Bute erases doubts with Andrade KO, but what’s next?
Fans can argue whether Lucian Bute’s unanimous decision over Librado Andrade in their first fight was the result of hometown officiating, but there was nothing controversial about his rematch victory in Quebec City, Canada on Saturday.
Bute (25-0, 20 knockouts) erased the image of the near-disastrous 12th round of their first fight by scoring a stunning fourth-round knockout of Andrade (28-3, 21 KOs), considered to be one of the most-rugged and formidable contenders in the 168-pound division.
The Canada-based Romanian, who has been embraced by fight fans in Montreal, where the first fight took place, barely escaped being knocked out by Andrade when he completely ran out of gas and was dropped in the final seconds of the first bout.
Montreal-based referee Marlon Wright injected controversy into the fight when he delayed his 10-count to issue a needless warning to Andrade while the hardnosed Mexican strayed a little bit from the neutral corner.
Many fans believed Wright rescued Bute from a dramatic knockout. Others thought that Bute legitimately survived. Bute’s fans pointed out that their fighter had soundly outboxed Andrade for at least 10 of the previous 11 rounds, and if anyone was “lucky,” it was the iron-chinned pressure fighter who would likely earn a return bout based on the final-round controversy.
The Bute fans were correct as the super middleweights met again 13 months later. The prevailing wisdom was that Bute would be in better condition and a little more cautious in outpointing Andrade the second time around, and that’s exactly what it looked like for three rounds.
However, just when it appeared that Bute was in his groove and on his way to an uneventful decision, he caught Andrade blind with a compact left cross that dropped the aggressive stalker with a minute and 15 seconds left in the fourth round. Andrade appeared to be OK — he even winked to his corner before he got to his feet — but he clumsily followed Bute around the ring and to the ropes, where the savvy southpaw unleashed a sweeping left uppercut to his midsection that dropped him to his hands and knees.
Andrade, obviously suffering from having the wind knocked out of him, wasn’t able to get off his knees and was counted out by referee Benjy Esteves at 2:57 of the round.
The impressive knockout confirmed Bute’s No. 2-ranking in THE RING’s super middleweight ratings and even begs the question of whether the titleholder deserves consideration as the top dog in the 168-pound division.
That spot currently belongs to Andre Ward, who earned the magazine’s No. 1 ranking with a dominant 11-round technical decision over Mikkel Kessler on Nov. 21.
Both Ward and Bute are athletically gifted boxers with sharp skills and underrated physical strength and infighting ability. A fight between the undefeated beltholders would not only settle the argument as to who’s No. 1, it would be for the vacant RING title (since they are the magazine’s top two contenders). It would also be a fascinating matchup that would pack fans in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, Calif., or in Bute’s adopted home bases of Montreal and Quebec City.
Alas, the fight won’t be possible for at least a year and a half. Ward, along with 168-pound standouts Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch, Andre Dirrell and Jermain Taylor, is part of Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament that pits the six participants against each other in round-robin and semifinal bouts all next year and won’t conclude in a final until the first half of 2011.
So what options does that leave for Bute, who wasn’t invited to participate in the Super Six?
There aren’t many at super middleweight.
THE RING’s No. 1, No. 3 (Froch), No. 4, (Kessler), and No. 7 (Abraham) contenders are in the Super Six. Bute just knocked out Andrade (No. 5) and he’s already beaten Sakio Bika (No. 6). That leaves Allan Green (No. 8) and beltholder Robert Stieglitz (No. 9) as semi-worthy future opponents.
However, Green has been mentioned as a possible substitute for Taylor should the former middleweight champ, who has lost his last two fights by brutal final-round KOs, decide to withdraw from the Super Six. The Oklahoma native may not want to risk the string of guaranteed paydays, title shots, and TV exposure that would come from being part of the tournament for a “one-and-done” shot at Bute’s belt.
And it’s doubtful that Stieglitz, who has been knocked out by two of Bute’s victims (Andrade and Alejandro Berrio), would want to leave the comfortable confines of Germany to face the Romanian. Stieglitz is scheduled to defend against Edison Miranda in January. If the hard-hitting fringe contender beats Stieglitz, he could make for an interesting opponent, but would Bute get any credit for taking on a guy who has lost to Ward, Abraham (twice) and Kelly Pavlik?
So is there an attractive fight out there for Bute?
Yes, and he need not look beyond his adopted hometown. However, he will have to go north of super middleweight to the light heavyweight division, where Montreal-based beltholder Jean Pascal resides.
Pascal, a dynamic boxer-puncher who reminds some of a young Roy Jones, was a super middleweight prospect who showed his potential during a rousing 12-round loss to Froch last December and came of age this past June with an impressive unanimous decision over undefeated 175-pound titleholder Adrian Diaconu.
If the 27-year-old beltholder, rated No. 7 by THE RING, wins his rematch with Diaconu on Dec. 11, he and Bute could make one of the biggest prize fights in the history of Canada.
Come to think of it, Bute vs. Diaconu, who is also a Montreal-based Romanian, would be a huge fight in their adopted hometown or in their native country.
It’s conceivable that Bute could stay busy battling both Pascal and Diaconu during 2010, and even position himself to challenge No. 1-rated light heavyweight Chad Dawson by the end of next year or in early 2011, before venturing back to the 168-pound division to take on whomever wins the Super Six tournament.
Whatever Bute decides to do beyond Saturday’s impressive rematch victory, it’s a sure bet that Montreal fans won’t be the only ones watching.