Lucian Bute: The super middleweight par excellence demonstrated an underrated weapon in his arsenal against Brian Magee Saturday in Montreal: patience. The Irishman proved to be a tricky challenge early in the fight, probably because Bute had to adjust to fighting a solid southpaw. Slowly but surely he found his rhythm, though. And it was a familiar formula that ultimately spelled Magee’s doom: Break ‘em down with body shots and take ‘em out with an uppercut to the jaw, the punch that has ended his last three fights. This probably was Bute’s last mismatch, at least for a while. He’s now poised to determine whether he really is the best 168-pounder. He could fight Mikkel Kessler or Kelly Pavlik this summer and then take on the winner of the Super Six World Boxing Classic. And it’s about time. We’ve waited a long time to see him fight the best.
Brian Magee: Every fighter dreams of challenging an established star for a major title but few actually do. Magee had his chance. And while he fell to a superior fighter, he certainly has nothing to be ashamed of. The Irishman boxed better than some expected him to and landed some hard lefts to the head and body shots that got the attention of Bute and the fans, even when it was clear he had little to no chance to win. And he was extremely fit and game, prerequisites to survive Bute’s strength-sapping body shots for as long as he did. Magee got this far in his fine career largely because he refused to give up at any point. That spirit was evident in the fight on Saturday. He gave it all he had, which is all anyone – including Magee – can expect. He should be proud.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Vitali Klitschko: Klitschko probably isn’t excited about his victory over Odlanier Solis on Saturday in Cologne, Germany, although it was a punch to the temple that appeared to set in motion one of the more-bizarre endings in recent memory. Solis injured his right knee as he went down from the punch and was unable to continue. That’s not how Klitschko wanted to win the fight after so many weeks of hard training and with the world watching. A victory is a victory, though. And he still was paid for his efforts, even if it was the expense of disappointed fans. The fact legitimate challenges lie ahead also should ease any frustration. Klitschko will fight David Haye this summer if his brother hasn’t sufficiently recovered from a stomach muscle injury. And if Wlad is ready to go, the elder Klitschko will take on Tomasz Adamek instead. Odlanier who?
BIGGEST LOSER II
Odlandier Solis: The former Cuban amateur star tore ligaments in his right knee as he fell to canvas against Klitschko, if reports are accurate. Things happen. Another report said that he has had problems with the knee in the past. That’s interesting but no reason for condemnation. Solis reportedly told the authorities in Germany about the past issues with the knee. He apparently believed it was strong enough to proceed with the fight. And the way he jumped around while loosening up beforehand and his movement during the first round gave no indication of what was to come. The most-cynical observers might wonder whether Solis was hiding a serious problem in light of his career-high payday. We have no evidence of that, though. We must give him the benefit of the doubt. In the end, it was probably just a tough break for Solis.
Live stream on Epix: The new premium network streamed the Klitschko-Solis fight live on its Web site, epixhd.com — but not without some drama. So many fans signed up for a free trial to watch the fight – more than 100,000, according to Epix — that the site became overloaded and crashed shortly before fight time. The network announced that technicians hoped – hoped! — to have it back up by the opening bell, which resulted in some nasty comments about Epix and some anxious moments from those who wondered whether they’d actually get to see the fight. Alas, techies did whatever it took to get the stream back up in time … only to be double crossed by Solis’ knee. It really wasn’t a good night for anyone. A replay of the “fight” is available here.
James Kirkland: I was ready to anoint the former junior middleweight contender the next superstar in boxing after his 34-second KO of Ahsandi Gibbs and the reaction of fans, many of whom compared him to a young Mike Tyson. Then, after Jhon Berrio landed a couple of hellacious shots that seemed to stun Kirkland in his second fight since resuming his career, I dialed myself back a little. Kirkland ended up stopping Berrio with what he said was a body shot in the second round but he clearly needs some work after his two-year hiatus from the sport. One, he’s working his way down from super middleweight to junior middleweight. He said he expects to weigh 158 when he fights next, on April 9. And, two, he has worked with new trainer Ken Adams for a short time. They’re working on defense, which is a good idea. Someone at ringside said, “Hey, the guy just got out of prison. Give him some time.” Fair enough.
BIGGEST WIPE OUT
Rigondeaux vs. Casey: Willie “Big Bang” Casey had become something of a sensation in his native Ireland, having won the European junior featherweight title in only his 11th fight. He had never seen anything like Guillermo Rigondeaux, though. And when he did on Saturday in Dublin … well, it wasn’t pretty. The two-time Olympic gold medal winner outclassed Casey, repeatedly landing hard body shots and then hurting him badly with an overhand left that sent him to the canvas. Casey got up but the fight was stopped as Rigondeaux was unloading a flurry of unanswered punches. The end came at 2:38 of the first round. Rigondeaux (8-0, 6 KOs) won an interim title, meaning an actual title shot is come soon. Casey shouldn’t be discouraged. His foe was 30 and had about a million amateur fights. He was just in over his head this time.
Roman Gonzalez’s future: The unbeaten little Nicaraguan successfully defended his WBA junior flyweight title on Saturday, easily outpointing Manuel Vargas in Mexico. Now it’s time to determine whether he can lure a big-name opponent into the ring so he can prove he’s one of the best fighters in the world pound for pound. And there are several of them. Rodel Mayol and Omar Nino are ranked Nos. 2 and 3 by the WBA (Wisanu Kokietgym is No. 1). A title-unification fight with either Gilberto Keb Baas or Luis Lazarate would be juicy. The matchup that would mean the most? A date with the winner of the April 2 Giovani Segura-Ivan Calderon rematch. Victories over any of the above would help Gonzalez take the next step in what is becoming a stellar career.
David Haye, to The Telegraph after the Klitschko-Solis fight: “Now that’s why you shouldn’t have excess body fat. A lean 30 year-old, healthy athlete shouldn’t have joints or ligament popping for no reason. Solis knew how to beat Vit, but years of obesity stopped him being able to execute. He will unfortunately go down as yet another fat bum.
Photos: Bute-Magee, Tom Casino / Showtime; Klitschko-Solis in Times Square, courtesy of Epix