Everyone loves a comeback story. And in the world of boxing there’s no other platform where a comeback story truly shines.
Even some of the most controversial figures in the sport were able to gain the public’s sympathy because of a great comeback.
Look at Muhammad Ali. As loved as he was he had just as many haters and it wasn’t only because of his stance on the war (which eventually made him a political icon in American history) but because of his cocky attitude. His confidence and bravado just rubbed people the wrong way. But, people wanted to see the great Muhammad Ali again once he returned from exile. They wanted to see if he could be as great as he once was despite the absence. They wanted to see it against then current heavyweight champion of the world Joe Frazier and again with George Foreman.
Another example of a great comeback story is Mike Tyson, a man whose past is saturated with controversial actions and statements.
From throwing rocks at reporters and biting ears off in a match to racial, sexist and homophobic slurs, there was still an overwhelming amount of people who wanted to see Mikey Tyson take Lennox Lewis’ head off and return to his former ruthless and aggressive greatness. And when he retired after quitting in his final bout against a third-rated fighter in Kevin McBride in 2005, it was a sad day because it was the end of a once proud and dominant ruler of the sport.
The point really being here is that regardless of who is making the comeback, people want to be entertained. And there’s not a more entertaining story than a comeback story. Enter Lucian Bute who takes on Roberto Bolonti this coming December.
Now, Canada is known for hockey.
As a matter of fact, you can take any newscast or any news publication here in Canada, and at any given time of the year there will be a piece on hockey. If it’s not coverage on the regular season which is ridiculously overwhelming, then it’s the playoffs. When that’s finally over (which by the way can go into the summer) it’s a month of recapping the playoffs and the season itself. Then immediately after that, the media starts previewing the upcoming season, the new changes and then updates on injured players. Will this player return in time for the season? Will they still be the same? It’s some pretty mellow dramatic stuff like a bad episode of Dawson’s Creek or Beverly Hills 90201. And before you know it, its pre-season training and we’re back to the circus.
This land that I love is all about hockey. But the sport that I love, boxing gets no love here, at least not since the last golden era of heavyweight boxing which was in the 90’s. But, that started to change a bit around 2006-2007 when a group of fighters from the province of Quebec in Canada started making some noise. That group consisted of Adrian Diaconu, Jean Pascal, blue chipper David Lemieux and the man featured in this piece Lucian Bute.
His technical but free flowing power punching ways caught the attention of American fight fans and media which is necessary and non-negotiable if you want to truly make it in this industry. But, an even more impressive feat is that he gained attention right here in The Great White North - a country that’s all about ice, pucks and Zambonis.
He eventually made good when he won the IBF version of the super-middleweight championship in 2007. He made some very impressive title defences including the rematch against Librado Andrade with a knockout victory in the 4th round in 2009.
Being groomed to take part in super matches against Andre Ward and fellow countryman Jean Pascal, who by the way also struck championship gold at light-heavyweight, the sky was the limit as to the opportunities that laid ahead.
There was even outcry after the announcement of Showtime’s Super Six Boxing Classic tournament to determine true super-middleweight supremacy. How could they have a tournament to determine the best fighter at 168lbs without Bute? All this outrage despite that Bute had a contract with rival network HBO and wouldn’t even be legally allowed to participate if invited.
But something changed in him. His performances started to become lackluster. His brilliance became inconsistent. Opposition who were tough but significantly out of his league would take him deep into the fight and not let him showcase the skills that brought him to the dance.
Maybe he became complacent. Maybe he became disinterested. Either way, it was only a matter of time before this version of Lucian Bute would find trouble. And on May 26th 2012 he found it.
The popular Carl Froch annihilated Bute within less than five rounds. After a quite comeback victory he lost again in his second most significant fight of his career against Jean Pascal. What was billed as the biggest fight in Canadian boxing history ended up being a one-sided sparring session in favour of Pascal.
Bute seemed completely disinterested throughout the entire match-up. He was unwilling to engage, he was unwilling simply go for it. It wasn’t until the championship rounds, specifically the 12th round that the old Lucian Bute finally showed up. Showing the speed, the volume punching and the killer instinct that once made him a threat against anyone a division below or a division above as a super-middleweight.
It was a single solitary round against Pascal that showed the world that he still had what it takes to be what he should have become… a full-fledged boxing superstar.
This December 6th, he takes on Roberto Bolonti. A capable fighter that is dangerous enough to give him fits but not nearly dangerous enough to beat the Bute we once knew.
The X-Factor in this fight however is that he’s now taken on legendary trainer and hall of fame member Freddie Roach as the number one man in his corner. As we all know Freddie has been known for his teaching ability (specifically with Manny Pacquiao) his fight predictions but most recently he’s known for resurrecting careers. Most notably, he’s helped the lineal middleweight champion Miguel Cotto get his groove back.
What made Miguel Cotto so special when he first debut on the boxing scene as a Jr. welterweight, was his methodical stalking style that was only enhanced by his vicious left hooks.
In recent years, Miguel Cotto had fallen in love with his boxing skills. Abandoning his natural come forward style has worked against him in many career defining fights. But, Freddie was able to get Cotto’s head right and get him back to what brought him to the dance.
Will he be able to do it for Lucian Bute? We won’t know for sure until he takes on an opponent deemed suitable by the public. But with Bolonti we may get an indication if Freddie’s influence is working. And regardless what happens in the fight December 6th, for now any real boxing fan is willing to sit down and watch how this comeback story ends.