Former IBF super middleweight titleholder Lucian Bute withstood a very game – and often effective – effort from Denis Grachev to earn a hard-fought unanimous decision over the 9-to-1 underdog in his adopted hometown of Montreal on Saturday.
Bute (31-1, 24 knockouts), who rebounded from a one-sided fifth-round TKO loss to Carl Froch in May, won by scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 118-110. The 115-113 and 116-112 scores were far more indicative of the what happened during the 12-round light heavyweight bout than the 118-110 card.
Bute, who lost his IBF title to Froch as well as much of his reputation, was in a competitive fight with the hardnosed former kick boxer from Russia who is now based in San Diego, Calif.
Bute, a skilled and athletically gifted southpaw, was in control when the fight was contested from a distance. The 32-year-old Romanian scored well with his jab and uppercuts as he maneuvered about the ring. However, Grachev (12-1-1, 8 KOs) was tenacious. The 30-year-old Russian continued to press Bute until he got the crowd favorite against the ropes during the middle rounds.
Grachev appeared to get the better of Bute whenever the 32-year-old veteran’s back was on the ropes. The two went tit-for-tat in the late rounds of the bout. Bute scored with cleaner punches from a distance and on the fly, but Grachev nailed him with right hands whenever he backed straight up or was cornered.
With the fight seemingly in question, Bute rallied hard in the final round, landing flush one-two combinations and dozens of power punches to the defiant Grachev’s granite jaw.
The victory kept alive a contracted rematch with Froch, who faces Yusaf Mack on Nov. 17. Unless Froch struggles mightily with Mack, Bute, who was favored to beat the Englishman in May, will probably be the underdog going into the second match.