EDMONTON - It says something about the stagnated state of Canadian boxing that the best — and most popular — fighter in the land is ... Romanian.
Granted, unbeaten IBF super middleweight champ Lucian Bute has lived in Montreal for several years and all but a handful of his 29 bouts have been in his adopted hometown. But the hard-hitting southpaw continues to be identified as Romanian by everything from BoxRec.com to Ring magazine and all of the sport’s major sanctioning bodies.
And so he should be.
Trying to pawn off Bute as a ‘Canadian’ fighter — as has become vogue with eastern media — is to stoop to the same level as our Olympic track team, which every four years pins a Maple Leaf on the best available Jamaicans. It’s just wrong.
The bogus ‘Canada’s champion’ hype will likely reach fever pitch a week after WBC 168-lb. champ Carl Froch and WBA titleholder Andre Ward square off in the final of the Super Six World Boxing Classic on Oct. 29 in Atlantic City.
On Nov. 5, Bute — a guy many insiders believe would demolish either Froch or Ward — is slated to make the ninth defence of his IBF crown against former world light heavyweight champion Glen Johnson.
Johnson, 42, is an 18-year veteran with a record of 51-15-2, with 35 KOs. His resume includes wins over future Hall of Famers Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver, and his well-deserved reputation as the ring’s quintessential road warrior will once again be put to the test in Quebec City.
“I’m extremely excited about this fight,” Johnson said from New York last week. “I’m coming to Canada to derail the Bute train and bring the IBF belt back to America.”
Johnson, replacing the injured Mikkel Kessler in the Super Six tournament, dropped a 12-round majority decision to Froch in the semifinal on June 4.
Meanwhile, Bute is coming off a four-round demoltion of previously unbeaten No. 1 contender Jean Paul Mendy last month in Bucharest.
“I expect a very tough fight,” Bute said. “I know Glen, and he’s an aggressive fighter who will put relentless pressure on me. Everybody knows I sparred with him in 2009, but sparring and fighting are different.
“Glen’s a former world champion and he’ll be in great shape. He’s fought hard against a lot of big names, so beating him is going to solidify my place among the elite in the super middleweight division.”
The Bute bandwagon is only going to get more crowded in the coming months — especially when he finally gets the chance to unify the titles against either Froch or Ward.
It’s just too bad the most popular boxer in Canada isn’t a homegrown one.
QUICK JABS: Happy belated brithday to legendary trainer Angelo Dundee, who turned 90 yesterday.
I had the pleasure of lunching with Dundee during the recent Boxing Hall of Fame induction weekend in Canastota, N.Y., and he was as sharp as ever. “Be sure to say hi to my pal Kenny Lakusta,” he said of Edmonton’s two-time Canadian heavyweight champ, whose career Dundee helped launch in Florida in 1979. “Kenny was a good boy — and he packed a helluva wallop in his right hand.”