Lucian Bute has nothing to be ashamed of
It’s not yet known if Friday night’s devastating knockout loss at the hands of Eleider Alvarez in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada is the final fight of Lucian Bute’s career. Even though Bute was doing well and showed glimpses of being rejuvenated before the finish, none of that matters now.
Indeed, after the crushing defeat to Carl Froch almost five years ago, it seemed like it was over for the popular Quebec transplant. He came back later in the year, struggled against Denis Grachev, and then didn’t fight for over a year before losing to Jean Pascal. The loss to Froch seemed to have affected him heavily and his best days were thought to be well behind him.
On paper, his attempt at a comeback didn’t go so well. After beating Andrea Di Luisa in a tune-up bout, he lost to James DeGale, drew with Badou Jack in controversial fashion and then was knocked out by Alvarez this past Friday. But what happened in the ring told a different story.
Bute seemed rejuvenated under the tutelage of the Grant brothers, Otis and Howard, against DeGale and gave the champion a very tough fight. Bute could take a shot and he wasn’t hesitant like he had been against Grachev and Pascal. His stamina was great and he fought in a manner that he hadn’t before, seeking the fight and punching in volume. The good showing in defeat was enough to get him the fight against Jack and, although he probably should’ve lost, Bute still kept coming for the whole fight and was able to take a good punch throughout.
A fighter’s stock can still go up in defeat. If he put up a good fight, is exciting to watch and go the distance against world-class fighters, then, at the very least, the stock shouldn’t go down. Compared to Bute’s two post-Froch fights, his performances were that of a revived fighter whose career once seemed near the end.
Despite the results, Bute will always be one of the biggest draws in Quebec and so he parlayed those performances into another headlining spot in a meaningful fight. Alvarez was – and is – the mandatory to WBC light heavyweight titlist Adonis Stevenson and thus didn’t have to take the fight with Bute but the prospect of beating a star would increase Alvarez’s profile and make a fight with Stevenson a much bigger draw in Quebec.
For Bute, it was a glimmer of hope but a daunting task, at the same time. Alvarez is the bigger man and undefeated but had underwhelmed in numerous fights.
For his part, Bute actually looked good while the fight lasted. He wasn’t hesitating and it seemed like he had the upper hand. He was landing good shots and had gotten into a rhythm until Alvarez capitalized on a momentary lapse in defense with a fulminant series of right hands. A weight class up, it was just too much for the 36-year-old Romanian, who had been hurt and stopped a weight lighter in his career.
Whether or not this is the end for Bute, he had a highly successful career. He came to Canada as a Romanian who didn’t speak English or French and built himself from the ground up into the biggest draw in Canadian boxing for a period spanning many years. He won a world title, made nine defenses, participated in some big fights, made a lot of money and became a Canadian citizen.
Sure, Bute came up short in the big fights. Sure, he missed out on the “Super Six World Boxing Classic” super middleweight tournament and the Andre Ward fight afterward – neither of which were really his fault. But for boxing in Quebec, which is the epicenter of boxing in Canada, he was a central figure in carrying the sport in an important market and for an important fan base. During the Super Six, he was drawing big crowds against the lesser opponents, who were available when all the top fighters were tied up in the tournament. There are certain areas throughout North America that are mainstay boxing markets and Quebec is one of them. Bute helped it stay that way.
In an era in which fighters who could actually draw crowds are few and far between, Bute was consistently doing good ticket sales. Friday’s show is said to have done somewhere over 6,000 tickets, which is a drop off from his glory days but still more than most are doing today.
While the big Quebec fight with Stevenson is lost, it at least propped up a future fight between “Superman” and Alvarez, if it ever comes to tuition. It’s not a passing of the torch, per se – as Alvarez just doesn’t have the same charisma as Bute – but the winner is a fighter who took a similar path. Alvarez came to Montreal from Colombia and has had to make the same adaptations Bute once made.
All in all, Bute had a good career and was an important figure in an important boxing market. With the abundance of foreign fighters basing themselves in North America now, they could all learn a thing or two from him and so could their promoters.
If Bute thinks he has one last run in him at super middleweight, then the state of the division won’t dissuade him from trying. If not, then he’s done very well for himself and his adopted home of Quebec.
You can follow Rian Scalia on Twitter @rian5ca.