NEW YORK (Oct. 21, 2008) – Lucian Bute’s popularity in Canada has quickly reached Gretzky-like proportions with the International Boxing Federation (IBF) super middleweight champion ready to defend his title once again in Montreal on Friday, Oct. 24, in a special championship fight on ShoBox: The New Generation.
“In his last two fights, only the Montreal Canadiens playoffs games have been more popular sporting events on television,” said David Messier, the director of communication for InterBox, which promotes Bute’s fights in Montreal, the largest city in the Canadian province of Quebec.
Since March 2006, Lucian has been the main attraction of every InterBox event at the Bell Centre, home of the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. His boxing abilities and his style have made him popular among sports fans. His charisma, kindness and generosity have made him a national hero.
America’s neighbors to the north are all abuzz about Bute. With only one previously televised fight in the U.S., America’s boxing fans will get their second look at Bute (22-0, 18 KOs) when he takes on once-beaten, No.1 ranked challenger Librado Andrade (27-1, 21 KOs) of La Habra, Calif., on SHOWTIME on Friday at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the west coast).
“He is among the most sound, technically proficient fighters in the game,” said ShoBox analyst Steve Farhood. “Although he doesn’t have a flashy style or early-round knockout power, he is refreshing to watch because he’s never off-balance, he doesn’t fall in after punching, and he fights with calm and poise. Something tells me he would really have prospered going the old championship distance of 15 rounds.
He continued: “For the past few years, the super middleweight division has been all about Joe Calzaghe and then Mikkel Kessler. Bute has to begin to close the gap of recognition. He’s already won a title. Now he is looking to establish himself as the best 168-pounder in the world. That’s a tough assignment because Kessler is still around, but a win over Andrade will be a big step because Andrade is not only a universally respected challenger, but also the toughest opponent of Bute’s career to date.”
In a country where hockey has always been king, Bute has garnered interest from sports and non-sports fans alike in Quebec and throughout the entire country. A native of Galat, Romania, Bute moved to Canada in October 2003 when he was 23 years old.
His last nine fights have headlined at the Bell Centre and drawn huge crowds with his most recent fight drawing a capacity crowd estimated at 14,000. Of his 22 professional fights, 16 have been fought in Montreal.
A capacity crowd of 16,000 is expected for Friday night’s fight. Last October, Bute won the IBF 168-pound title with an 11th round TKO against Alejandro Berrio with 1.1 million viewers, according to InterBox. On Feb. 29, in a title defense against William Joppy, a 10-round TKO, there were 1.25 million viewers, according to Messier.
Bute’s trainer Stephane Larouche said the crowd goes wild when he enters the ring. “As of right now, Lucian is the biggest attraction in Montreal,” he said. “When he did his first main event, we sold like, 7,000 seats, then 9,000 seats, then 10,000 seats. It always gets higher and higher. He’s got that charisma in the ring. So far, he’s the talk of the town in Montreal. I think that boxing has never been this popular in Montreal, and Lucian is one of the keys in that right now.”
Messier said there are three big reasons for Bute’s immense popularity: He simply wins, he gives back and he has embraced the French-Canadian culture.
“The main reason he is so popular is because he learned the French language,” he said. “He made the effort to learn French and the people are recognizing him for it.”
Bute is also the foundation president at InterBox. This foundation was created two years ago for young children with difficulties at school and for kids with behavior problems. Last summer, the foundation conducted a youth boxing training camp for 16 children between the ages of 11 and 17. They lived and trained for a week as a boxer would prepare for a fight. A second camp is planned next year.
Bute said signing with InterBox to promote his fights will only continue his love-affair with the Canadian people. “I relied on the support of Quebec boxing fans and they did not let me down,” he said. “The ambiance during my fights at the Bell Centre is extraordinary. I was adopted by the people here, and I have adopted Quebec.”
“On top of all this,” said ShoBox host and play-by-play announcer Nick Charles, “we’ve got a fight fans fight on Friday night. Two tough, determined and talented men will be squaring off. We’ll have the home-crowd hysteria and Bute’s title on the line. It’s a wonderful testament to the fortitude shown by both Bute and Andrade to get to this point.
“I can’t wait to see who will control the range, pace and dynamics of this fight. Because whoever does will go home with the title Friday night in Montreal.”
In the co-feature, top prospect and No. 11 ranked World Boxing Council (WBC) contender Ronald Hearns (19-0, 15 KOs) will take on Paul Clavette (14-1-1, 2 KOs) in a 10-round junior middleweight bout.
Charles will call the action from ringside with Farhood serving as expert analyst. The executive producer of ShoBox is Gordon Hall with Richard Gaughan producing and Rick Phillips directing.
For information on SHOWTIME Sports, including exclusive behind-the-scenes video and photo galleries, complete telecast information and more, please go the new SHOWTIME Sports website at http://www.sho.com/sports.