James DeGale retains belt with impressive performance over Lucian Bute

November 29, 2015

DeGale hits Bute / Photo Credit: Amanda Westcott/Showtime

James DeGale (22-1, 14 KOs), a 2008 Olympic gold medalist from Britain, successfully defended his IBF Super Middleweight World Championship over former champion Lucian Bute Saturday night, earning the unanimous decision victory in an exciting back-and-forth battle due to his high punch volume, combinations, and accuracy.

The judges scored the competitive bout 116-112, 117-111, and 117-111. It was DeGale's first title defense, and took place in his opponent's hometown of Quebec City.

“I’m young and I’m fresh. I’m peaking right now,” said DeGale, who has the skills and entertaining style to back up his charismatic personality.  “I’m ready for the best in the world. Credit to Bute - he’s a great champion and believe me, he will be back.”

Bute, 35, was attempting to win back the IBF belt he defended nine times between 2007 and 2012. He came to win, and for the most part, he did a credible job matching the tremendous energy of the younger champion.

“Like I’ve said in the past, he is a world-class fighter," said DeGale. "I’ve still got things to work on in the next three or four years and I’m going to be my best.”

Despite Bute's determination, the unbelievable pace, body shots, and DeGale's versatile attack proved to be the difference. DeGale threw 524 power punches compared to 278 for Bute.

“I think it was a great fight.  I did my best tonight,” Bute said.  “I think it was a close fight.  He’s an Olympic champion, he’s a world champion.  If the judges give him the decision I respect that. I’ll be back in the gym to work hard and continue to fight.  I think it was a very close fight.  I’m happy with my performance and I’ll be back in the gym to get back in the ring one more time."

Bute (32-3, 25 KOs) didn’t look anything like the fighter that lost to Carl Froch in 2012, as he stalked the switch-hitting DeGale with a relentless attack.

“After I lost to Carl Froch that was a very difficult period for me," said Bute.  "I took a break, and now I’m back.  I feel great, I feel healthy and now I have one more chance to be back on the top."

Bute felt things might have gone differently had he not been so cautious in the early rounds.

“Maybe a few rounds I waited too much and didn’t put the punches together and I let James fight me," said Bute.

In an undercard bout, Eleider Alvarez earned the right to face WBC Light Heavyweight World Champion Adonis Stevenson with a close majority decision over Isaac Chilemba that was scored 114-114, 118-110, and 115-113.

“I knew I had to finish the later rounds strong, but I believe I did enough to win the fight,” Alvarez said.  “I’m ready to accept the challenge and face Stevenson. To be the world champion, you have to beat the champion. So that’s what I aim to do.”

Alvarez, ranked No. 2 by the WBC at 175 pounds, started quick and pocketed rounds against the No. 1 ranked contender Chilemba.  But Chilemba weathered the storm and fought his way back in the fight, as Alvarez couldn’t keep up the pace he established in the earlier rounds.

Both fighters came out with a sense of urgency in the 12th and deciding stanza and if Chilemba had won the final round, the fight would have been ruled a draw.

Chilemba argued that Alvarez, who fights out of nearby Montreal, was the beneficiary of a “hometown decision,” although the judge who ruled the fight a draw was a local and the other two were from neutral territories.

“I thought I did enough to win it,” Chilemba said.  “But it is what it is. I guess you can call it a hometown decision.”

Stevenson, who was interviewed on the television broadcast after the fight, seemed to have his focus on a much bigger prize -- light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev.

“I want to fight Kovalev," said Stevenson.  "That’s the best opportunity for me because I want his titles.  For sure, this fight will happen in June.  I don’t have a problem; my team doesn’t have a problem.  I want this fight in June. Kovalev is scared.  I talked to him, saw it in his eyes that he’s scared of me.”

In another undercard bout, Adrian Granados  (15-3-2, 10 KOs) survived a first-round knockdown to shock undefeated super lightweight prospect Amir Imam with an eighth round TKO (2:34).

It was a crushing defeat for Imam, who entered the fight as the No. 1 mandatory challenger to WBC Super Lightweight World Champion Viktor Postol.

“I believe I should be the mandatory challenger,” Granados said.  “He was in line and I stopped him. What does that mean? Come on.  I was the underdog, but I just came to take it. I came to take it."

Imam looked like he was going to finish the fight early after a nice left-right combo floored the Chicago native.  But after escaping the first, Granados dictated the tempo of the fight, worked the inside and prevented Imam – considered one of boxing’s most talented young contenders – from establishing his jab.

“The key to the fight was my jab, I just didn’t use it enough,” Imam said.  “But that’s the way it goes and I’m going to definitely come back stronger. I wasn’t thinking anything after that first-round knockdown.  I’ve done that many times and didn’t think the fight was over.  I wasn’t surprised at all by the way he came out. I know how he fights. He’s a good fighter and that’s all there is to it.”

With Imam unable to keep the fight at a distance, Granados picked apart the Don King-promoted fighter.  After seven rounds of punishment and Iman gasping for air against the ropes, Granados finished his opponent with a series of devastating combo shots.

Despite the demoralizing loss, Imam (18-1, 15 KOs) doesn’t regret taking a fight that will likely knock him out of title contention.

“I know people might say I shouldn’t have taken this fight, but I needed this fight in between as a tune-up for my next fight because I didn’t want to wait for the six to eight months for the world title shot," said Imam.

By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services

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