A celebration in Romania, a war in California, and a joke in Atlantic City.
In front of over 8,000 fans in his native homeland, Lucian Bute successfully defended his IBF World Super-Middleweight Championship with a one punch knockout of number one ranked contender Jean Paul Mendy of France. The victory marked Bute's eighth defence of his world crown, and once again solidified his claim as perhaps the premier super-middleweight in the world.
While Mendy was certainly no match for the reigning world champion, Bute fulfilled a dream and delivered, in bringing honour to his people as they celebrated with their champion. Bute's status in Quebec is huge. He draws massive crowds and has become one of the biggest boxing attractions in Quebec, and Canadian boxing history. His status in Romania however, is nothing short of iconic. A hero to his people, Bute has joined the ranks of Ilie Nastase and Nadia Comaneci as a national hero.
Romania's boxing history is steeped in amateur and Olympic success. Bute has now placed this boxing rich nation among outstanding achievements in the professional game as well. Romania has enjoyed world champions in the pro game before, most notably Leonard Dorin, but nothing has compared to the success, and love, that Bute has brought to his homeland.
While Mendy was in fact the mandatory challenger as designated by the IBF, Bute cannot be blamed for the lack of poor opposition. He was simply fulfilling his obligations as champion. If anyone here can be blamed, the fault lies with the IBF.
Mendy became the mandatory challenger as a result of having been knocked out cold in one round, with one punch, against Sakio Bike for the number one spot. Sadly, Bika was disqualified after it was deemed that Mendy was already down when Bika landed the final coup fatale. Out cold, and lying senseless on the canvas, Mendy became the mandatory challenger.
Now I am not condoning in any way that a fighter can be hit when he is down. I am questioning, however, how someone can be made a mandatory challenger based on someone else's disqualification, rather than on his own success. I firmly believe that in this type of situation, you MUST WIN your right to fight for the title. Not have it handed to you as a result of an opponent's foul.
That's just some food for thought, we can certainly argue about that later. This however, should in no way take away from Bute's win, nor from his national celebration.
So emotionally charged was Bute that he burst into tears after the fight, simply overcome with emotion after having delivered such joy to the people, and to the country, who love him so much.
True to form, Bute grabbed the microphone to thank the 8,000 strong in attendance and remembered to thank the hundreds of thousands who were watching back in Quebec. There is no doubt, Bute's skill is matched only by his class.
Now as we make our way west from Romania, Atlantic City becomes the next stop as former world champion Paul Williams looks to get himself back in the title hunt as he took on Erislandy Lara of Cuba.
OK for those of you who saw the fight, I think we are all in agreement that Lara got jobbed. Big time! His overhand left landed with such regularity that Williams was begging for a right, but am I the only one who thought that the commentary offered on HBO was, to say the least, somewhat over the top?
Roy Jones Jr. went as far as to say that the fight should be stopped because Williams was taking so much punishment. Was I watching a different fight?
Bob Pappa and Max Kellerman fell short of asking for a government inquiry. My friend Harold Lederman, gave round after round to Lara as if it was a mere formality. Didn't these very same announcers watch as Andrei Kotelnik got robbed against Devon Alexander? That to me was far worse than what we saw Saturday. Yet they didn't even so much as mutter a word about that.
Now I am not for a second saying Paul Williams won the fight. Lara controlled the action and nullified an extremely busy Paul Williams. Compu-Box had Williams throwing over a 1,000 punches, but the precision and quality, not to mention the frequency in which Lara landed clearly made the difference. Lara was undoubtedly the clear winner. If there was something one-sided about the fight however, it was the call by the HBO announcers.
And now to the main event of the weekend and the reason we love this sport. In fact the reason that boxing, despite itself at times, continues to thrill us all, is because of the courage and ferocity which was on display at the Home Depot Centre in Carson, California.
Undefeated WBA World Lightweight Champion Brandon Rios and contender Urbano Antillon engaged in a ferocious three round slugfest which will definitely be a Fight of the Year candidate.
In front of a boisterous crowd, Rios and Antillon went at it toe-to-toe from the opening bell. In an effort to establish their dominance over one another, each took turns in taking shots in order to land the one punch that they hoped would bring them victory. In the end, the rock-solid chin of Rios, coupled with his explosive power in both hands, made the difference in a fight that demonstrated just how much courage it takes to be a pro fighter.
So on a busy weekend of boxing, we had it all. The love and pride of the Romania people for their hero Bute, the beauty and technical execution of a skilled Lara, overshadowed by myopic judging and less than objective announcing, to the raw human courage and explosive display of power punching by both Rios and Antillon.
Who could ask for anything more?