Having just watched the Lucian Bute-Denis Grachev fight, here are some of my observations.
Firstly, I thought the fight was quite close. I don't think Grachev quite did enough to deserve the decision, but I don’t see how anyone could have scored this fight 118-110 in favour of Bute either. To be honest, I wasn't that impressed with Bute. Sure, he boxed well at times against a limited opponent. However, I thought he was looking to land his left uppercut too much which lead to him not throwing the jab enough. This is why Grachev was able to close the distance every time he came forward. Bute should have been circling counter clockwise behind his jab, away from Grachev's right hand and looking to land his straight left. Instead, it was Grachev who always managed to get his lead foot on the outside of Bute's which put him in position to land his trailing power hand.
Notice how Grachev’s lead foot is always outside of Bute’s lead foot as he’s throwing the right hand. This is the golden rule when facing a southpaw.
Grachev didn't bother throwing the jab much himself. He didn’t need to. Because Bute was standing side on without using his right hand, Grachev was able to close the distance nearly every time he came forward.
Notice how Bute’s right hand is redundant -low and not in any position to defend or attack. A good jab may have blunted Grachev’s advance. Instead, as Grachev comes forward, Bute doesn’t provide any resistance and Grachev can get inside easily without having to throw a jab himself.
Bute spent too much time standing there with his right hand below his waist looking to land his uppercut from behind his right shoulder, obviously in an attempt to disguise the blow.
The jab is the most important weapon for any fighter against a pressure fighter. Bute didn’t use it nearly enough.
Bute's best moments finally came in the 12th round, when, you guessed it, he began circling counter clockwise along with throwing his jab and straight left hand.
With his back to the ropes, Bute throws a jab, followed by a straight left, before exiting on the blind side of Grachev. This is what Bute should have been doing the whole fight.
More from the 12th round.
Bute throws a right jab followed by a left straight.
Denis Grachev isn't a bad fighter at all. Yes, he carries his hands low and he looks rugged at times but he's got a good understanding of positioning and he's also very effective at avoiding shots by moving his head at the last moment as he works his way inside.
Notice how Grachev slips a rare Bute jab as he’s looking to close the distance.
Once inside, Grachev throws short, crisp punches. I felt as though Grachev could have gone to the body more when Bute was up on the ropes but apart from that, he did most things pretty well.
I think it's safe to say that Denis Grachev is better than what Bute's handlers had previously thought before the fight.
As for Bute, I'm not so sure. He was too predictable at times with the left uppercut. There were too many periods during the fight when Bute wasn’t using his right hand much at all. I know he's constantly looking for left hand counters, but you can't do that without first being creative with the lead hand, otherwise you run the risk of allowing your opponent to walk you down. Bute should have been setting things up behind his jab along with shoulder and head feints. Apart from the jab, the right hook of Bute didn’t feature enough either. Again, had Bute used his jab more, then he would have not only had a better chance of keeping Grachev from pushing him back, but his left hand counters would have been better disguised also. Maybe it was just me, but I thought Bute seemed like he was lacking in confidence too. In the past his left uppercut has looked like dynamite. Last night, I thought he seemed hesitant in fully committing to the shot as it definitely lacked the speed and snap that it used to have.
Going forwards, there's talk of a rematch with Carl Froch. Being brutally honest, I saw nothing from Bute last night that makes me feel a second fight would look any different from the first. In fact, I'd go as far to say that Froch would likely take Bute out even sooner next time. There's no way Bute will ever be able to hang with Froch if he continues to neglect the jab and throw nothing but left uppercuts without first setting them up. Also, I'm not 100% confident in Bute's punch resistance anymore either. Grachev didn't seem heavy handed to me but every time he landed clean, Bute seemed hurt and headed to the ropes. As we all know, once Bute has his back to the ropes, he doesn't seem to know how to defend well in that position.
Lucian Bute's far from finished as a fighter, but he can no longer be considered among the elite anymore. There are some out there that have never considered Bute among elite. Maybe he's been overrated all along? Looking at his last two fights, this could certainly prove to be the case.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV