Lucian Bute vs Fulgencio Zuniga Set For March 13th

Lucian Buteby James Slater - IBF super-middleweight champion Lucian Bute of Canada will make the next defence of his world title against the hard-hitting and reliably-chinned Colombian Fulgencio Zuniga on March 13th. Once again, for the eleventh straight time, the 28-year-old southpaw who was born in Romania but now lives in Montreal, will box at The Bell Centre in his hometown.

Fans are still talking about the controversial way Bute's last fight, against the teak-tough Librado Andrade, ended. Enough has been written about the controversial officiating by referee Marlon Wright back in October of last year, but now Zuniga gets his chance to do what the Mexican came so close to doing - KO'ing or stopping the IBF champ. It remains to be seen who will be refereeing the March 13th fight, but it's safe to say the critics will have a field day if it is Wright; officiating as he has Bute's last five bouts.

Zuniga will be looking for the stoppage, of that there is no doubt. The 31-year-old with the 22-3-1(19) record has already said as much - stating how he will "pressure Bute from the 1st round until he says no mas." The fans in Montreal, along with those watching on TV, can anticipate Zuniga keeping his word. But can the man who has wins over Jose Luis Zertuche and Victor Oganov, to name two, stop Bute?

We don't really know how the quite excruciating fight the Canadian had with Andrade last time out has affected him. Punished mercilessly late in the fight, Bute, 23-0(18) was exhausted and had to resort to keeping himself upright with the help of the ring ropes. He won, yes, but at what physical cost? Also, the fight in which he barely retained his world title was only three months ago - wouldn't it have been sensible for the champ to have taken a longer rest after such a hard fight? By the time he gets in there the hungry, dangerous and determined Zuniga, Bute will have had just five months to have let his body recover (even less when you consider how he will have been training long before March 13th rolls around).

Credit must be given to "Le Tombeur" for getting back into the ring so soon, but will his decision prove to be a bad one? Zuniga can punch, as his 19 KO's suggest. And he has only ever been beaten by top men, and only ever been stopped by THE top man (at 160-pounds). Middleweight king Kelly Pavlik stopped Zuniga in the 9th round back in October of 2005, while sandwiched around that sole stoppage loss are points defeats to Daniel Santos (down at 154-pounds) and, in his last loss, WBO 168-pound boss Denis Inkin. As such, the challenger who came back from the loss in Germany to stop Diego Castillo in 3 rounds this past November, is a live opponent of the highest order.

Going against the Colombian is the fact that he will be travelling to Bute country for the fight, and that he will be facing a southpaw when he gets there. Zuniga has not met a lefty for a long time (David Lopez, who he TKO'd in 12 back in Jan. of 2005 being the man), and the champion's stance may well affect him. One hopes we don't see any hometown, "shenanigans," shall we say, in March that are beneficial (if not crucial) to Bute getting himself a win. What we all want is a fair fight where the best man wins. Who will that best man be in March?

If Bute has had something taken away from him by the brutal affair with Andrade, Zuniga's luck could well be in. The fact that Bute has opted to box again so soon, however, would suggest he feels fine and is ready to rumble. The champion has to be made the favourite, for a number of reasons - the site, his stance and his overall ability being the uppermost ones - but the Colombian slugger can never be written off.

In a fight where anything could conceivably happen (good or bad), the pick here is Bute on points in another tough one.

Article posted on 22.01.2009

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