THERE was once a time when Lucian Bute was considered one of the most feared super-middleweights on the planet.
For whatever reason, he was not included in Showtime’s Super Six series which ran from 2009 to 2011 and pitted the likes of Mikkel Kessler, Andre Ward and Carl Froch against each other to determine who the top fighter at 168lbs was.
In 2012, he was finally able to face one of his division’s top competitors when he travelled to Nottingham to fight hometown hero Carl Froch.
After four and a half savage rounds, Bute had suffered his first professional loss (and his IBF world title) and his reputation had been shattered.
Since then, he has only fought twice, both times at light-heavyweight – an unconvincing points win over Denis Grachev in 2012 followed by a defeat to Canadian rival Jean Pascal (both moved to Canada after being born in Romania and Haiti respectively) in January 2014.
On Saturday [August 15], Bute will return to the ring for the first time since that loss to Pascal when he takes on Italy’s Andrea Di Luisa at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada.
The 19-month layoff was mainly down to a back injury Bute suffered last year and having now signed with influential adviser Al Haymon, the 35-year-old will be hoping to scale the heights of the light-heavyweight division.
He said: “In the last few years, I had health problems that affected my performances. What I can say now is that I’m fully healthy. I did almost 100 rounds of sparring for this fight. I am back!”
The rangy southpaw won his IBF 168lb strap in 2007 when he stopped Alejandro Berrio in 11 rounds and went on to defend it nine times before he ran into Froch.
Wins over the tough Sakio Bika, Edison Miranda and Glen Johnson helped Bute become a star in his home country at a time when Canadian boxing was waning.
With the likes of David Lemieux, Adonis Stevenson and Pascal all creating a buzz in the country, Bute now has the chance to re-enter the fray.
Di Luisa should not provide much of a test for Bute. The 33-year-old last fought in December 2014 when he won the European super-middleweight title at the third try, stopping the unheralded Roberto Cocco in 11.
Bute will be a significant step up in class for the Italian, whose two career losses have both come early. In 2011, Mouhamed Ali Ndiaye dropped him four times before stopping him in the 12th and final round of their vacant European title fight.
The following year, and fighting for the same belt, Di Luisa retired after seven rounds with the tough but relatively light-punching Christopher Rebrasse.
After making his debut in 2008, Di Luisa has only ever fought in his home country but with 13 of his 17 wins coming early, he does carry a fair bit of power.
The pair did meet as amateurs, with Bute prevailing, but Di Luisa insists it will be revenge, not repeat, on Saturday night.
“This bout is a rematch of an amateur fight we had 15 years ago. This is different this time because Bute is now a former world champion and a well know name in the sport. Make no mistake, I am here to fight,” he said.
Bute however will be looking to make a statement and should have far too much for his adversary. With adept footwork and a mean left hook to the body, Bute should be able to outwork Di Luisa and force a stoppage sometime after the midway point of the fight.
Unbeaten light-heavyweight contender Eleider Alvarez also features on the Premier Boxing Champions show, fighting Argentina-based Paraguayan Isidro Ranoni Prieto over 12 rounds.
Ranked highly by the WBC, Alavarez will be defending their Silver title as he looks to move into a
mandatory challenger position for Adonis Stevenson’s world title.
TALE OF THE TAPE:
DOB/AGE-Feb 28, 1980/35
HOMETOWN– Laval, Quebec, Canada
HEIGHT– 6ft 1.5ins
RECORD– 31-2 (24)
DEBUT/AGE– Nov 22, 2003/23
KO PERCENTAGE– 73
ANDREA DI LUISA
DOB/AGE– May 13, 1982/33
HOMETOWN– Viterbo, Lazio, Italy
HEIGHT– 5ft 11.5ins
RECORD– 33-6 (7)
DEBUT/AGE– Oct 30, 2008/26
KO PERCENTAGE– 68