By Dave Spencer / Fightnews Canada
“I’m very happy with my performance,” said the undefeated IBF 168-pound world champion and hometown favorite Lucian Bute (24-0 19KO), who had his shortest work night since his streak of fifteen consecutive knockouts to start his career ended in 2005. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about who’s champion now.” If the Romanian southpaw was looking for a measure of redemption from the controversial ending in his last fight, he got it and more. Bute laid a quick and efficient beatdown of Fulgencio Zuniga (22-4-1 19KO) handing the Columbian the quickest defeat of his eight year career with a TKO victory at 2:25 of the fourth round in front of 12,153 enthusiastic fans Friday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada.
Bute dropped the three-time title challenger with a left uppercut to the body early in the fourth round, Zuniga managed to beat the count but the IBF champion was relentless in his pursuit, giving New Jersey referee Lindsey Page no choice but to pull the plug as the champion jumped on the opportunity.
Bute managed to dominate from the opening bell and was clearly the bigger fighter in the ring with the tall Romanian fighter towering over Zuniga whose first title attempt was six years ago at 154 pounds versus Daniel Santos.
“We studied the tape and we knew he couldn’t get inside,” said Bute’s trainer Stephane Larouche. “This is exactly how we planned it, start slow, pop him a few times and build from there.”
Bute did manage a couple of ‘pops’ in the first round with a pair of solid right hands landing flush giving the challenger a taste of what was to come. Zuniga ate a cow’s worth of leather in the second round as Bute amped things up and made the challenger pay each and every time he would come close to opening up. And when the Columbian would try and put the brakes on and play defensive, Bute’s jab burrowed through his guard like a freight train through a plate glass window.
“We thought speed would be the difference,” said Bute of the game plan going in, “I saw it when we sparred and on the tapes, that’s what we based our strategy on. I was ready for twelve rounds; we worked hard preparing for this fight. I said in the press conference I was gong to give him a boxing lesson and I think I did that.”
Traditionally slow and cautious out of the box, Bute was landing solid lefts and jumping on opportunities as Zuniga’s stance begun to widen in the third round and was given instructions by Larouche to go out and hurt his opponent to the body as he entered the fourth round.
Hurt him he did.
After delivering a series of left hands set up off the jab, chasing Zuniga down, Bute delivered the shot that will resonate with fans for at least as long as the lingering controversy from his last fight. With the challenger along the ropes, Bute unfurled a twisting left uppercut straight into the midsection of Zuniga that left his organs rearranged and him gasping for breath as he sank down to the canvas.
The fact that Zuniga was able to get up and just barely beat the count laid fortitude to the reputation of the fighter who had been stopped just once in 26 previous bouts. But there was a price to pay for his valor and the Columbian paid it as Bute bore in and finished things with a full frontal assault, that for all the talk of referees before the fight, probably had the bout going on longer than it had to before Lindsey Page mercifully stepped in to save the fighter.
Zuniga was gracious in defeat, “I respect him for what we did out there, I think he’s more technically sound than Pavlik but Pavlik hits harder. I’d say it’s 50-50 if those two ever met up.” As for future plans for Zuniga, a return to middleweight is most likely. “We’re going to return to our proper weight,” said Alfredo Marchio, promoter to the challenger. “Bute is a big guy, (Librado) Andrade came into our dressing room before the fight and he’s huge. We felt we did well in our last fight with Denis Inkin, but I think we used the wrong benchmark.”
As for Bute, his star is once again shining bright in a talent laden division. Right now Librado Andrade who has an elimination fight in April is lingering on the horizon. “I hope Andrade wins and we’re able to have our rematch and settle things. I’m ready for anybody though, Taylor, Pavlik, anybody.”