Saturday, June 10, 2023  |


Bute faces Zuniga on Showtime

Fighters Network

The last time we saw Lucian Bute, he didn’t look well.

The IBF super middleweight titleholder had outboxed Librado Andrade for most of his second title defense last November in Montreal but ran out of fuel in the final round, which precipitated a bizarre ending.

Andrade knocked a barely-conscious Bute down in the final seconds. If he could get up, he’d retain his title; if not, it would go to Andrade. Alas, Bute managed to pull himself to his feet, win a one-sided decision and dodge a disaster.

The controversy that followed, the result of a long count after Andrade strayed from his neutral corner, amounted to nothing: Bute got up; end of story. However, the ending didn’t enhance Bute’s reputation.

“I think it was not a mistake on my part,” said Bute, who defends his title against Fulgenico Zuniga on Friday in Montreal on Showtime. “I just got so tired in that last round. A 126-pounder could have knocked me out I was so tired. I learned from that experience. When I went down, there were four seconds left in the fight so all I needed to do was stand up. There were eight seconds when I got to one leg.

“Whether the ref told Andrade to go back to his corner or not, it’s irrelevant because with just four seconds left in the fight I knew he couldn’t hit me anymore. So I think the referee did the right thing.”

Still, Bute (23-0, 18 knockouts) feels as if he has unfinished business with Andrade.

Assuming the Romanian-born Canadian beats Zuniga (22-3-1, 19 KOs) in front of his adopted hometown fans, he wants to fight Andrade again, beat him and erase memories of the strangest moment in his five-plus-year career.

“Absolutely. It’s a must,” Bute said. “We have to fight again. Hopefully he will win his mandatory fight aginst Vitali Tsypko (on April 4, also in Montreal) and he will be my next opponent for the fall. We need to settle this. I need to do this and he also deserves it.”

But first there’s Zuniga, a hard-punching Colombian who lost unanimous decisions in two previous attempts to win major titles, against Daniel Santos in 2003 and Denis Inkin last September in his next to last fight. He also was stopped by Kelly Pavlik in 2005.

In effect, he’s had two careers. He stopped his first 15 opponents, all in Colombia, and is 7-3-1 (four KOs) against better competition in various countries.

Zuniga gained respect for his performance in the Inkin fight, which many believe was much closer than the scoring (118-110, 117-111, 116-112). Inkin, the WBO beltholder, fights out of Germany, where the bout took place.

“It was a really, really close fight and I even thought Zuniga won the fight,” Bute said. “But the fight was in Germany. I do think that if that fight was in America that Zuniga would have been declared the champion.”

And, obviously, Zuniga has power. Bute compared him to Andrade.

“They are a little similar,” said Bute, comparing Zuniga and Andrade. “I would say that Andrade is a busier fighter and physically a little bit stronger. In fact, probably quite a bit stronger. But on the second punch Zuniga is probably quite a bit stronger. He has more power on every single punch than Andrade does.”

Bute has become a fan favorite in Montreal, the site of his last 11 fights. He regularly packs The Bell Centre, where Friday’s fight will take place.

Does he have an advantage similar to the one Inkin had in Germany?

“When you are fighting at home there are some slight advantages, but once that bells sounds there is no one that can help you but yourself,” Bute said. “Sure, the arena is packed and they are screaming your name, but no one can help you. You are all by yourself and you have to perform. Between the ropes there is no more advantage.”

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]