Few high-level professional athletes are willing to say a loss was a good thing. Lucian Bute certainly is not.
But Bute concedes that his shockingly one-sided loss to Carl Froch on May 26, 2012, may not have been as devastating to his career as might have been expected.
Bute was unbeaten at the time, and had a place in virtually all of the various pound-for-pound lists. He was a hero in his home province of Quebec and routinely drew massive crowds to either the Bell Centre in Montreal or the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City.
Froch, though, stopped Bute in the fifth round of what had been expected to be a nip-and-tuck fight, changing in an instant the worldwide perception of Bute.
He admits it shook him. Losing for the first time after 30 consecutive victories caused him to question himself. There were plenty of questions to be asked and, for a while at least, no answers were forthcoming.
"That was a difficult time," he says.
But, in an odd way, the defeat has helped him. On Saturday, he'll headline in what is being billed as the biggest fight in Canada's history, when he meets fellow Québécois Jean Pascal in a light heavyweight bout before 21,000 at the Bell Centre.
It's not only a major fight in Canada, but it will have significant implications in the loaded light heavyweight division, which suddenly has become one of boxing's best.
Bute fought only once since losing to Froch, a so-so performance in a unanimous decision win over Denis Grachev on Nov. 3, 2012. He's since undergone hand surgery, gotten married and generally regained his love for boxing.
The walls seemed to be tightening on him in Quebec prior to the loss to Froch. He was so popular and so in demand and so wanted to live up to the high standard his countrymen expected from him.
He's been able to decompress, though, in the time off and his perspective changed a lot on not only the loss but on his place in the sport.
"I am fortunate that I have had such great fan support," Bute said. "But that created a lot of pressure and high expectations. It's part of the territory and something you have to deal with, but at the same time, it's something that is real and that I was feeling. I think being away and having some time off, I've been better able to manage that."
Bute had to pull out of a planned fight with Pascal in May when his left hand became too painful to use. He suffered a stress fracture in his fight with Glen Johnson in 2011 and it never really healed.
He had surgery to repair it and said it is no longer an issue.
But Bute couldn't go through camp without a little bit of pain. Instead of traveling to Florida where he has frequently trained for his bouts, he stayed at home in Montreal.
Of course, he had to work through one of the coldest snaps in recent memory and that made doing everything just a bit harder.
It gave him the extra bit of discipline to pull himself out of his warm bed when the temperatures dropped far below zero overnight.
"Coming off of the surgery, it made sense to stay here in Montreal because we have great facilities in our gym and everything we need, with an indoor track even where Lucian could run," trainer Stephane Larouche said. "We have our doctor right next door, so if Lucian has any issues [with his hand], the doctor is there.
"But the thing with staying in Montreal is this: It took him out of a comfort zone. It took some mental strength to get himself out of bed, when it was minus-28 degrees, to go to run. You get in the car and you're freezing your [butt] off. Walking to the gym, it was a challenge. So this was a way of disciplining himself and pushing himself to get ready."
At his best, Bute is a brilliant counter puncher who has devastating power to the body. He may be one of the sport's fiercest body punchers.
Pascal would appear to have advantages in power and athleticism, and Bute was respectful of Pascal's skills.
Bute seems, though, back to where he was confidence-wise before the devastating loss to Froch.
"Sometimes, it's beneficial to take some time off and gain some perspective, and I think it's clearly helped me," Bute said. "He's been delivering some good performances against top-notch guys, and this is the first time I'm being an underdog, but that doesn't matter. What matters is how I perform and I'm ready to put on a great performance."
- Sports & Recreation
- Lucian Bute
- Carl Froch