Bute Versus Bika Set For June

lucien bute21.03.07 - By John Way: Sparks are guaranteed to fly when red-hot prospect Lucien Bute faces off against rugged contender Sakio Bika on June 16. Both are somewhere in the Top 15 of the super middleweight boxing rankings, and the winner is sure to move well into the Top 10. For Bute, this would most likely mean a shot at the winner of the upcoming Mikkel Kessler-Librado Andrade title fight. If Bika wins in June, he would be one step closer to an opportunity for revenge against Joe Calzaghe, the man who beat him by unanimous decision last September.

A precise punching amateur star from Romania, Lucien Bute has already amassed a career's worth of quality names on his resume. He has bested Digaan Thobela, Kabary Salem, Donnell Wiggins, Andre Thysse, and Lolenga Mock among others. He is a two-fisted threshing machine, fighting out of a southpaw stance.

A primarily offensive fighter, he is still competent at using his gloves, his feet, and head movement to avoid punishment, when in top form. In his fights with Thysse and Mock he seemed to lack the intensity of his previous performances, getting hit by punches he had not business eating.

If he can overcome his recurring problems with concentration he would be very close to a perfect fighter-assuming the old jaw isn't made out of styrofoam. Although Bute isn't obsessed with body punching like Ricky Hatton or Jose Luis Castillo, he goes downstairs with impressive power and consistency. In the early rounds of his donnybrook with Jose Spearman, Bute had difficulty solving his opponent's tricky defensive style, until the body attack took away Spearman's track shoes.

Also, since then, he has displayed greater versatility, mixing up his style between leading, and countering off the back foot; and his work rate, among other factors, has consistently improved with each fight. Bute's ascent to glory has been careful charted and planned. The opposite is true of Cameroon's "Scorpion," Sakio Bika. For years, the only notable mark on his record was a narrow decision loss to Australia's Sam Soliman.

It wasn't until he scored two technical knockouts over modestly regarded prospect Yoshirio Asaki that he got even the slightest press. That all changed when the opportunity came to fight for Marcus Beyer's WBC title belt. Traveling all the way to Germany for the chance of a lifetime (considering Sakio's mediocre world ranking), he made the most of the circumstances, meeting the champion in the trenches from the opening bell.

Neglecting the jab, he waded inside behind wild punches from some very creative angles. Beyer, known for his skilled defense, clearly struggled with Bika's loopy, free wheeling offense. A nasty laceration caused by an accidental (maybe not so accidental) head butt compounded Beyer's discomfort before the cut forced a premature end to the fight fourth
round. Even if the fight was declared a technical draw, there was no doubt who had won the moral victory here.

The stirring performance against Beyer earned Bika another shot at the title in his next fight, against universally recognized division kingpin, "Welsh Dragon" Joe Calzaghe. In the first four rounds it looked like Bika's feel good underdog story was coming to a bitter end. But he eventually worked his way into the fight when Calzaghe badly injured his left hand. The same roundhouse swings that troubled Beyer were equally frustrating here.

Cut by head butts and sore from his ruined left hand, Calzaghe boxed cautiously till the final bell, when he was awarded a fairly lopsided unanimous decision. The boxing fans received Bika's courageous loss reasonably well, and the sanctioning bodies didn't penalize him too harshly for the defeat. Once again Bika was defined by a non-win.

Since then, he has done reasonably well on the comeback trail, first scoring a technical knockout over a nondescript opponent before stepping up to beat Andre Thysse, the man who had given Bute so much trouble. Showing off his much-improved offense, Bika had a remarkably easy time out-punching and out-working the durable journeyman, en route to a unanimous decision by scores of 120-109 (twice) and 120-108. Now he is faced with another fantastic fistic opportunity. Whether or not he knowshow to take advantage of that opportunity is a different matter altogether.

When they clash swords June 16th this year, Lucien Bute and Sakio Bika will both be fighting hard for the same prize: a chance at super middleweight supremacy. The road to that spot has been completely different for both men, but the prize is there, waiting to be taken. So cheer on these two warriors as they battle to realize their dreams in the ring. Comments and questions are welcome below.

Article posted on 21.03.2007

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