Denis Grachev dragged Lucian Bute into exactly the kind of war that has sunk him in the past, but Saturday night on Wealth TV the popular Canadian transplant stayed afloat, winning an entertaining unanimous decision. There are clearly a lot of leaks in the hull, though, and as a fight meant to shake off the rust from his last defeat to Carl Froch and ready himself for another shot at his conqueror, there was only one round out of 12 that offered any hope that a rematch would go differently.
The matchmaking was adventurous; Grachev is basic, but he's also a light heavyweight who's bigger than Lucian Bute, traditionally a super middleweight. He's also a simulacrum for the two people who have beaten Bute, Froch and Librado Andrade (Andrade functionally knocked him out, anyway, even if Bute got the win on the scorecards): an unpersuadable sort who doesn't give a good goddamn how much you hit him so long as he keeps the pressure on you and makes YOU submit.
Bute controlled the 1st round with superior boxing, even though Grachev cut him along the way. By the 2nd, though, Grachev was finding a foothold, especially with a leaping lead right that he landed automatically, bizarrely. Bute finally adjusted to that and began timing and countering him, but Bute was just too tentative and looked slower than ever, giving Grachev a chance to catch him when he never would've gotten caught before. As the fight went on, Grachev and Bute would trade rounds, with Bute landing the bigger punches and Grachev landing a lot when he would corner Bute on the ropes.
That glimmer of hope for Bute's chances came in the 12th, where Bute finally resembled Bute. He was sticking, moving, slipping, ducking, diving, and landing hard shots at will. And yet, still, Grachev gave him hell. Grachev may have lost this fight (I had him winning, and the 118-110 scorecard for Bute was pure garbage) but he earned another shot at something or the other — he was more clever than I think he's been given credit for, and his manhood cannot be questioned, the kind of thing that should make him a rough outing for most any light heavyweight, not just a version of Bute whose confidence was shot for 11 of 12 rounds.
If Bute wants the Froch rematch, I still don't think it will go well for him, even with a confidence-building close to the Grachev fight. He did, at least, put on a fun display, so even if he can't hang out with the very top super middles, he'll draw a big crowd in Montreal and put on a show in the ring. Bute might not be who we thought he was when he was climbing pound-for-pound lists, but who he is ain't bad at all.