by Hans Olson
Lucian Bute is the best Super Middleweight in the world and it’s not close.
Let’s just get that out of the way.
This past Saturday, Bute returned to his native Romania in style, knocking out France’s Jean Paul Mendy violently in the fourth round of a mandatory title defense.
It was Lucian’s eighth defense of his IBF Super Middleweight Championship.
I believe there are 2 key reasons why Lucian Bute is the best Super Middleweight in the world:
“Part of the deal of being a boxer, a professional prize fighter-I go back to Cus D’Amato; a great trainer. He said ‘the idea of being a professional prize fighter is to make money. The way you make money is by putting people in the seats. The way you put people in the seats is by exciting them. By thrilling them. By finding a style that makes them want to be there for something special.’-Larry Merchant, speaking to Max Boxing’s Steve Kim in 2008.
Lucian Bute has the highest knockout percentage(82.76%) in the Super Middleweight division. Lets see how 15 of the other top names at 168 fare:
Kelly Pavlik 82.05%
Peter Quillin 75.0%
Edison Miranda 74.36%
Arthur Abraham 74.29%
Mikkel Kessler 71.74%
Carl Froch 68.97%
Thomas Oosthuizen 68.75%
Andre Dirrell 65%
Allan Green 62.5%
Dimitri Sartison 60.71%
Robert Stieglitz 54.76%
Sakio Bika 54.29%
Andre Ward 54.17%
Glen Johnson 51.47%
Tarvis Simms 36.93%
When it comes to being sensational, knockout win after knockout win, Lucian Bute stands alone. (His closest competition and likely next opponent, Kelly Pavlik, scored most of his stoppages below the Super Middleweight division.)
Like many of the best fighters in the world such as Floyd Mayweather, and Manny Pacquiao, Lucian Bute’s craft and boxing acumen are what set him apart. He is a classy boxer-puncher who can hurt you in a multitude of ways. He has an array of punches, his uppercut being the most dangerous. He has a destructive body-attack, and as Jean Paul Mendy realized, can eliminate you instantly with his left hand. His footwork, defense and ring generalship are top notch. Much of this can be attributed to his amateur pedigree, one that saw him taking the Bronze at the 1999 World Amateur’s and scoring the Gold at the 2001 Francophone games. Since coming to Quebec, under the tutelage of Stephane Larouche Lucian Bute has developed a pro style that will be hard to defeat.
There are many who question the level of opposition that Bute has faced, and deserved or not, it must be looked at. I spoke with Bute’s trainer, the aforementioned Stephane Larouche on Tuesday and asked him about that very issue. “Everybody complains about the opponents, but he has one job to do: to deliver with his performance in the ring, and he does it.” Larouche continued. “Everything happens for a reason. Unfortunately, some good guys were involved with the Super Six, but sooner or later he is going to fight the best guy out there. It’s just a matter of time.” The fact that he was not invited to participate in Showtime’s Super Six Tournament certainly swayed the public’s opinion…but has his level of opposition really been so drastically different from those who were invited to Showtime’s great round-robin? Let’s take a look.
Most observers view Andre Ward as the best fighter in the division. His best win is an 11 round Technical Decision over Mikkel Kessler, whose only other loss was to the great Joe Calzaghe. It was a great win, and a dominating performance…but one wonders how the outcome would have been had the referee not allow the head-butts and other tactics that frustrated “The Viking Warrior.” It should also be noted that Mikkel Kessler clearly wants no part of Lucian Bute. After traveling over from Denmark to watch Bute defeat Brian Magee, Kessler’s team quickly changed the direction in which to go(i.e.: not in the ring with Lucian Bute). Other key wins for Ward were Edison Miranda(Bute knocked him out in 3, Ward struggled in spots to get a UD), and Sakio Bika(Bute had defeated him already). The wins over Allen Green and Arthur Abraham were good wins against solid fighters, but the level of their ability is now being revised heavily by boxing critics, although I’ll admit giving both a punchers chance against Ward.
Carl Froch is a different story. If anyone has an argument to be viewed as the best in the division besides Bute, it’s Froch. Fighting a murderer’s row of opposition since entering the championship level, Froch has gone on the road to win, gotten off the canvas to win, and done just about everything in between. A fight with Bute could look like the first fight between Bute and Librado Andrade.
Which is a perfect segue-way to this:
Anyone that doubts Lucian’s first fight with Andrade has the right to do so, but again…don’t let public perception fool you. Bute put on a boxing clinic that night fight for the first 11 rounds. The questionable ending left a bad taste to much of the viewing public…but what did Bute do next? He gave Andrade a rematch and knocked him out.
Getting back to Andre Ward and Carl Froch, I asked Stephane his opinion on that fight. “I think that’s going to be a great fight. I think that it’s going to be very close. I would give a little edge to Andre Ward. There are just two concerns with Ward. He hasn’t shown too much power…and how he will react when he gets in the ring with a guy who rocks him like Carl Froch? Very interesting fight.”
That fight will conclude the 2 year tournament, but in this writer’s opinion, not until the winner gets in the ring with Lucian Bute, can he be considered the best in division.
Until then, Lucian waits for the best guys available.
A big fight against Kelly Pavlik looms for November.
“Well, Pavlik has a fight on August 6, hopefully he’ll win his fight,” said Stephane. “I think that will be the next step for Lucian to fight Kelly Pavlik. He is now the best available opponent. He’s a former world champion and he’s got heavy hands. The only time that he didn’t look like a great fighter was when he fought Martinez, and Martinez is an awesome fighter. He’s a great, great fighter. Good defense, good speed, good footwork.”
If not Pavlik…who else is there?
“I know that Kessler does not want to fight Lucian. I think we’re going to have to look maybe at Glen Johnson. He’s a great friend of Lucian’s; they’ve been training together the last 2 years. But I think he is by far the best available guy if Pavlik is not there.”
Already a star in Quebec and Romania, a huge win in the United States could give boxing it’s next true international superstar.
“Since becoming a world champion, he hasn’t changed he’s the same human being,” says Larouche with pride. “He’s respectful, he’s honest and he’s nice with people. He’s not like that type of guy that is not available. Lucian hasn’t changed, and I think people like a humble person.”
follow Hans Olson on Twitter @hansolson
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