'Nothing can stop me', Bute says of Bell Centre battle with Pascal
By Herb Zurkowsky, THE GAZETTE
Montreal boxer Lucian Bute hits the speed bag during a public training session at Complexe Desjardins on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. Bute is slated to face Jean Pascal in a 12-round bout for the North American Boxing Federation light-heavyweight title on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
Photograph by: Dario Ayala, The Gazette
MONTREAL — The hand, Lucian Bute insisted, won’t be an issue. Nor will history enter into the equation.
Bute was riding high until May 2012, when he relinquished his International Boxing Federation super-middleweight title, getting destroyed in the process by Carl Froch in Nottingham, England. Bute was pummelled over five rounds before being stopped, suffering the first defeat of his career.
Sometimes, after a fighter absorbs a beating, he’s never the same. And Bute hardly looked convincing, in November 2012, against Denis Grachev. Bute won a unanimous 12-round decision, but appeared timid and tentative. He caught some big punches and hasn’t fought since. That was 14 months ago.
“He’s happy. Did you see his smile? He’s comfortable and has no weight issues. It has been a nice training camp with no injuries. We’re exactly where we wanted to be at this time,” Bute’s long-time trainer, Stťphan Larouche, said after a public training session on Monday afternoon at Complexe Desjardins.
“He’s happy, OK. He wouldn’t be there and wouldn’t do it if he didn’t feel that way now.”
Bute returns to the ring — finally — this Saturday night at the Bell Centre, meeting another local former world champion, Jean Pascal of Laval, in a 12-round bout for the North American Boxing Federation light-heavyweight title.
The match will be televised in the United States by the HBO specialty network and should attract a crowd of at least 21,000. The two were supposed to meet last May, but Bute had bone fragments removed from his left hand.
Instead, Bute was inactive all of 2013. He’s also slightly more than a month away from his 34th birthday. Nonetheless, he claimed age and inactivity haven’t eroded his skills. He said never has he worked so hard preparing for a bout.
“I feel good. I feel great. Saturday night will be a special night for me, a special fight,” Bute, a southpaw, said in fractured English during the two minutes in which anglophone journalists were allowed to address him.
When he’s asked about Froch, Bute has no language issues. “It’s in the past,” he said, stating nothing more.
“I feel great, 100 per cent with both hands,” he adds, later. “I’m staying focused for my fight, my strategy. There’s nothing to stop me. Nothing! I’m very confident. I’m very strong. I’ll be the winner.”
At his best, Bute (31-1 with 24 knockouts) remains a good body puncher and is sound technically. He has good footwork and is adept at landing combinations, especially a left uppercut. But he was exploited by Froch, with Bute making the mistake of attempting to slug and mix against his opponent. Quite simply, Bute didn’t respond to the pressure and had no answer for Froch’s assault.
Coincidentally, Pascal employs some similar tactics, although he’s not nearly as proficient as Froch. Pascal is a natural 175-pounder, while Bute achieved his success and stardom at 168. That means Pascal will be bigger and physically stronger.
“We knew it from the beginning,” Larouche said. “We have to fight according to that when it comes to certain movements and certain points ... a certain distance. You have to pay attention to it. If you start to brawl and clinch with a guy who’s 10 pounds heavier and physically stronger, you’re going to spend stupid energy.”
It’s probably no coincidence that Bute and his team purposely altered their training regimen, electing to remain in frigid Montreal while avoiding the heat and comfortable conditions of southern Florida, usually their norm.
“It takes courage to get up in the morning,” Larouche explained. “How much do you want it when you have to drive your car, freeze your ass and walk to the gym. We did it.
“We went back to the basics and fundamentals. The main thing is, don’t think. A fighter who thinks in the ring is a dead fighter. Let it go. Don’t try to be good. Let your hands talk. He regrouped himself. Time helped us.”
Pascal (28-2-1 with 17 KOs) hasn’t exactly been overly active himself since losing his World Boxing Council light-heavyweight crown to the ageless Bernard Hopkins in May 2011 — having fought once in December 2012, and not again until last September.
Nonetheless, Pascal remains bold, cocky and confident. He stated he’ll end Bute’s career, recently claiming he remains the division’s “cash cow” although he clearly has been usurped by Adonis Stevenson, among others.
Bute, for his part, has remained calm and courteous — almost to a fault. Other than stating the obvious — Pascal, a showman, has a big mouth — Bute’s only critique of his opponent is that he’s active only one minute per round.
“I don’t pay attention to what my opponent says. I don’t even read the papers,” Bute told francophone journalists. “I just stay focused. Nothing, nothing, nothing can stop me. Believe me, I am confident.”
Later, Bute added this in English: “He won’t stop me. He won’t come to retire me. He said the same thing about Hopkins.”
There is, of course, one way to stop one with bombast — punch him in the mouth.
“Of course,” Bute said with a broad smile.
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