by Lee Payton
Lucien Bute will be returning to the ring tomorrow night for the first time since his controversial win over Librado Andrade back in October. Remember that fight? Of course you do. Nobody will soon forget the massive controversy that erupted after the high drama that took place over the bout's final moments.
I'll get to that fight in a second, but first let's touch briefly on tomorrow night's match-up.
Bute's opponent will be Colombian, Fulgencio Zuniga, who you might remember knocked Kelly Pavlik down with a left hook in the first round of their middleweight bout a few years ago. Zuniga went on to lose via a 9th round TKO, and I think that's about as long as he'll last against Bute. Zuniga's tough, and he'll keep coming, but he's not close to Bute's level.
Now on to the infamous Andrade battle, which had boxing fans in a mighty uproar last year...
Both men got screwed that night. The poor judgment of a few key individuals may have cost Andrade a knockout win and his first title belt, while it left Bute with an undeserved image as something of a front-running house fighter.
Most fans thought referee Marlon Wright had given his fellow Canadian a sneaky edge when he allowed him to clutch and grab so frequently. There were times I found the grappling annoying, but it's part of the game to some extent that it's the same for everyone. Bute realized that staying on the outside meant a less hazardous work environment, so he held on whenever things felt unsafe against a dangerous opponent. The rules were bent a little, but this was no Henry Akinwande impression.
It's a legit gripe. Holding is against the rules. However, I was more disappointed in Andrade's effort while being held. This is a fighter who relies on ruggedness and uppercuts, but he doesn't know how to get room on the inside? Too often he stopped fighting when the two came together. Why? He should have been the boss in there. That would have left little room for Wright to influence the action.
In fact, the official opinions may have been moot if one guy was getting pounded every time he tried to catch his breath.
As it happened, the hometown fighter used his decided edge in quickness to secure perhaps a 10-1 lead with 1 round to go. His southpaw stance created an awkward angle that kept the incoming relatively tame, while he swatted away at a dependable target.
The 60 second rest period between the 11th and 12th would prove to be just as crucial as the previous 33 minutes of fighting. While clearly ahead, but sucking wind, Bute was inexplicably instructed by his corner to go for it. Apparently they felt it was necessary for their fighter to put it all on the line in the last round if he was interested in keeping his title.
Eddie Futch might have offered some different advice.
Interestingly, the same ref who had demonstrated such a liberal attitude toward the stalling tactics throughout, was quick to break the fighters during any stalemate in the final stanza. When Andrade was pummeling the favourite in close with his free hand, Wright handled it in the correct way.
Lost in the excitement of the improbable comeback was Andrade's headbutting that played no small part in helping it along. At least a few times Bute took skull to the face or temple while already woozy. I know Andrade was desperate, but that doesn't sit right with me.
His legs and head burning, Bute wobbled around until a running right slammed him to the canvas with only a few seconds to go. He somehow rose before 10 seconds had elapsed, but it didn't matter because Wright was busy blowing another assignment. At about 7, he turned around to warn Andrade to get all the way back in the corner. Those extra seconds wasted by Wright only served to create more controversy as they left the impression that the hometown fighter had more time to recover. After finishing the mandatory count, the bell rang and the fight was declared over, which it would have been anyway, even if Wright had not warned Andrade.
A few key points of contention...
1. The count was too long.
It was, but I don't think it matters, since Bute was on his feet before 10 seconds had passed.
2. Some say it should have been scored as a KO anyway because he used the ropes to steady himself.
Is that even illegal?
3. Was Bute in any condition to continue?
Absolutely not. But does it matter if he beats the count in that situation? Seems like no one really knows for sure.
Look, I know that it's natural in boxing to get behind the traveling underdog, especially when it looks like there might have been some tampering with the results, but this is a clear case of a referee handling a fight poorly, not of corruption. Marlon Wright did not have a good night, and his poor performance as the third man screwed things up for both sides.
Anyway, even though Librado Andrade didn't get the W, he didn't lose much much, as fans will remember his heroics and claim he was robbed by evil Canadians. That's the kind of sympathy managers love.
On the other hand, Lucien Bute has some fighting to do. While I find most of the disrespect he receives to be rather unreasonable, the fact is many boxing fans now see him as something of a sheltered softy. A paper champ that folds under pressure. Forget the impressive athletic package. Never mind the quick, accurate stabs that had him way ahead against a tough nut. He got up at the end? So what? He's just a promoter's product until further notice.
Tomorrow night, he'll have chance to start proving that sentiment wrong, and hopefully we'll see an Andrade rematch in the near future. Andrade will be fighting Vitali Tsypko in Montreal on April 4. A win by Bute tomorrow night, and Andrade a few weeks from now would set up a rematch quite nicely.
Here's hoping it happens.
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Thursday, March 12, 2009
by Lee Payton