Lucian Bute had never experienced anything like it before in the ring.
He had scarcely lost a round during his perfect 30-fight career as he steamrolled his way to a 168-pound world championship. But there was Bute in Nottingham, England, on May 26, 2012, cornered and absorbing more than a dozen unanswered blows, his head teetering like that of a bobblehead doll as he was battered and bloodied by British dynamo Carl Froch.
Froch seized Bute’s title with a fifth-round technical knockout, leaving the Romanian native wondering exactly what happened.
“I lost a little bit of confidence,” Bute said. “My loss to Carl Froch was difficult to take.”
Bute had defended his world title nine times before losing to Froch. Since then, the southpaw has split a pair of bouts, winning a unanimous decision over Denis Grachev in November 2012 before losing a decision to fellow Canadian transplant Jean Pascal in January 2014.
Lucian Bute (31-2, 24 KOs) will end an 19-month ring absence Saturday night against Italian contender Andrea Di Luisa (17-2, 13 KOs) at the Bell Centre in Montreal in a bout airing live on NBC Sports Network (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
“I’m back,” Bute said. “I want to perform like I did before [the Froch] fight."
At Friday’s weigh-in for their 171-pound catchweight bout, Bute hit the scale at 170 pounds and Di Luisa was 169.6. For the 175-pound co-main event, unbeaten Colombian Eleider Alvarez weighed in at 174.2, while Paraguayan slugger Isidro Ranoni Prieto came in at 174.4.
Bute, 35, was working with trainer Stéphan Larouche when he lost to Froch, but he has trained since then with Howard Grant, who runs Grant Brothers Boxing in Montreal along with his brother, former 160-pound champion Otis Grant.
“Lucian’s confidence is back up where it was when he was a mean counterpuncher,” Howard Grant said. “He's throwing six- and seven-punch combinations, and working the jab. If he’s half as good in the ring as he’s been in the gym, we’re won't have any problems.”
Bute said he lacked confidence and “hesitated with my punches” in his last two fights.
“Lucian used to throw 100 punches a round, sparring or fighting. We'd have to ask him, ‘Please don’t hurt sparring partners on the first day or they’ll go home,’” said Larouche, who maintains an amicable relationship with Bute. “But he was unable to get his rhythm going after Froch. He was getting hit with punches that he didn’t use to. That was the major issue we were facing.”
Howard Grant said he was able to make the adjustments needed in Bute’s game simply by not pulling any punches during training camp.
“Lucian needs to really be pushed and hear it straight," Grant said. “Like, ‘You’ve got to work off the jab, you’ve got to throw the right hand and you’ve got to go to the body.’ These things may not have been elaborated on against Grachev and Pascal.”
Bute said he feels reborn heading into this fight.
“With the new team, the confidence is back,” he said. “That guy you saw before Froch is back and ready to be meaner again with my opponents.”
For complete coverage of Bute vs Di Luisa, visit our fight page.