According to RingTV.com's Lem Satterfield, former IBF super-middleweight champion Lucian Bute, who had been training for his November 3 fight against Denis Grachev in Florida, has returned to Montreal and is exuding confidence.
While it would be tempting for Bute (30-1, 24 KO) to look past Grachev (12-0-1, 8 KO), as a rematch with three-time super-middleweight champion Carl Froch looms, Bute insists that he is solely focused on Grachev, who stunningly stopped light-heavyweight prospect Ismayl Sillakh in eight rounds in his last fight:
"The only thing on my mind is my fight on November 3rd. My last fight left a bad taste in my mouth and I look forward to continuing my rise to the top with the support of all my fans at the Bell Center."
After travelling to Froch's hometown of Nottingham in a move that should be applauded, Bute was routed by the former Super Six finalist in five lopsided rounds. Unfortunately for Bute, his loss to Froch gave cynics and his critics more ammunition to suggest that he had been a protected champion who had not fought anyone of consequence.
In Grachev, Bute is facing a former kickboxer and MMA fighter whose participation in other combat sports somewhat offsets his limited background in professional prizefighting. That said, the persistent and powerful Grachev was able to stop the more skilled Sillakh, despite the fact that Grachev was losing and had been down in the third round.
Whether it was Sillakh's lack of a finisher's instinct or mere underestimation, Bute will want to make sure that he leaves nothing to chance against Grachev. While Bute will carry natural advantages in speed, skill and technique into the fight against Grachev, there are a few reasons to be concerned.
Given how Bute was bullied and brutalized against Froch (29-2, 21 KO), facing a strong opponent with as much dogged determination as Grachev possesses could lead to a taxing fight. While Grachev is somewhat erratic, Bute will have to be constantly vigilant, and one wonders if the fact that he was stopped by Froch will affect his psyche against an opponent coming off of an upset knockout win.
The other interesting caveat to this matchup is that it will be contested at light heavyweight for Grachev's NABF title. While this will remove the potential stress of Bute having to trim down to 168 pounds, one wonders if the added weight could spell potential disaster given the questions surrounding Bute's chin.
Ultimately, Bute's choice of Grachev as an opponent should prove positive. Conventional wisdom suggests that Bute will box circles around Grachev and either win by referee stoppage or lopsided decision. Also, fighting again in front of his hometown fans in Montreal should give the skilled and classy Bute a boost heading into a rematch with Froch.
Should Bute win, the fight will give him confidence moving forward. Defeating Grachev would at least plant the positive seed in Bute's mind that he stood up to the punches of a full-fledged light heavyweight, and Bute should be able to try a variety of tactics given Grachev's limited fundamentals.
Froch, of course, is set to defend the IBF title he wrested from Bute on November 17 against Yusaf Mack (31-4-2, 17 KO) in a fight Froch should dominate. If Froch wins as expected and Bute is lacklustre against Grachev, it could give Froch some psychological ammunition with which to taunt Bute during the promotion of their rematch.
Immediately after Froch and Bute fought, it seemed that a rematch was pointless because of how thoroughly one-sided the fight was. However, after some distance from Froch-Bute I, the prospect of their rematch has become more intriguing. This time, Bute will have the hometown advantage, and a confidence-building win might be enough to turn the tables against Froch.
Should both Bute and Froch win their upcoming fights impressively, Froch will justifiably be the betting favourite for the rematch. Despite his detractors, Bute is a skilled fighter who belongs at the championship level. Having fought Froch once, expect him to turn in a much better performance in sequel that might have more give and take than fans and pundits are expecting.