The Best of Friends, But Lucian Bute Shouldn't Take Librado Andrade Lightly

By A. R. Yesterday, with four days to go until their fight on Friday, Librado Andrade joined Lucian Bute at his InterBox gym for the customary public workout session. The Champion received his challenger with a big smile, shook hands and hugged him like a brother. Travelling together to promote their upcoming bout throughout the St. Lawrence Valley, they had become friends - unsurprisingly, for two such genuine, warm-hearted people..

Librado AndradeWhen Librado Andrade fought Mikkel Kessler for the WBC and WBA titles in Copenhagen eighteen months ago, he lost a very wide decision but won a friend in the likable Viking Warrior, not to mention thousands of Danish fans, impressed by his courage, tenacity, and graciousness in defeat.

We live in an age where mismatches are sold by trash talk and where disrespectful young champions make a name for themselves by ducking their dangerous mandatory challengers to beat up shot legends instead. It's a lifeline for boxing when you get fighters who respect each other as human beings and who act like gentlemen, outside as well as inside the ring. After all, with two top, prime, hungry, well-matched fighters ready to give their all to win, tickets sell by themselves; already, 15,000 have booked their seat to watch Librado Andrade give his all to conquer Lucian Bute's IBF super-middleweight world title.

Friends they may be, but Bute is not taking Andrade lightly. He will have heard Andrade talk about how much he wanted to win the title. He will have heard him say, (quietly and modestly, of course) he thought he was ready to be a World Champion. He will have heard Andrade say he wanted to prove he was one of the best and that his lack-lustre performance against Kessler shouldn't be used to define him any longer as a fighter. Not least, Bute will have been impressed by the improvements in defence and technique his challenger has displayed since that loss, as he has matured into a better, more effective, and more confident and ambitious fighter.

On Friday night, on Showtime, boxing fans will not enjoy a simple bull-fight, cooked up to make Bute look good. Sure, Andrade is tough and strong, iron-chinned and lion-hearted, and dangerous, but he is far from predictable, one-dimensional, or easily infuriated and outwitted.

In his last fight, against two-time IBF world title challenger Robert Stieglitz, Andrade threw as many as one hundred and thirty six punches per round, with a connect percentage of thirty six, most of them power punches. As per usual, Andrade didn't follow a fixed game plan, but instead adapted constantly to gain an advantage over his opponent. His instinctive, unbridled, confident and relentless style, which won him comparisons to fellow Mexican Antonio Margarito, is in truth quite unique in boxing. Andrade's movements might not be sharp or fast, but they are fluid and continuous. His combinations might not be orthodox, but his upper body sways ceaselessly, allowing him to punch from many different angles, time after time. The Mexican's defence might not be tight, but he is a master of rolling with the punches to the head, protecting his body with his long arms and not getting hurt. Andrade might not have one-punch-KO power, but his accumulation punching will break most world class fighters down eventually. He might not be fast, but his timing is very good. He might not be a great tactician either, but he is an aggressive, opportunistic finisher with a highly developed sense of when and how to strike.

A fighter like Librado Andrade cannot be beaten by a game plan, because he doesn't follow one himself. He cannot be intimidated or inhibited, because he is confident, brave, adaptive and instinctive. He cannot easily be hurt or stopped in his track, because he has an iron chin, rolls with the punches and protects his body with his arms. His rhythm cannot be broken, because it is fluid. He cannot be frustrated or unnerved either, because he is fully committed and possesses the emotional fortitude and persistence of a saint. Such a fighter cannot easily be beaten...

Lucian Bute must know that a safety-first approach, a slow start, the over-analysing of his opponent, and the constant pausing to admire his own good work, faults he got away with so far against Bika and Berrio, could this time, against Andrade, lose him the fight. He must know that his superior speed, movement and tactical awareness will not be enough of an advantage if he is not also adaptive, fluid and uninhibited. So, yes, Bute must know that he will be forced to prove much more than toughness and stamina against Andrade.

Lucian Bute's new found friend will provide his hardest test to date and it will take a career best performance from him to beat Librado Andrade clearly. After all, friends should never be taken for granted...

You can watch IBF Champion Lucian Bute (22-0, 18 KOs) take on his No.1 ranked, mandatory challenger Librado Andrade (27-1, 21 KOs) in a special edition of ShoBox: The New Generation, on Friday, October 24th, live on SHOWTIME at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).

Article posted on 21.10.2008

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