By Michael Norby: Excellent super middleweight contender Lucian Bute paved his way to a world title shot, Friday night, with a hard fought but convincing 12 round decision over Cameroon’s Sakio Bika, at the Bell Center, Montreal, Canada.
Fighting in his adopted hometown, the unbeaten Romanian southpaw proved too skilled for the hardy challenge of Bika and enjoyed the benefits of his blinding speed throughout the fight - blasting his way to victory in this IBF title eliminator.
Despite his best efforts, Bika 22-3 (14 KOs), a dogged and gritty fighter who is most famous for his constant 12 round harassment of division supremo Joe Calzaghe last year, struggled to find an answer to the swift and accurate punching of Bute.
Therefore, the young Romanian spent much of the fight peppering the Sydney, Australia-based former title contender with a fine display of powerful and deliberate boxing whilst, at the same time neutralizing the hard boiled pressure attack that has become Bika’s trademark.
In the first round Bute 20-0 (16 KOs) used his reach advantage perfectly by keeping Bika on the outside, allowing him to control the early action with his jab. Midway through, a charging Bika, throwing wide looping shots, speared Bute with his head – a tactic, intentional or not, which surely made the young Romanian anxious.
Bute continued to box cleverly in the second round, determined to prevent the clumsy and awkward Bika from plying his trade on the inside. Doubling up with his jab and shooting the occasional hard left hand, combined with his excellent defense to make this a frustratingly tactical fight for the rugged Cameroon native.
It was Bika’s jab that was the telling punch in the early portion of the third round and he constantly shot it in the dial of the Romanian. Gamely searching for the right hand to compliment this success, Bika managed to outwork Bute in stages and landed with the cleaner punches throughout the action.
The African continued to close the distance in the fourth round and he was turning this into the messy, elbow grease demanding fight that Bute did not want. Both men had success on the inside in a competitive round and it was a headbutt, this time landed by Bute that may have swung the balance of power. Clearly troubled by the clash, Bika motioned to the referee in disapproval and then backed against the ropes, allowing Bute to score with a potentially round-winning combination.
Bika landed his best punches of the fight in the fifth as both men traded on the inside. A counter right hand, followed closely by a stinging right uppercut gave Bute something to think about as Bika began to take charge of the round. Bute fought back well, most notably against the ropes at the end, but Bika barged his way back to the center of the ring as the bell rang, stalling the momentum that the young contender had mustered up.
The hometown fighter emerged with renewed purpose and vigor for the sixth round. He shot his jab and supported it with hard left hands as the southpaw looked to regain control by keeping his adversary at distance. Bika tried to force his way through but was met with deterrents this time – most notably by a short, hard left hand with a few seconds left that certainly got Bika’s attention.
Bute showed that he could adjust and turn the tide of a competitive fight by out boxing the former two-time world title challenger from then on. He landed beautiful, hard combinations in the second half of this fight changing round, stunning Bika against the ropes with fast hands and punching through the wide, reaching shots that came back his way.
Bika showed his undeniable grit in the eighth and ninth rounds, as he walked through Bute’s punches in search of a round or fight ending right hand. He landed occasionally with his left hook which found its spot due to the lowered right hand of Bute, but the Romanian was clearly still the cleaner and more accurate puncher.
As the fight entered the tenth round Bika, perhaps in anticipation of a little home cooking in the event of a close fight, headhunted with gusto. Another headbutt from Bute, however, had Bika in trouble and again he parked his rear on the second rope and allowed his opponent to tee off. Bika continued to press forward shortly thereafter but Bute continued to pick him apart.
In desperation, Bika resorted to gutter tactics as he purposely butted Bute in full view of referee Marlon B. Wright, who promptly deducted one point as the bout began to get out of the Cameroon fighter’s reach.
A massive straight right hand rocked Bika early in the eleventh round and Bute forced him to the ropes on two occasions – letting loose with lightening fast combinations in a spirited attempt to finish things off.
Although unsuccessful in stopping his opponent, Bute certainly punched the fight out of Bika. Apart from the occasional lightly toasted right hand, the former Cameroon Olympian dropped to first gear in the twelfth and final round, allowing Bute to coast through to the final bell of the finest victory of his professional career.
Bute, in 20 fights, has progressed from one-to-watch, to talented prospect, to promising contender. The only obstacle to his ascending to the next level is exciting, power punching IBF champion, Alejandro Berrio – a clash that we should be treated to this fall.
Scores: 116-111; 118-109; 118-109
Canadian junior lightweight prospect Benoit Gaudet needed only three rounds of a scheduled eight to dispose of awkward looking Argentine Juan Carlos Pastrana in a truly one sided affair.
The gap in class was evident from the outset with Gaudet easily finding his target with stinging combinations, almost at will – making this more a showcase of Gaudet’s punching capabilities than a competitive fight.
Apart from a couple of half cooked right hands in the second round, Pastrana failed to land with anything telling, and made for a perfect opponent for the speedy, smart and accurate Canadian.
In the third round, a stiff right hand buzzed Pastrana and left him open for a Gaudet left hook that dumped the Argentine onto the canvas. Although he beat the count, Pastrana never recovered and Gaudet made sure of the early shower as he followed up beautifully against the ropes, forcing referee Michael Griffin to stop the fight.
Gaudet’s professional record improves to 13-1 (7 KOs) whilst Pastrana falls to 7-2-1 (3 KOs).
Time of stoppage - 1:53 RD3