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Bute looks to silence critics with victory over Grachev

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The Canadian Press
11/2/2012 4:36:27 PM
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MONTREAL -- Lucian Bute stepped off the scales at the weigh-in, said he's ready for his fight and left.

There wasn't much more for the former International Boxing Federation super-middleweight champion from Montreal to say about his bout against heavy-hitting Russian Denis Grachev on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

After being demolished in five rounds by Carl Froch in May, Bute wants to show the boxing world he is still a top-level fighter, and to show that he won't crumble when he's hit by a solid punch as he did that disastrous night in Sheffield, England.

It was a first loss for Bute (30-1) and cost him the IBF belt he had held since 2007.

It also cost about half the ticket sales he used to generate, as only about 8,000 are expected to turn out to see the southpaw take on an opponent of limited skill but maximum punching power in Grachev (12-0-1).

"Emotionally, people were affected by what happened in May," said Bute's promoter, Jean Bedard of InterBox. "Some said they were a little heart-broken, but I still think people will want to see the fight.

"They may watch it at home or in a commercial establishment, but I think people still want him to win."

They risk missing one of the most important bouts of Bute's career. A win would set up a rematch with Froch and a chance to regain the title, assuming the Englishman gets what should be a routine win in two weeks against Yusaf Mack.

But mostly, people want to see what will happen if Bute gets hit hard, including fight trainer and broadcaster Russ Anber.

"His back is against the wall on this one," Anber said. "It would be great if he gets hit, takes it, fires back and shows he's able to withstand that and shows there's no side effects from the loss.

"But for the overall performance, there's not a lot of margin for error in this. He can't afford a second loss in a row."

The 12-round bout is for Grachev's minor NABF light-heavyweight title. Since Bute is a super-middleweight, they agreed to a catchweight of 170 pounds. Both easily made weight, with Bute at 169 pounds and Grachev at 168.9.

Bute should be considered the favourite due to his experience, hand speed, devastating left uppercut. He will also have the hometown crowd on his side.

But Grachev is coming off an impressive win in April over highly regarded Ismayl Sillakh, when he got up from the canvas to score an eighth-round TKO.

The Russian has shown he can beat anyone if he lands a power shot to the right spot.

"He likes to walk in with the left hook and he's got a heavy and long right hand," Bute's trainer Stephan Larouche said of Grachev. "He's got good timing in and out.

"He's pressuring you without jumping at you. He wants you to lose your balance and make you pay for it. He's got a background in kick-boxing, so he's on his toes backward and forward. You would believe he's an automatic aggressive fighter, but he isn't. He fakes a lot. He makes you think."

New York matchmaker Don Majeski called Grachev "a one-dimensional fighter. He'll get knocked out or he'll knock you out. This is not going 12 rounds one way or the other."

Majeski gave Bute credit for both moving up slightly in weight and in taking on "the hardest puncher in the division" in order to silence his doubters.

Bute's loss left Canada without a world champion in any division. Jean Pascal of Laval, Que., who fights for rival promoter Groupe Yvon Michel, lost his WBC light heavyweight belt to Bernard Hopkins last year.

But Majeski said there are plenty of big bouts to come.

There is the chance of a Bute-Froch rematch in March, which may be twinned with a Pascal bout against a top opponent like Chad Dawson or Tavoris Cloud. Pascal is to announce his opponent for a Dec. 12 tune-up bout on Monday.

Adonis Stevenson of Longueuil, Que., has become mandatory super-middleweight challenger to Froch and should get a title fight some time in 2013. And welterweight Antonin Decarie has also moved into position for a title bout.

"It's going to be stronger next year than it's been in the last five because you've got all these great matches sitting out there," Majeski said. "We know that Lucian was a good fighter and now we'll find out if he's a great fighter."

Lucian Bute (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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