Et Tu, Bute? The Man Who Could Dethrone the Super Six
By Brian Gorman, Doghouse Boxing (June 23, 2010) Doghouse Boxing  
In some ways, the Showtime Super Six Super Middleweight Classic has exceeded its lofty expectations. A tournament that many feared lacked competitiveness and heavily favored Dane Mikkel Kessler and German Arthur Abraham has instead proven well-balanced, due in equal parts to Kessler and Abraham underperforming and the pleasant surprises of Brit Carl Froch and Detroit’s Andre Dirrell.

It also has delivered a new star and pound-for-pound entrant, Oakland’s Andre Ward, who once again dominated his tourney opponent by shutting out Tulsa’s Allan Green to become the only contestant without a loss heading into Stage 3 in September.

And, execution aside, its concept can fairly be considered groundbreaking if not revolutionary, perhaps the best current answer to the stranglehold on the sport at the hands of unconscionable sanctioning bodies and equally self-serving promotional giants.

But yet, for its many virtues, the Super Six has one conspicuous absence that could ultimately result in its undoing: a sixth man not named Lucian Bute.

Eyebrows were raised when former middleweight champ Jermain Taylor, having lost three of four and coming off of a knockout loss to Froch, first received the nod as the last man in. Cynics speculated that Taylor’s inclusion had everything to do with his name and nationality and nothing to do with merit, and his second straight 12th round KO loss, by Abraham in the first stage, resulted in his early exit after one outing that was decidedly not super.

Negotiations for a box-off between the imposing but underachieving Green and former Bute victim Sakio Bika quickly deteriorated when Bika backed out, making way for Green to enter the fray via a walkover. Assuming Taylor’s schedule meant, however, that Green was fed to the tourney’s best pedigree in Ward and Kessler, and his impotence on Saturday night in Ward’s hometown surprised few.

The lack of a super sixth wouldn’t negatively impact the Showtime Boxing centerpiece if alternatives consisted more of the Robert Stieglitzes of the world. The 168 pound German WBO titlist holds an alphabet strap but fails to capture anyone’s attention or imagination, and his only foray into the mainstream resulted in a TKO loss at the hands of Librado Andrade, another Bute victim.

To be fair to the Showtime brass, though, when they compiled their field a year ago, Bute’s stock had not yet skyrocketed; he was best known for a highly controversial hometown win over Andrade in their first bout, when Canadian ref Marlon B. Wright issued perhaps the second most famous long count in the sport’s history.

Be that as it may, his stock has quickly risen since, with exciting KO wins over Andrade in their return contest and Colombian slugger Edison Miranda two months ago. What’s more, in addition to holding the IBF strap (Ward is the WBA champ; Kessler is the WBC’s), Bute ranks as Ring magazine’s #1 super middleweight. The Super Six winner therefore stands little to no chance, absent a Bute loss, of recognition by the sport’s premier publication as its champ.

That, in addition to Bute’s momentum should he continue to win during the Classic’s pendency over the next year, could cause the drums to beat loudly for a showdown between Bute and the tournament winner, who will have endured five straight tough tests.

In the meantime, no current 168 pounders appear to threaten Bute’s dominance outside of the Super Six universe. Sure, ousted middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik will move up to 168, but isn’t Bute just a bigger, stronger version of the man to whom he just ceded his belts, Sergio Martinez?

Talk is swirling about the possibility of a Bute-Bernard Hopkins pairing, a bout Showtime Super Six creator Ken Hershmann should covet. In Bute, Hopkins would find an opponent whose career he could derail and still use to once again prove all of his doubters wrong. It’s that type of fight where the timeless veteran has his man right where he wants him.

Unless, however, Bute’s knocked down a rung by Hopkins or by Chad Dawson, who often threatens to drop to super middleweight, he’ll serve as HBO’s darling but Showtime’s worst enemy, as the latter prays for the fall of the Romanian’s empire.

Maybe, despite Showtime’s best laid plans, they won’t get so lucky and they’ll have to deal with The Bute Problem at the tournament’s conclusion. Maybe the worst case scenario will develop, and Bute will school the Super Six champ. In that case, the HBO suits shouldn’t confuse a Bute save as the solution to its real problem, and where it’s already lost – in the matching of original ideas and innovation with production and execution.

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