Although Lucian Bute didn't take part in the super-middleweight Super Six Tournament he was still probably considered the best in the weight class.
Andre Ward went on to defeat Carl Froch in the final of that tournament last December in Atlantic City, New Jersey. But all speculation regarding Bute being the best in the division changed this May in Nottingham, Froch's home city, when Froch fought and destroyed Bute inside six rounds by KO.
This was a major upset and the talk was that Bute's previously undefeated record of 30-0 with 24 KO's wasn't against decent competition. He fought and defeated champions like Glen Johnson and William Joppy who were past their best.
So Bute had to get back into the swing of things.
His comeback opponent was 30-year-old, American-based Russian Denis Grachev who was 12-0 with 8 KO's and one draw. He was a former kickboxing world champion and Bute moved up in weight to light heavyweight although they fought at a catch weight of 170lbs making the bigger man, Grachev, boil down.
I thought Bute got hit by too many rights to the head and gave away a few rounds.
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Grachev began his boxing career around super-middleweight but had more or less campaigned at light-heavyweight. The heaviest weight he had fought at was 185lbs whereas Bute hadn't fought above 175lbs.
With only 13 fights, Grachev didn't really have much ring experience but he did upset Ismayl Sillakh beating him by TKO 8 in April to win the NABF belt that was on the line in the Bute fight this past weekend.
Bute could have come back with a fight against a top 20 super-middleweight or a former champion but I think he was looking for a safe, quick win against a non-puncher.
Grachev was game and stretched Bute, who was cut over his left eye as early as the first round, but he didn't seem desperate to finish the fight. Instead of rushing forward, Bute started picking his punches better and moved his upper body, slipping shots. His left uppercuts were now landing at will. Grachev had some success landing shots and won a few rounds.
I thought Bute got hit by too many rights to the head and gave away a few rounds. He tried to push forward but Grachev put a stop to that, forcing Bute into a brawl on some occasions not giving up any ground and also hitting Bute with body shots. If Grachev was a bigger puncher it might have had a different effect on Bute when he got hit but he didn't have that type of power.
Bute was in control and was never going to lose. He picked his shots nicely as the rounds went on and it looked like his confidence was coming back after his first loss to Froch. He was able to avoid a lot of his opponent's punches and counter with left uppercuts to the body and head.
The unanimous scores of 118-110, 115-113 and 116-112 gave Bute the win and the NABF belt.
Grachev did get some of the close rounds on the cards. This was hardly a test for Bute although he did go the full 12 rounds. He covers up too much and spent too much time on the ropes.
Bute wants a rematch with Froch next year if Froch gets past Yusaf Mack in November 17. Their fight has already been scheduled for March 16 or 23 in Quebec, Canada.
Did this win send a message that Bute is back? Probably not as Grachev is practically unknown in the boxing world. But Bute did put on a good, solid display against an opponent who came to win but Grachev was far from a likeness of Froch.
Froch v Bute 2 will be interesting. It could be a KO win again for Froch but a win for Bute will set up a trilogy. After this performance against an average fighter you would have to assume that Froch will win again. I'm sure Froch won't be losing any sleep after watching Bute win this fight.