Former IBF champion Lucian Bute rebounded from his first defeat by pounding out a unanimous decision over Russian Denis Grachev in a close bout for the minor NABF light heavyweight title on Saturday night.
It was the first fight for Bute (31-1) since losing his super-middleweight title in a lopsided loss to Carl Froch in May. The victory should set up a rematch with the Englishman in March in Montreal.
The ringside judges’ scores are sure to be debated, as one had it 115-113, another 116-112 and the third a whopping 118-112, all for Bute.
The Canadian Press had it 115-114 for Bute, with one round scored even. Some at ringside had Grachev winning.
The heavy-hitting Russian looked to land more punches overall, and Bute only dominated one round — the 12th and last, when he stood in the centre of the ring daring Grachev to hit his chin while firing off lefts.
There was question of whether Bute could take a hard shot to the chin after his five-round loss to Froch, but he was never in serious trouble even if he was backed against the ropes several times.
The Bell Centre crowd of 10,122, down somewhat from Bute’s normal draw but better than was predicted earlier in the week, chanted the 32-year-old’s name throughout the fight.
Bute fought cautiously until the 12th, looking to avoid direct hits while sniping single shots at Grachev.
The undercard saw a spectacular eight-round victory by former WBC flyweight champion Rodrigo Guerrero (18-4-1) of Mexico over crowd favourite Sebastien Gathier (22-4).
The two traded blows in near non-stop action until the St. Jerome, Que., fighter sagged defenceless in a corner and the scheduled 10-round bout was stopped by the referee.
Former super-middleweight contender Allan Green (32-4) was knocked down in the fourth by Renan St. Juste (23-4-1) of Repentigny, Que., but won every other round before his scheduled 10-round light heavyweight bout was stopped by the referee. St. Juste had one eye closed and was bleeding heavily from the nose.
Light middleweight Mikael Zewski (17-0), a Trois-Rivieres, Que., native who fights for U.S. promoter Top Rank, ended his eight-rounder with Cesar Chavez (20-3) with a left-right uppercut combination for a knockout 37 seconds into the first round.
Light heavyweight Francy N’Tetu (8-0) of Chicoutimi, Que., stopped Schiller Hippolite (5-1) of Montreal from making faces in the ring by knocking him down in the third en route to a split decision win.
There were boos for what looked like a hometown decision for Michael Gadbois (8-0) of St. Hyacinthe, Que., over Mexican veteran Pedro Navarrete (28-17-3), who looked to land more and better shots over four rounds.
Big Bogdan Dinu (8-0) of Romania stopped Eric Martel (7-3) of Quebec City in the fourth and final round of their heavyweight contest.
And Sebasten Bouchard (4-0) of Quebec City eked past Glissandy Mejia (3-1) of Terrebonne, Que., in a welterweight battle.