The best thing about Lucian Bute’s 10th round stoppage of Brian Magee Saturday on Showtime wasn’t the body shot and uppercut fest Bute put on display, nor the toughness Magee exhibited. It was that this could be the last time we see Bute in against this level of competition, with Mikkel Kessler on course to be his next opponent.
Magee was more competitive than Bute’s last several opponents, landing a number of flush left hands, and showing he was made of hard stuff by nearly winning the 8th round after suffering two knockdowns in the 7th. There were four knockdowns by Bute in all, though, which meant it wasn’t all that competitive. And here’s how good and fast those uppercuts are for Bute: The referee didn’t see the second one correctly, ruling it a low blow; and Showtime’s commentators didn’t see the final one connect on Magee’s chin, instead thinking it a body punch.
Once more, Bute appeared to be one of the best fighters in the world, a spectacular talent with great speed, good defense, nice footwork and arguably the best uppercut and body attack in the game. But as of now, “appearance” is about all there is to it. Those wins over Librado Andrade are as good as it gets, and Andrade was a legitimate top-5 super middleweight, but like everyone else Bute has beaten in the past four years, Andrade was slow as all get out. Everyone else Bute has beaten was a full level or two below Andrade — all fringe top-10 guys.
Kessler would be a departure from that trend. Even coming off a long rest due to a reported eye injury, Kessler is far better than anyone Bute has faced. Just look at how thoroughly Kessler thrashed Andrade by way of evidence. If Bute beats Kessler, we won’t just surmise anymore that Bute is one of the best in the world — we’ll know it.