|Lucian Bute receives his Canadian citizenship with 30 other new Canadians in Montreal, Que., March 26, 2012. (JOCELYN MALETTE/QMI Agency)
MONTREAL - He has the IBF super-middleweight title, growing international stature and the adoration of boxing fans, and now Lucian Bute also has Canadian citizenship under his belt.
The 32-year-old native of Romania was sworn in Monday along with 30 other new Canadians from 19 countries at a Montreal elementary school. He couldn't hide his excitement as he took the oath and received his citizenship certificate.
"I've been preparing for this day for years," said Bute (30-0, 24 KOs). "I felt welcomed when I arrived in 2003. Now it's an honour to represent Quebec, Canada and Romania."
He arrived in Canada to work as a sparring partner for former world champion Eric Lucas, not speaking a word of English or French. He had to renew his work permit every year until 2007 when he became a permanent resident.
Bute said he has acclimated to the cold weather and foreign languages.
"I'm comfortable in my adopted country," he said. "I have friends, I speak French. I bought a house, I pay taxes. I'm like you now, I have a Canadian passport and I can vote. I won't talk about politics, though," he said jokingly.
Bute is one of Canada's greatest boxers, having defended his title nine times since 2007, and is considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
He first tasted victory in Canada in 2001 when he won gold at the Francophonie Games in Ottawa. Fellow Romanians Leonard Dorin and Adrian Diaconu had moved to Montreal years earlier to fight under the InterBox banner, and Bute followed suit.
"I lived next to the gym and I walked everywhere," Bute said. "It was winter and it was cold. I got up at 6:30 every morning to go to the gym. I called my parents every day at first, I missed them a lot. I then decided to learn French at the University of Montreal. It was nice to finally understand what people were saying."
Bute's busy, clever southpaw style and hunger to win caught the attention of Lucas' trainer, Stephan Larouche.
"He gave Eric a lot of trouble and he was there every morning," Larouche said. "Eric told me that besides Roy Jones Jr., (Bute) was the one who had caused the most problems in sparring."
Bute is training for his 10th world title defence on May 26 in Nottingham, England against Carl Froch (28-2, 20 KOs).