Badou Jack and Lucian Bute share an unpleasant commonality entering Saturday’s 168-pound championship clash: Each man is four fights removed from a devastating, almost career-derailing knockout loss.
But both boxers claim to have conquered their demons of defeat ahead of their showdown at DC Armory in Washington, D.C., where Badou Jack (20-1-1, 12 KOs) will make the second defense of his title and pursue his fifth straight victory against former champion Lucian Bute (32-3, 25 KOs).
Jack-Bute is the main event of a 168-pound championship doubleheader (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT). In the other match, switch-hitting titleholder James DeGale (22-1, 14 KOs), a 2008 Olympic gold medalist from England, making his third defense against Rogelio Medina (36-6, 30 KOs) of Mexico, who has knocked out four straight opponents.
The winners are slated to meet in a title unification bout later this year.
“I know Lucian Bute’s going to come at me hard thinking that this is probably his last [title] shot—and, of course, he’s going to come to win,” says Jack, who weighed in Friday at 167.4 pounds, compared with 167 flat for Bute. “But this is my title at stake, and I want to retain it, because I’ve fought hard to get back to where I am.”
Jack, who was born in Sweden and lives in Las Vegas, was rocketing toward title contention and coming off a sixth-round knockout of Medina in December 2013 before suffering a stunning 61-second loss to Derek Edwards in February 2014.
“The Ripper” hit the canvas after walking into Edwards’ overhand right to the temple 32 seconds into the fight. Another Edwards right to nearly the same spot dropped Jack face-first. He made it to his feet again, only to see referee Charlie Fitch wave an end to the contest.
“In boxing, anything can happen, and it can happen fast,” says Jack, who is promoted by Floyd Mayweather Jr. and trained by former 175-pound champion Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. “[After the fight], Floyd Mayweather took me aside and had a long talk with me. He told me that I got caught with a lucky punch. He said that can happen to anybody and that he knew I was better than the other guy.”
“ I’ve prepared for Lucian Bute as if he’s my toughest opponent so far. ” Badou Jack
Jack rebounded with successive wins later in 2014 over Jason Escalera (unanimous decision) and Francisco Sierra (sixth-round TKO) before rising to the challenge against Anthony Dirrell, dethroning the undefeated champ by majority decision on April 24, 2015.
The 32-year-old looked even more confident in his first defense in September, scoring a first-round knockdown during a split-decision win over England’s two-time title challenger, George Groves—the only man to defeat DeGale.
“I’ve proven myself in my last two fights, even though there are still people who doubt me,” Jack says. “I’ve prepared for Lucian Bute as if he’s my toughest opponent so far, and I think that his style and my style will match perfectly.”
While Jack is unbeaten since losing to Edwards, Bute has split four fights since being hammered into submission during a 168-pound title unification bout against England’s Carl Froch in May 2012.
Bute had made nine defenses of his 168-pound title, seven by knockout, and had scarcely lost a round during a perfect 30-fight run before meeting Froch, who cornered and blasted the Romanian-born Canadian with more than a dozen unanswered blows that swiveled his head and left him bloodied and beaten.
After splitting his next couple of fights, Bute switched trainers, hiring Howard Grant and his brother, former champion Otis Grant. In their first fight together in August, Bute stopped Italy’s Andrea Di Luisa in the fourth round. The southpaw then gave DeGale all he could handle in November, losing a unanimous decision in a fight for a vacant title.
“My loss to Carl Froch was very difficult to take, and before the fight with James DeGale, my confidence was not 100 percent,” Bute says. “But after that fight, I’m back to feeling very strong, and here in Montreal, the people are behind me again.”
Although the younger Jack will enter the ring as the favorite, the 36-year-old Bute is confident he’s got enough left in the tank to once again be a world champion.
“I can still compete with the best fighters at the highest levels,” he says. “I believe in myself again, and I think that my speed, my experience and my southpaw style makes me the toughest opponent of Badou Jack’s career.”
Says Jack: “Bute’s beaten better fighters than anyone I’ve faced, but … I’m very comfortable with our game plan and the fact that I’m going to beat him. I’ve got to bring my A-game, but we’ve got something for him.”
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