Lucian Bute (right) says his many tough sparring sessions with Glen Johnson, who he fights on Saturday, helped him regain his confidence after a nearly disastrous fight with Librado Andrade (left) in 2008. Bute, who prepared for his second bout with Andrade by sparring only with his friend Johnson, dominated and stopped the rugged Mexican in their 2009 rematch.
It’s fitting that Glen Johnson has started going by the “Gentleman” moniker once again, because he’s been the best friend Lucian Bute could ever ask for.
When Bute needed a sparring partner while training in Miami in 2009, Johnson was happy to strap on the headgear and give him work. Bute was training for a rematch with tough pressure fighter Librado Andrade, and Johnson fit the bill. It also just so happened that Johnson was training for a slick lefty in the spirit of Bute named Chad Dawson. It fit perfectly.
Two years later, Bute was set to face Mikkel Kessler on Showtime before the deal fell through, and the IBF super middleweight titleholder was left with a to-be sold out arena in Quebec City, but no opponent.
As usual, his pal was there for him, and the two will face off this Saturday on Showtime.
“We both know we will continue our friendship outside the ring no matter what happens on Saturday night,” Bute (29-0, 24 knockouts) told RingTV.com. “We are professionals and we box for a living. We both know how important this fight is for our careers.”
Call it friends with benefits.
While he has plenty of confidence fighting on home soil, he remains humble despite being a 7-1 favorite in the eyes of some oddsmakers. Due to his time in the gym with Johnson (51-15-2, 35 KOs), Bute is insistent that he’s in for a tough fight. After all, it was his Saturday opponent who helped him get his confidence back in the first place.
“Back then I was younger, and my confidence was a bit shaken due to the final round of the first Andrade fight,” admits Bute. “But looking back now, working with Glen day in, day out was the best thing that could have happened to me. After the first day his team let go every other sparring partner and so did my coach, Stephan (Larouche). It was just him and me. Sometimes he won a day or two, but I like to think I won the rest!”
Bute must have learned something, because he went on to destroy Andrade in a rematch televised by HBO, before rattling off four more victories, all by stoppage.
After nearly folding Jesse Brinkley in half with body shots in October of 2010, Showtime decided it needed to address one of the main criticisms the network had heard for the previous year.
Why wasn’t Lucian Bute, the IBF titlist at 168 pounds, in the Super Six World Boxing Classic?
Showtime signed Bute to a multi-fight deal, keeping the champion fighting on the network as he waits for the conclusion of the tournament in December.
“It has been a long tournament, but what can I do?” said Bute. “I have to keep myself motivated and in shape. Trust me when I say I have been preparing for all six of these boxers my last four camps.”
One of those fighters is Johnson, who entered the tournament late, but earned a semi-final berth with a knockout win over Allan Green. Despite a strong showing, he came up short against Carl Froch in June. Froch now faces Andre Ward in December to decide the winner of the Super Six, and ostensibly the right to face Bute.
The Romanian-Canadian received a U.S.-entry visa in 2008, so he certainly has no prejudice against his American neighbours. He says he still wishes to fight in California, New Jersey and New York before his career ends. But it’s the Briton, Froch, whom he would prefer to face.
The two titlists have been in talks to fight before. As one of two barn owners in one of boxing’s most fertile and profitable areas, it’s the only time Bute’s promoter, Jean Bedard and InterBox, have received an offer to fight outside of Quebec.
“You know, Froch is the only fighter who gave my promoter Jean Bedard and InterBox a very decent offer to go to Nottingham in 2008. It was me who decided I needed to avenge that 12th round versus Andrade, so our careers went different directions,” said Bute, quashing rumours of “ducking” on either side.
Bute’s courteous and mannerly behaviour lends further credence to his friendship with “Gentleman” Glen. Much like Johnson, he is willing to fight anyone at 168 pounds, but is ready for a move north to 175 pounds as well, where an all-French Canadian showdown with Jean Pascal has long been building.
“It is no lie that I changed physical conditioning experts to build some mass in my shoulders and chest. My trainers have been transforming my body to adapt well to the light heavyweight division since 2010, but I am not moving up until I clean house at 168. I love the weight, I love the boxers in this division and I want to beat them all,” said Bute.
As he deals with television contracts and upper-echelon fighters, Bute may be forced to fight outside of Quebec if he is victorious this weekend. A bout with Ward or Froch could mean leaving home, depending on how the promotion unfolds.
Thankfully, hanging out with “The Road Warrior” has taught him one other thing.
“I’m ready to travel anywhere!”
Photo / Mike Green hill-Fightwireimages.com
Follow Corey Erdman on Twitter @corey_erdman