Former IBF world super-middleweight champion Lucian Bute, who lost his title back in May of this year after being brutalised by Carl Froch in five rounds, returned to the ring, and winning ways, with a 12-round unanimous decision victory over Denis Grachev.

Grachev, who had stopped highly regarded light-heavyweight prospect Ismayl Sillakh in 8 rounds in his previous outing, was never going to be a pushover. That said, there was a certain degree of expectation surrounding Bute to perform and show that the night he fought in Nottingham was all but behind him and erased from his memory. Over 12 rounds of action in Montreal, Canada, it was clear to see that the demons from that fateful night in May were still circling in Lucian Bute’s mind.

It was by no means a great fight, but it certainly wasn’t a bad one either. It was intriguing more than anything else.

The opening two rounds of the bout were Bute’s, but there was little in the way of telling shots landed, he just landed that little bit more than Grachev did. Bute tried to keep things in the centre of the ring and counter Grachev who, despite fighting out of an orthodox stance, had a rather unorthodox way of landing his punches. And land they did. In rounds three and four Grachev began to up the tempo and force Bute to fight on the back-foot which resulted in periods of success.

At the halfway stage of the fight it was clear that this wasn’t going to be an easy nights work for Lucian. He was easily forced onto the back-foot and allowed himself to be trapped on the ropes – his downfall against Froch. From rounds 8-10 Bute was out-worked and out-hustled; he was pushed back to the ropes and had a very low punch out-put. He did, however, up the pace in the final two rounds – particularly in round twelve where he looked like the Bute of old.

As the final bell sounded, Bute seemed relieved more than anything else. Scores were 115-113, 116-112, 118-110, all for Lucian Bute. I scored the fight a draw – 114-114. The 118-110 card was way off and didn’t credit the work and effort of Grachev. I have no problem with the other two cards, nor the decision of Bute winning the fight.

To my eyes this was a topsy-turvy kind of fight; swinging one way and then the next with neither man being able to gain a foot-hold of dominance throughout the twelve rounds. Grachev was never thwarted by Bute’s punches; not even the coveted and dangerous left uppercut to the body and head. Bute did have success, but he didn’t have enough of it and never let his hands go enough. As is evident by my score of 114-114, I don’t think either man done enough to take the decision.

Ultimately a win was the most important thing for Lucian Bute, but when he has a proposed rematch with Carl Froch his performance against Grachev is something to be worried about.

For the duration of the bout Bute never looked comfortable or confident in his abilities. Up until round twelve Bute was edgy and nervous and looked like a man with shattered confidence. There’s no denying that the loss to Froch has affected him, and it may take a little longer for the confidence and swagger to return now that his sheet of invincibility has been savagely ripped away from him.

If I’m Lucian Bute, I opt out of the rematch with Froch and rebuild further. It’s clear work needs to be done, and another defeat to Froch, in similar fashion to the first one, could finish him. Risk versus reward and all that jazz; the reward is great, but the risk is greater.

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