Freddie Roach continues training Lucian Bute in Manny Pacquiao camp
GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – In search of a fresh start with a new trainer, Lucian Bute boarded a flight across the world with Freddie Roach earlier this month. Their destination was the southern Philippines, an unlikely starting point for what Bute hopes is a career revival.
With Roach committed to training his star pupil Manny Pacquiao in General Santos City for his Nov. 22 bout against Chris Algieri, Bute (31-2, 24 knockouts) would have to set up camp for his fight with Roberto Bolonti on Dec. 6 in the Tuna Capital of the Philippines.
At age 34, the former IBF super middleweight titleholder is hoping to return to the status he enjoyed earlier in his career, when he scored eight knockouts in his first nine world title fights en route to becoming a popular draw in Montreal, Canada.
The luster came off in 2012, when Bute was stopped in five rounds by Carl Froch. He then missed 2013 with a series of injuries before losing a listless decision to Jean Pascal this past January. Bute decided that he needed to make changes, beginning with parting with long-time trainer Stephan Larouche and hooking up with the six-time BWAA Trainer of the Year.
“Him being here with me shows me so much dedication, that he works 120 percent and I will too,” said Roach. “He sacrificed his home, his family and everything else. He comes here to train with us, not too many people in the world will do that.”
Bute was accompanied by advisor Chris Ganescu, who had initially helped Bute relocate from Romania to Canada before the two split in 2011. Ganescu rejoined Bute’s team after the loss to Pascal and says that coming to the Philippines wasn’t a hard decision to make.
“We knew we were going to get good exposure to Manny’s training camp and also get the attention of Freddie,” said Ganescu. “Lucian decided that he wanted to work with somebody very highly known and do some things for him that he’s done with other people and that’s why he wanted to do everything he can to work with Freddie.”
Bute is in good company in the quiet town known as GenSan, working alongside Pacquiao and former WBC lightweight titleholder Antonio DeMarco, who also followed Roach to prepare for his bout on the Pacquiao-Algieri undercard against WBA junior welterweight titleholder Jessie Vargas.
Bute gets exclusive training time after Roach’s afternoon sessions with Pacquiao. The two had initially worked together for a short time in July but have now been together for about two weeks, ironing out wrinkles and getting a feel for each other’s style.
“We’ve been working on a lot of Pacquiao moves that he actually used to do and they’re good reminders of what he used to do when he was a lot younger,” says Roach. “They’re very similar in their stance and combinations. Obviously Manny is a little faster and a little smaller too but Lucian is a little bigger and a harder hitter.
“[Bute] has great work ethic, he wants to work hard. Basically that’s what I need to take somebody on is the work ethic. If they don’t have that they can go home. He trains hard, he’s dedicated and he’ll be champion again very soon.”
Bute’s world tour will continue when he leaves General Santos City on November 17 with the Pacquiao crew to Macau for a week, then goes off to Los Angeles to train at the Wild Card Gym for another week before circling back to Montreal, where he’ll fight at the familiar confines of the Bell Centre.
‘A lot of fight left in him’
When asked to rebut the detractors whom have written off Bute after his underwhelming performances in recent years, Roach drew parallels to another aging fighter whom he guided to THE RING middleweight title earlier this year.
“Miguel Cotto, they thought he was all done too. Now he’s doing better than ever,” says Roach. “These so-called older guys, they get judged a little harshly I think. Like Miguel, [Bute] has a lot of fight left in him. He’s training his ass off and that’s why we’re here.”
The Bolonti fight will gauge both Bute’s progress and how much fight he has left to give. The 35-year-old Bolonti of Buenos Aires, Argentina is coming off a decision loss to WBA light heavyweight titleholder J├╝rgen Br├ñhmer in June, while another previous decision loss came against former light heavyweight title challenger Tony Bellew.
“Bolonti is a persistent, come-forward boxer who is difficult to rattle,” Bute said in a statement. “This is exactly what I need, and exactly what I will train to counter.”
Though they’ve only worked together for a short time, Roach is already looking ahead to getting Bute back into the title picture.
“This fight and then maybe Pascal and then we’re ready,” says Roach.
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA), and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @RyanSongalia.