Who wins the battle of fragile psyches between Badou Jack and left-handed former titleholder Lucian Bute?
That was a looming question entering Saturday’s 168-pound clash at the DC Armory in Washington, D.C., where the champion Jack took on the veteran Bute, with each boxer being four fights removed from stoppage losses that threatened to send their careers into a tailspin.
Nicknamed “The Ripper,” the 32-year-old Jack seemed to do enough to win, but when the decision came down, one judge scored it 117-111 for the champ, while the other two had it 114-114.
Jack retained his crown with the draw to set up a title-unification showdown with fellow champion James DeGale later this year. In Saturday’s co-main event, DeGale won a hard-fought unanimous decision over Mexican challenger Rogelio Medina.
Despite securing the DeGale showdown and walking out of the ring with his title, Jack was none too pleased about not getting the outright victory.
“Bullshit,” he said when asked his opinion of the decision immediately after it was announced. “I feel I won the fight. Ask Bute as well, he knows what time it is.”
Many observers felt the same way as Jack, and the post-fight stats seem to back up the champion’s claim of victory. He outlanded Bute in overall punches 278-179, including 217-142 in power shots.
Not revealed in those stats was Jack’s dominance in terms of body shots, which seemed to suck the air out of Bute, especially early on.
A 36-year-old Romanian-born Canadian who was coming off a unanimous decision loss to DeGale, Bute lost the first three rounds on two cards. But he won the fourth round across the board by coming forward behind good head movement and finding the mark with left hands and crosses over the retreating Jack’s stiff jab.
Jack regrouped and was more disciplined during the middle stages of the fight, when he landed cleaner blows that included a head-swiveling, fifth-round left hook that forced a Bute clinch; a sixth-round left to the head to go with an even-handed head and body attack; and piercing uppercuts up the middle to close a hotly-contested seventh.
However, with the crowd chanting his last name, a reenergized Bute won each of the final four rounds on one card and four of the final five rounds on another. He got back in the contest by dictating and finding seams in Jack’s defense with a sustained attack up the middle despite a swollen right eye caused by an elbow from Jack in Round 3.
Bleeding from the mouth with 55 seconds left, Jack got a brief respite as his corner repaired tape on his right glove. But when the action resumed, Bute appeared to get the better of the action, opening a cut over Jack’s right eye in the final moments.
“It was a close fight. Believe me, it was a very close fight,” Bute said. “My last fight with DeGale was very close; tonight was a very close fight. I showed everyone I’m still at the top.”
After the contest, Jack admitted he was hurt by a final-round body shot, but was nonetheless convinced he had done more than enough to earn the decision.
“I may have given away a couple of rounds, maybe the last one or two rounds or so, but I won the fight clearly,” Jack said. “[Bute’s] a great guy and a great champion. It’s not Bute’s fault; it’s the judges. People saw I won the fight.”
Even Jack’s next opponent agreed with his upcoming adversary.
“It was a close fight, but Jack won it,” DeGale said. “Let’s do it. Let’s unify the division and see who the best is.”
For all things related to Jack vs Bute, visit our fight page.