive right hand stunned Gauthier and turned the tide but Guerrero couldn’t follow up and they battled on mostly even terms until round two closed. The fight stayed at the center of the ring throughout the third but the exchange rate stayed high, Guerrero seeming to land more hurting bombs.
Round four featured a steady stream of violence, Gauthier landing some excellent rights in the first two minutes and then weathering a storm of leather from Guerrero down the stretch. Wobbled, Gauthier still refused to drop and fired back as both men dared each other to raise their game. Boxing more, and digging to the body, Gauthier kept out of sustained exchanges in the fifth and looked to have his best round of the fight to then.
They got back to business in the sixth, both men having their moments as they each let loose with both hands along the ropes. Gauthier closed stronger, Guerrero fading just a bit even as Gauthier showed crimson from the right eye. Both men were hurt in round seven. Guerrero was back up hard with a counter right hand but came back later with a right of his own, driving Gauthier to the ropes in the final minute. Guerrero kept him there and while Gauthier looked close to falling, he did not.
Guerrero kept his momentum in round eight and then some. With Gauthier wilting, Guerrero stayed on him from the clang of the bell. After landing a ton of right hand headshots on the night, it was finally a perfect left hook to the body as Gauthier came forward that sent Gauthier to the floor. The local favorite rose and beat the count but had nothing left to keep Guerrero off. The rugged Mexican trapped him in the corner, battering his body and bloodied face to force the stoppage from referee Steve St. Germain at 2:31 of round eight.
A knockdown in round three gave 30-year old Congan Super Middleweight Francy Ntetu (8-0, 2 KO), 169, of Chicoutimi, Quebec, the edge he needed to snare a split decision from 26-year old Schiller Hyppolite (5-1, 2 KO), 172, of Montreal. Ntetu won by twin scores of 57-56 with the other judge favoring Hyppolite by the same tally. The referee was Marlon Wright.
In a battle of unbeaten Jr. Middleweight Quebecers, 25-year old Sebastian Bouchard (4-0, 2 KO), 151 ¾, of Baie-St. Paul, used right hand power punching to defeat 30-year old Glisandy Mejia (3-1, 2 KO), 151 ¼, of Terrebonne, by unanimous decision in four rounds. Bouchard got Mejia in trouble with the right late in the second and scored a knockdown to reverse a fight that seemed to be getting away. Bouchard’s knockdown was the difference between victory and a draw with final scores unanimous at 38-37. The referee was Steve St. Germain.
26-year old Heavyweight Bogdan Dinu (8-0, 5 KO), 237 ¼, of Bucharest, Romania, kept his undefeated mark with a fourth-round stoppage of a game 31-year old Eric Martel (7-3, 4 KO), 253 ¾, of Quebec City, Quebec. Martel kept in the fight with some nice flurries but couldn’t keep Dinu at bay. Dinu trapped Martel in the corner and scored a knockdown with a right hand. Martel beat the count but referee Marlon Wright waved it over at 2:52 of round four.
In the opener, 25-year old Lightweight Michael Gadbois (8-0, 3 KO), 134 ¾, of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, made a successful step up in competition in four spirited rounds with 31-year old Pedro Navarette (28-17-3, 17 KO), 133 1/2, of San Juan Zitlaltepec, Mexico. Navarette did well enough to earn a draw on one card but ultimately fell by majority decision with the other two judges favoring Gadbois. The referee was Jean-Guy Brousseau.
The card was televised in the U.S on Wealth TV and webcast at the Wealth TV website.
Cliff Rold is a Managing Editor at BoxingScene, and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]