James DeGale lands a right uppercut en route to his hard-fought unanimous decision victory over Lucian Bute on Nov. 28 in Quebec City, Quebec. Photo by Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME
It was a crossroads bout on Saturday night between super middleweights up-and-comer James DeGale and former titleholder Lucian Bute. And after 12 hard-fought rounds, DeGale was victorious but Bute proved he still has a lot left as a contender.
DeGale, who won a unanimous decision before an announced and partisan crowd of over 8,000 at the Centre Videotron in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, improved to 22-1, 14 knockouts. Bute dropped to 32-3, 25 KOs. All three judges scored the bout in favor of DeGale, 117-111, 117-111, and 116-112. RingTV.com scored the bout closer at 115-113 in favor of DeGale.
It was the first successful defense of the IBF title that DeGale won on May 23 by outpointing Andre Dirrell. Many believed he would be too much for Bute, who had lost two of his previous four bouts.
Instead, Bute, who was born in Romania and now resides in the Montreal suburb of Laval, proved many doubters wrong, handling himself very well during the action-filled rounds.
Both fighters set the tone of the fight from the opening round. The southpaw Bute pressed the action, but DeGale, who won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games, seemed to grind out rounds by increasing his punch output.
Bute began walking DeGale down in the fourth round, initiating exchanges and keeping DeGale on his back foot.
Undaunted, DeGale swung momentum back his way early in the second half of the fight. DeGale was able to dig into the body of Bute, mixing in an attack of lead hooks and crosses to the head as well.
Both fighters had their moments in the championship rounds, landing thudding blows, bringing the crowd to their feet. The ebb and flow of the fight came to a peak in the final round as each landed vicious head shots until the final bell sounded.
While the fight was very competitive, DeGale had the punch-connect edge in the fight, according to Sho Stats. DeGale landed 211 out of 710 total punches (29 percent), while Bute connected on only 140 out of 521 total punches (26 percent).
“He (Bute) is a world class fighter,” said DeGale after the fight. “He’s a great champion. My defense was all right. I’m peaking. I’ll be at my best during the next three to four years.”
DeGale does have a lot of options as to whom he could face next. He did zero in on one particular world title holder.
“Let’s unify these titles. (Las) Vegas in April. Badou Jack is the WBC title and I’m the IBF champ. Let’s do it.”
While Bute may have come up short, his stock may have risen in the 168-pound division. Even in defeat, he was optimistic his performance
“I’m happy with my performance,” said Bute, whose other losses were to Carl Froch and Jean Pascal. “I think it was a great fight. I think it was a close fight. If the judges give him the decision, i respect that. I’ll go back in the gym and work hard to get back to the top.”
Alvarez gets narrow win over Chilemba
In the opening bout on Showtime, light heavyweight Eleider Alvarez won a 12 round majority decision over Isaac Chilemba.
With the win, Alvarez improves to 19-0, 10 KOs and becomes the mandatory challenger for WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson. Chilemba drops to 24-3-2, 10 KOs.
Alvarez, who is originally from Apartado, Colombia and now resides in Montreal, Canada, seemed to have the upper hand through the first three rounds, but Chilemba began to press the action. He mostly controlled the middle rounds by outboxing Alvarez, especially landing more to the body.
As the bout progressed into the later rounds, Alvarez began to slow down, noticeably fighting in spurts. That allowed the Malawi-born Chilemba, who now resides in the Los Angeles area, to increase his punch output, landing often.
Both had their moments in the final two rounds. Alvarez was at his best when he initiated exchanges, but Chilemba held his ground.
One judge (along with RingTV.com) scored the bout 114-114, while the other two judges scored the bout 115-113 and 118-110 for Alvarez, who is ranked number six by Ring Magazine. Chilemba is ranked seventh.
Granados upsets Imam
Adrian Granados scored an impressive upset win over Amir Imam, stopping the WBC mandatory challenger in the eighth round.
Granados improved to 17-4-2 (12 KOs) while Imam (18-1, 15 KOs) suffered his first defeat as a pro.
It was supposed to be a stay-busy fight for Imam, who had beaten modest opposition on his way to being ranked No. 1 by the WBC. Whether Imam would legitimately get a shot at WBC 140-pound champion Viktor Postol remained to be seen.
Granados entered the bout having won three in a row after losing two close decisions.
Things did not start out well for Granados in the opening round as a hard right hand to the head dropped him flat on his back. Granados was able to recover and finish the round.
Imam built on the knockdown over the next few rounds, but Granados began to find success on the inside by the fourth. Granados began to initiate the exchanges, landing more hooks and crosses with each passing round.
Granados was in full control of the bout by the seventh round. Imam’s punch output dropped and he was pushed into fighting off his back foot more and more until the bout became full-scale dominance under the Chicagoan’s volume attack. The end came in the eighth round when Granados landed a series of punches that sent Imam reeling backward against the ropes. Granados followed up until referee Alain Villeneuve stepped in and stopped the bout at 2:34.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing