Much was made of the many rounds Lucian Bute and Glen Johnson had sparred in recent years prior to their showdown in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, on Saturday.
The hunch here is that those sparring sessions were more entertaining than the tedious 12-round super middleweight bout that Bute dominated.
The IBF titleholder so thoroughly out-boxed and out-hustled Johnson — winning by scores of 120-108 (twice) and 119-109 — that the bout was void of any of the competition and action that it promised.
On paper, Johnson was the toughest opponent of Bute’s career. The former light heavyweight champ has only lost to the best fighters in the sport since earning Fighter of the Year honors back in 2004. Win, lose or draw, the 42-year-old veteran almost always gives his opponents hell.
Bute (30-0, 24 knockouts) is one of the very few fighters — along with Bernard Hopkins, the only man to stop Johnson way back in 1997; and Chad Dawson in their rematch — who can say that he dominated the grizzled Miami-based Jamaican.
It would be easy to say that Johnson (51-16-2, 35 KOs), two months away from his 43rd birthday, 18 years into his pro career, with 476 rounds under his belt, has finally gotten “old.”
But that’s probably not true and it’s not giving Bute his due. The 31-year-old Romanian controlled the distance and tempo of the fight with his jab and footwork in the early rounds of the bout.
Bute, who resides in Quebec where he is a bona-fide attraction, gave the fans who packed the Pepsi Coliseum something to cheer about by taking the fight to Johnson over the second half of the bout. The tall, rangy and athletically gifted southpaw landed three- and four-punch combinations, punctuated by left crosses, right hooks and uppercuts, that backed normally aggressive pressure fighter to the ropes.
Bute never appeared to seriously hurt Johnson, who made a tactical error by not pressuring Bute from the onset of the Showtime-televised bout, but the undefeated beltholder made it crystal clear in every round that he was the superior boxer.
Although Johnson was ineffective trying to jab and counter punch his way to victory, the one-sided nature of his loss shouldn’t tarnish his hard-earned reputation.
Only two super middleweights can claim to be in Bute’s class, THE RING’s top two-rated 168 pounders — Andre Ward and Carl Froch — who face each other in the finals of Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament on Dec. 17 in Atlantic City.
In a perfect world, the winner of Ward-Froch should be considered “the man” at super middleweight. However, while winner of that anticipated match will unify two major 168-pound belts and earn THE RING’s vacant super middleweight titles, he won’t be able to call himself the “undisputed champ” until he faces Bute.
Bute is well aware of this.
“I will be there,” the Montreal resident said when the Super Six finals was brought up during his post-fight interview.
When asked if he wanted to face the winner he said what fight fans everywhere, not just in Quebec, wanted to hear.
“Of course, it’s my dream.”