Former 168-pound champion Lucian Bute ready to regain his throne with win over Badou Jack

Lucian Bute dictated a toe-to-toe clash with switch-hitting, 168-pound rival James DeGale in November, often pursuing the Englishman to the ropes and pounding away at his head and body.

Lucian Bute

Lucian Bute looks for an opening during his fourth-round TKO victory over Andrea Di Luisa in August. Bute will try to win a 168-pound world title for the second time Saturday when he battles Badou Jack. (Suzanne Teresa/Premier Boxing Champions)

A left-handed former champion fighting for a vacant title, Bute absorbed several 10th-round uppercuts and body shots from DeGale, but retaliated with heavy artillery in the 11th—so much so that DeGale ejected his own mouthpiece during the round.

That’s when Bute committed a cardinal sin: He paused, giving referee Marlon Wright an opening to step in, call timeout and allow DeGale to replace his mouthpiece.

“I didn’t realize I hurt DeGale when he spit out his mouthpiece. I stepped back and let them put it back in,” says Bute, whose subsequent body blow forced DeGale to the ropes for more punishment during an eventual unanimous decision loss. “I should’ve gone after him, but I let him get away.

“I’ve gone back and looked at the video of the fight and thought, ‘Wow, what a mistake.’ I blew a big opportunity to finish him off.”

Having learned a valuable lesson, Lucian Bute (32-3, 25 KOs) vows to maintain his focus throughout Saturday when he faces 168-pound champion Badou Jack (20-1, 12 KOs) at the DC Armory in Washington, D.C. (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).

Jack-Bute is the main event of a 168-pound championship doubleheader that also features DeGale (22-1, 14 KOs) making the third defense of his title against Rogelio Medina (36-6, 30 KOs). The winners of the two bouts are bound to square off in a title-unification clash down the road.

The 36-year-old Bute, who was born in Romania and lives in Canada, has split his past four fights. In succession, he won a unanimous decision over Denis Grachev in November 2012, lost a 175-pound decision to fellow Canadian and former titleholder Jean Pascal in January 2014, stopped Andrea Di Luisa in the fourth round in August and lost by unanimous decision to DeGale in November.

Despite the result against DeGale, Bute—who was a world champion from October 2007 until May 2012—is getting his second straight title opportunity against Jack. It’s not often that a fighter coming off a defeat gets an immediate shot to try to grab the brass ring, and that fact is not lost on Bute’s trainer.

“If Lucian had not looked so good in his last fight in defeat then he would not have gotten this title opportunity,” says Howard Grant, a Montreal-based trainer who is entering his third fight with Bute. “A lot of people were saying that this guy was done because he lost a couple of fights and he was off for two years.

“But we worked on his psychological warfare, his ability to keep the heat on DeGale to keep backing the guy up. At the end of the fight, everybody was surprised at how strong he finished and how energized he was.”

The 32-year-old Jack, who was born in Sweden and lives in Las Vegas, is four years younger than Bute, but the challenger is convinced experience will trump youth when the bell rings Saturday. He’s also convinced that Jack won't pose as tough a challenge as DeGale.

“I have big respect for Badou Jack. He’s a world champion and a good fighter,” says Bute, who made nine successful defenses of his 168-pound title before being stopped and dethroned by then-British champion Carl Froch in the seventh round in May 2012. “But in my opinion, DeGale is more flexible and put more punches together and is more creative.

“Badou Jack has a good right hand, but he doesn’t put as many punches together. That’s an advantage for me.”

A winner of four straight, Jack had a breakthrough 2015, first earning a majority decision to dethrone previously unbeaten Anthony Dirrell last April followed by a split-decision victory over England’s George Groves in September.

Although Dirrell is a switch-hitting, boxer-puncher, Jack has faced only one true southpaw in Grover Young, winning a six-round unanimous decision in March 2012. Jack’s lone blemish was by 61-second stoppage loss in February 2014 to Derek Edwards, who subsequently lost his next three contests. 

“I have more experience, more title fights and more speed, and I’m a southpaw,” Bute says in discussing his advantages over Jack. “I’m confident that my style will be a problem for him.

“I lost the DeGale fight in the first three rounds when I was a little bit hesitant and wasn’t letting my hands go. I will not make the same mistakes against Badou Jack.”

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