I can’t make up my mind, is Lucian Bute just not up to the elite level or did he struggle early and get his confidence back in the 12th round (versus Denis Grachez)?
Did Bute struggle against “Carl Froch light” and will he get slaughtered against Froch (in their rematch)? Or did Bute hang in there in a tough fight that show he can go the distance against Froch and maybe get a decision?
In the Froch fight and in this one I felt Lucian lost a step or two. – Stephen, Montreal
I don’t think Bute has lost a step, physically speaking. I think the loss to Froch – and the manner in which it happened – has detracted from his confidence, and Bute seems to be one of those talented-but-psychologically fragile pro athletes who need to feel “untouchable” in order to perform at their best.
A guy who wasn’t supposed to be on Bute’s level – at least in terms of natural talent and athleticism – (Froch) walked right through his best shots and basically manhandled him in May. So it’s understandable that Bute had some self doubt going into the Grachev fight. It’s also understandable if he was a little stressed out when Grachev ignored his best uppercuts and body shots while walking him down in Montreal on Saturday.
Bute didn’t just “struggle early” against the Russian. He had problems in the middle and late rounds, too. However, as you noted, Bute finally said “the hell with it” and let it all hang out in the final round. Grachev proved to have an iron chin in that round but he wasn’t able to do much in the face of Bute’s onslaught.
Maybe he’ll take that 12th-round mentality into his rematch with Froch. I still think Bute has some doubts about his ability, but less than he did prior to facing Grachev.
I don’t think he’ll be “slaughtered” by Froch in the rematch. It’s possible that Bute can outbox the three-time titleholder, but I favor the Englishman (as I did in the first fight).
BUTE, OVERLOOKED OLYMPIANS
I’ll make my points fairly brief for you. I hope I make the mailbag.
1) After Bute’s performance against Grachev is there reason to believe he will fare better the second time against Froch?
2) I am not sure if you have seen the recent campaign spreading light on the first women in their field. The 2012 U.S. Olympic boxer Marlen Esparza is featured in it. I know she was the first to make the team but Claressa Shields was the first and only American women to ever get a gold medal in the Olympics. I believe she is being overlooked despite her accomplishments. What’s your opinion on it? Are there any other notable Olympians you can tell me about who won a gold medalist who have been overlooked?
Earius – Buffalo, NY
Thanks for keeping it brief, Earius. I’ll answer your questions in order:
1) I think Bute can go more rounds against Froch the second time around, perhaps even go the distance, but based on what I saw in the Grachev fight, it’s going to be tough for him to beat the Sheriff of Nottingham. Bute is there for the right hand and I think we all know now that once he’s pressed to the ropes he’s considerably less effective. The book is out on Bute and Froch is as smart as he is tenacious.
2) I haven’t seen the campaign that you mentioned and I can’t tell you why Esparza was chosen over Shields. Perhaps the people behind the campaign wanted to reach or represent a particular demographic (in this case the Latino or Mexican-American population). Maybe they thought Esparza has a brighter personality or is better spoken than Shields. I don’t focus much on amateur or female boxing, so I really don’t have an opinion on the matter. (Sorry. I don’t mean to sound dismissive.)
Regarding overlooked Olympic gold medalists, I can think of a few from the U.S. teams of my generation. The 1976 U.S. Olympic Squad is arguably America’s most celebrated team, but flyweight gold medalist Leo Randolph didn’t seem to receive the same fanfare as the other U.S. gold medalists of the Montreal Summer Games.
The same can be said of Henry Tillman, Steve McCrory and Jerry Page of the much-ballyhooed 1984 U.S. squad, and Kennedy McKinney of the underrated ’88 team.
Why is anyone’s guess? Perhaps, in the cases of Randolph, Tillman (201-pound division), McCrory (flyweight) and McKinney (bantamweight), they competed in weight classes that are often overlooked in general by Americans (Tillman dropped down to cruiserweight upon turning pro).
Or maybe folks in the industry knew that some of them, such as Page, were better suited in the amateur ranks than in the pros.
Then again, boxers who competed in lighter weight classes than Randolph and McCrory, such as Paul Gonzalez (the light flyweight gold medalist and Val Barker Award winner in ’84) and Michael Carbajal (the light flyweight silver medalist in ’88) turned pro with a decent amount of fanfare. And other boxers who were clearly better in the amateurs than they were as pros – such as Howard Davis (the lightweight gold medalist and Val Barker Award winner in ’76) and Mark Breland (the welterweight gold medalist in ’84) – were treated like bona-fide stars when they turned pro.
Oscar De La Hoya, the sole American gold medalist in ’92 received more fanfare than David Reid, the sole American gold medalist in ’96, who received more fanfare than Andre Ward, the sole American gold medalist in ’04, who received a lot more attention than Shields.
Part of the reason could be the changing demographics of the people who follow the sport (gradually decreasing African-American fans from the time when Sugar Ray Leonard, Davis, and Breland were turning pro) or it could be the ever-shrinking exposure given to boxing in the States. Just like the pro sport, Olympic boxing was gradually moved from primetime network TV to cable between the ’84 and ’88/’92 Games.
LOVE AND GUERRERO
I took a trip up to north Houston to check out Fernando Guererro and J’leon Love’s card. Gotta support boxing when it’s in my area. Tyrone Selders was a familiar name to me, and when I looked him up on boxrec I realized he fought on a Felix Cora Jr. undercard in Galveston county. Always wondered what would come of him, because he looked pretty good going against his limited opponent that night. Well, last night he didn’t look so hot. He made the bout interesting just wondering how long it would take for him to collapse due to fatigue or from eating all those power shots, and if Love had some real power then he would have dropped Selders a few times last night and possibly stopped him. They did exchange a couple times to make things interesting.
Guerrero’s fight was not so hot. Plenty of folks got up and left during his fight vs his flabby, old, Texan opponent. Saw a clean knockdown and anti climatic ending. For 20 bucks a ticket it was worth it. Middleweight is loaded. What’s next for both of these guys? Especially Guerrero because he is further in his career. I gotta admit I am often a fan of the guys who are written off as shot, so I’d love to see Guerrero in with a guy like Kassim Ouma since they are both small middleweights. – Jabre
I think someone like Ouma is the logical next step for Guerrero, who is improving nicely under Virgil Hunter’s watchful eye (I think this was the young southpaw’s second bout with the BWAA Trainer of the year). I thought Guerrero displayed a degree of slickness against JC Candelo that I hadn’t seen from him prior to his loss to Grady Brewer last year.
I thought Guerrero had better footwork, lateral movement and smarter punch selection. As Paul Malignaggi said during the Fox Sports Net broadcast “he’s thinking in there, not just fighting roboticallyÔÇª” That style and mentality will serve Guerrero well because I’m not sure that he has a world-class chin.
I think he’s ready for a bona-fide gate-keeper, which Ouma is at this point. If he beat Ouma – or someone on the same level as the tough former 154-pound titleholder – in impressive fashion I think Guerrero can target a top-10 contender and then go for one of the titleholders if he can keep winning (and improving).
Love is every bit the athlete that Guerrero is. He has less punching power than the southpaw but I think he may have a better chin. Love lacks some polish, but I thought he handled the game Selders about as well as we can expect a 13-0 prospect to deal with a young fighter who had never been stopped. He’s very fast and he’s got a good jab. If he can add to his punch arsenal while working on that Mayweather-inspired style so many young fighters try to emulate (many to their detriment), I think he can develop into a real contender in 18- to 24 months.