Since Lucian Bute was born in Romania, lives in Quebec, and was fighting a Mexican-born opponent on American television, it's somewhat understandable that it may have lost a bit in translation, but there's no mistaking this much: When the IBF super-middleweight champion cut loose with a devastating left to the short ribs that left Librado gasping for air while Benjy Esteves counted him out, he was sending a clear message that needed no interpreter.
Take that, Showtime!
Now 25-0, Bute defended successfully defended his title for the fourth time before more than 16,000 enthusiastic supporters in Quebec City. (His usual home turf, the Bell Centre in Montreal, might have accommodated 5,000 more, but a Canadiens game occupied the building.) Andrade, stopped for the first time in his career, fell to 28-3.
Eleven months earlier, Bute had benefited from a generous dispensation of Quebecois justice, when Canadian referee Marlon Wright was all that stood between him and a 12th-round knockout by the resilient Andrade at Montreal's Bell Centre. Despite the controversial outcome and heightened interest in its sequel, Showtime not only didn't bid for the rematch, but when that network assembled what it deemed the world's best half-dozen 168-pounders for its highly-publicized 'Super Six' tournament, Bute's name was missing in action.
He delivered his answer to the perceived slight in the main event of HBO's Boxing After Dark card in Quebec. In their earlier bout Bute had built up a commanding lead over the first eleven rounds, only to find himself so spent that he needed the ring ropes to pull himself to his feet when Andrade dropped him in the 12th. This time the roles were reversed, and much earlier.
As expected, Bute had outboxed Andrade over the first three, but earlier in the fourth, when Andrade aggressively drove him to the ropes, Bute responded with a crisp counter-left to the jaw that nearly tore Andrade's face off. Down for only the second time in his career, the challenger got back up from that one, and even managed a sheepish grin, but with 15 seconds left in the fourth, Bute unleashed the left that caved Andrade's right side in.
Andrade, as tough as they come in this business, sank to the floor in anguish, and a proud man who had been around for the final bell in each of his previous 30 pro fights took the count on his knees.
All things considered, it was probably the most impressive performance of Bute's career, and if somewhere in the back of his mind the spurned suitor had the intent of embarrassing Showtime, his timing couldn't have been better.
It is probably only a matter of days before Jermain Taylor officially withdraws from the Super Six proceedings, and if the network, as expected, replaces him with a lesser light, they're only going to look sillier than they did when they omitted Bute in the first place.
Even were he belatedly invited, in the residual glow of Saturday night's showing, Bute would be nuts to join the party now — and, were he so tempted, you can bet that HBO is already waving a bunch of money under his nose to make sure he doesn't.
Bute has lived in Montreal for the past six years, and the Quebecois embrace him as one of their own. And if provincial boxing officials had seemed generous in protecting Bute in the first Andrade fight, you have to wonder whether Joan Guzman secretly took Canadian citizenship papers in the past couple of days, for there is otherwise no accounting for the larceny that befell Ali Funeka in the co-feature of Saturday night's show.
The IBF lightweight title remained vacant when Canadian judges Alan Davis and Benoit Roussel conspired to return identical 114-114 scorecards that overruled the 116-112 of New Jersey's Joe Pasquale.
Guzman, his face battered from 12 rounds' worth of punishment at the hands of the 6'1″ South African, was plainly resigned to defeat and, in light of the beating he had taken, and seemed happy enough to finish the fight on his feet. Incredibly enough, Guzman remained undefeated after what went into the books as a majority draw.
Funeka needless to say, appeared crestfallen by the bizarre decision, and Bob Papa, Lennox Lewis, and Max Kellerman found themselves wondering aloud whether the scores might have been added wrong.
Alas, they had not been. This time you couldn't even blame it on hometown scoring, but something worse: sheer ineptitude.
The bout matched two boxers whose career-defining fights had been scheduled fights against Nate Campbell. In September of 2008, Guzman was to have met the then-lightweight champion in Mississippi, but failed to make the 135-pound limit. Then, earlier this year in Florida, Campbell himself lost the title on the scale. Unlike Guzman, Nate went through with the fight. Funeka fought well enough, but ended up on th short end of a majority decision. (Roussel, ironically enough, was one of the two judges who favored Campbell in that one.)
The 33 year-old Guzman came into the fight 29-0 with 17 KO's, which seems impressive enough until you consider that three years ago he was 26-0, and that he hasn't stopped an opponent of any description in almost five years. Funeka, who appeared to have learned from his experience with Campbell, didn't begin to fight in earnest until the third, but once he did, he pretty much dominated every round thereafter.
Guzman seemed increasingly disheartened as his face sprung new leaks at every turn. A Funeka punch opened a cut along his right eyebrow late in the second. In the third, Funeka smashed Guzman with a punch up the middle, and blood spouted from his nose almost immediately. Another nick, this one on the right cheekbone, came from a fourth round clash of heads.
Referee Jean-Guy Brousseau missed the butt and ruled that it had come from a punch. Although the referee's lapse in judgement seemed to trouble BAD announcer Bob Papa, the mistake was in this case utterly inconsequential, since of all Guzman's wounds, this was the least troubling, and never threatened to stop the fight.
Funeka, who punished Guzman for ten solid rounds without meeting much resistance, had a veritable cakewalk to the finish line, and the only man in the building more shocked than Funeka by the judges' disheartening verdict appeared to be Guzman.
Funeka is left with a record of 30-2-3, Guzman 29-0-1.
The IBF will mandate another bout between the two for the still-vacant title, which will mean another payday for Joan and a delay of some months before Funeka can wrap himself with a belt which, by all rights, he should already own. Meanwhile, you can take this much to the bank: The rematch will not be in Canada.
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QUEBEC CITY, CANADA
SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Lucian Bute, 166 3/4, Galati, Romania TKO'd Librado Andrade, 166 3/4, Jesus del Monte, Mexico (4) (Retains IBF title)
LIGHTWEIGHTS: Ali Funkeka, 133 1/4, East London, South Africa drew with Joan Guzman 134 1/2, Santo Domingo, Dominican Rep. (12) (For vacant IBF title)
MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Craig McEwan Edinburgh, Scotland dec. James Parison, San Diego, Calif. (8)
WELTERWEIGHTS: Keith Thurman, Clearwater, Fla. TKO'd Leonardo Rojas, Callao, Peru (2)
Kevin Bizier, St. Emile, Quebec TKO'd Patrick Cape, St. Louis, Minn. (1)
JUNIOR LIGHTWEIGHTS: Pier Oliver Cote, Charlesbourg, Quebec dec. Jason Hayward, St. John's, Newfoundland(10)