By Dave Spencer
They know each other inside and outside of the ring. They refer to each other as friends. They have sparred upwards of 96 rounds inside the ring helping each other prepare for battle against other opponents. But on November 5th in Quebec City the friendship gets put on hold as IBF Champion Lucian Bute (29-0 24KO) makes his ninth title defense against Glen Johnson (51-15-2 35KO).
Bute’s trainer Stephane Larouche jokes that he believes it was actually 97 rounds that the two went against each other and that Johnson might have forgotten one, presumably put to sleep by the undefeated fighter. Joking aside, both are appreciative to be meeting up with each other with Johnson getting his third title shot in his last four fights and Bute finally getting his foot in the door of the ‘Super Six’ tournament.
“I’m finally part of the Super Six,” said Bute in a conference call about getting to face Johnson who was a substitute participant in the Showtime tournament and made it to the semi-finals where he lost a majority-decision to Carl Froch after stopping Allan Green in the fight previous. “Glen Johnson has seen everything in boxing, I know him as a friend but I am preparing for a fight, and I am very confident as usual.”
Although it was two years ago, Bute believes he benefitted the most of their time together in the ring. “He was getting ready for Chad Dawson and I was getting ready for Librado Andrade. We know that sparring is always different than a real fight, I know he’s been training hard for the past two years and I’ve been doing the same on my side. But I think I’m the one who gained the most. I came there and built my confidence, it was hard sparring, we wanted to win every day, it was competitive, it was great. I think I improved and improved my confidence after sparring with Glen Johnson.”
Johnson stated that it was great work inside his Miami gym. “We both accomplished our goals and we both got better. I was fighting a better guy than what Lucian was, so I ended coming out on the losing side and Lucian ended up coming out on the winning side, but it is what it is, and we move forward from there. But this is not sparring this fighting, it’s a whole different level. I have a whole lot of respect for Lucian, but you’re fighting for your career, you’re fighting for everything, so you have to go give it your all. You can resume the friendship later, but you have to go in and do what you have to do to win fights.”
Bute agreed, “We’ve got a great mutual respect for him and his team. But this has nothing to do with the respect and friendship, this guy can take away what I’ve been working so hard for, it’s going to be my survival instincts that night.”
Johnson at 42 said he has no plans or thoughts of retirement at this point and that he will continue to move forward. “I expect to put on a tremendous performance. I expect to come out of the fight victorious for me it doesn’t have to do anything with age. I feel great and look forward to putting on a great fight. I have no problem making the weight and weight is not an issue and it is getting easier each time.”