10: Best fights staged in Montreal
9. October 24, 2008 – Lucian Bute W 12 Librado Andrade I, Bell Centre
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The 1927 rematch between Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey is generally known as “The Battle of the Long Count” because Dempsey, in the heat of the moment, forgot the recently adopted "farthest neutral corner" rule after dropping Tunney in the seventh. Because of that oversight, referee Dave Barry stopped his count, identified the correct corner and resumed his count only after “The Manassa Mauler” moved toward it. That gave Tunney precious extra seconds to recuperate and arise at Barry's count of “nine,” which, in real time, was actually “14.” His head now cleared, Tunney lasted out the round, scored a subsequent flash knockdown and sailed to a correctly rendered decision victory.
Eighty-one years later and several hundred miles northeast of Chicago, a similar series of events unfolded when IBF champion Bute made his second defense of the title against mandatory challenger Andrade, who showed unreal ruggedness in losing a decision to WBA/WBC titlist Mikkel Kessler three fights earlier. The extraordinary ending of Bute-Andrade I sparked vigorous debate but the fight that preceded it also made for compelling theater.
Andrade earned this second shot by beating Ted Muller (KO 2), Yusaf Mack (KO 7) and Robert Stieglitz (KO 8) in a title eliminator while Bute was engaging in his 14th consecutive fight scheduled for 12 rounds (a string that has grown to 24 straight with this weekend's fight with Pascal). Ten of those fights went eight rounds or longer so one had to believe Bute was well-versed on how to pace himself, which made the ending even more incredible.
With the sellout crowd chanting Bute's name, their hero won the first two rounds by firing right jabs, landing laser-quick crosses, sagely punching off pivots, utilizing slippery defense and curling timely left uppercuts. The iron-chinned Andrade absorbed it all unflinchingly but it wasn't until the third that he started to find his rhythm. In rounds three through five, Andrade's harder right leads, digging body shots and upper body strength helped him gain a physical and mathematical foothold. From time to time Bute landed crisp combinations but during this stretch he looked decidedly uncomfortable and unwilling to engage the challenger at close quarters.
Bute bounced back in rounds six through nine as he re-established his long-range game. He consistently raked Andrade's face with spearing blows that raised slight puffiness and exacted even more damage on the scorecards. Andrade managed to land a few punches during this period but Bute's movement and savvy prevented him from mounting a consistent charge.
Bute created even more numerical separation in the 10th after a left cross that clipped the side of Andrade's head produced a flash knockdown. But just when it looked as if Bute was cruising to an easy points win the fight turned midway through the 11th when a short hook caused a stunned Bute to hold on tightly. The overanxious Andrade then flung Bute into the neutral corner pad, a move that drew a strong warning from referee Marlon B. Wright, who minutes later would become a major player in the mounting drama. A flashy six-punch flurry punctuated a decent late-round comeback by Bute, but the earlier action easily put the 11th in Andrade's column.
Andrade's corner knew their man had to come up with something huge to pull out the fight and with Howard Grant's command of “we've got to put him on the floor this (expletive deleted) round,” the challenger went about the task of making that happen.
A series of short, punishing blows combined with ceaseless muscling tactics dramatically depleted Bute's gas tank. Entering the final minute it was obvious to all inside the Bell Centre that their man needed to be vocally pushed over the finish line. Bute tried to do his part by inducing multiple clinches and maneuvering away from trouble but all that did was give Andrade even more energy. A glancing right sent Bute tottering across the ring and a right hook sent Bute crashing to the canvas with just three seconds remaining.
Since a fighter can't be saved by the bell in the final round, the timekeeper correctly refrained from sounding the bell until Wright’s count was completed. And what a count it ended up being.
In real time, the semiconscious Bute staggered to his feet nine seconds after he hit the canvas and at that moment Wright’s count had reached seven. Wright then stopped his count, turned toward Andrade and spent the next five seconds telling the challenger to back up approximately five feet so he would be standing tightly against the corner. Only then did Wright resume his count and after he completed it the final bell sounded.
The chaotic conclusion ignited an even more chaotic aftermath. An enraged Howard Grant, believing his fighter had just been robbed of a title-winning KO, shoved Wright, backed off, then attacked him a second time. The crowd was in an uproar and Bute remained in a stupor as he awaited a decision that everyone – including Andrade's camp – knew he would win. And win he did, as Alex Levin saw him a decisive 117-109 winner while Benoit Roussel (115-111) and Mickey Vann (115-110) agreed.
Although the classy Andrade embraced Wright in the ring, he still felt as if he had been cheated of a life-changing victory.
“Oh yes, completely,” Andrade told Showtime's Steve Farhood. “He was completely out. I didn't come out of the corner (like Wright thought I did). It was completely outrageous. I felt like I was the champion in the fifth round and he didn't hurt me even once. If there's a rematch, we'll take it but if not, it doesn't matter, we'll go forward.”
“I got tired in the end, it's true, but I think I won the fight clearly,” Bute said through an interpreter. “I won more rounds than him. It was a tough fight, I take my hat off to him, but I won the fight. In the 12th round, I think Andrade was taking advantage of the fact that I got tired and that contributed to me going down. He won that round and maybe another round, but I won the fight.”
When Farhood asked Wright if he would concede that his actions cost Andrade a knockout victory, Wright responded by saying, “Andrade cost himself a knockout win by leaving the corner. If he hadn't left the corner he would've won by knockout but since he left the corner he lost the fight.”
There never was a Tunney-Dempsey III but there was a Bute-Andrade rematch 13 months later. This time there would be no controversy as Bute's savage left uppercut scored a clean KO in round four. Interestingly, just as Bute had fallen to the floor three seconds before the closing bell in fight one, Bute scored the KO three seconds before the end of round four in the rematch.