Lucian Bute robbed me of my joy last night. I had been looking forward all week to the late rounds to see if Bute had it in him to avoid a repeat of the first fight. With the added pressure Andrade was putting on in the first round rounds when compared to the first fight, I was even more excited at the prospect. I didn't have a preference on who won, but I wanted to see and expected to see the championship rounds and compare them to the drama of the first. When Bute knocked Andrade out, he knocked me out with pure shock. I had never considered that outcome possible and when it happened the knockout took a couple minutes to completely register. Wow. A star had to have been born on the international stage. Where does he go from here?
The answer to this question, as we know, is not as promising at perhaps it should be. Bute was not invited to take part in the Super Six. I'm not here to debate the quality of that decision, but that means Bute cannot get fights with Kessler, Froch, Abraham, Taylor, Ward, or Dirrell. for quite a while Otherwise we could pick any one of them and have a big event on our hands. In almost any other division (with perhaps the exception of 140), removing six elite level fighters would about cripple any future money making/big fight opportunities. Luckily for Bute, however, 168 is deep enough to carry him to the end of the Super Six. Let us explore the options.
Option #1 - Unifying with the WBO belt
January 9th, newly crownded WBO titlist Robert Stieglitz defends against Edison Miranda. Stieglitz won the the title in a better than expected, upset performance in a late summer bout with Balzsay and seems to have improved, but there is little proof to his resume that he is world class other than a since avenged late stoppage of Alejandro Berrio. Stieglitz was stopped by Andade a few years ago as well. Miranda's losses, on the other hand, continue to look better than they did at the time each time he loses and he certainly presents a different, and perhaps more difficult challenge to Stieglitz than any of his previous opponents has.
Quite frankly anything Bute does will make money in Montreal. A unification fight with Stieglitz makes a lot of sense because of that. I can't see Bute doing anything but routing the champ, and he'll make tons of money picking up another belt. Miranda has the fanbase to get the unification fight noticed on a bigger stage too should he win. This fight makes a lot of sense in terms of now for Bute, but even in the future a man with two belts will be undeniably appealing for the winner of the Super Six.
Option #2 - Allan Green
Green has done little to deserve this fight, but through a steady diet of beatable opponents, the legacy of the Codrington execution, and believable enough excuses for his Miranda performance, Green keeps hanging around looking for that big fight. HBO would probably televise and he'd be a good name for Bute to add to his resume. Plus, Green does present just enough of physical challenge to make the fight worth watch. Green is a gifted fighter physically who doesn't seem to know he is. I'd pick Bute to stop him, but I'd also tune in to watch.
Option #3 - Sakio Bika Rematch
I think we can all agree that Bika and Bute are both different fighters than when they met in the summer of 07. Both have continued to look better and better. They are also bigger names now. There was also enough drama in this fight to justify a rematch, especially in a division deprived of its six biggest stars.
Option #4 - The Pascal/Diaconu rematch winner
I have never really seen this discussed. One division up is about to host a Montreal super fight rematch. One of the fighters, Diaconu, is pretty limited and a style in which I picked Bute to win a relatively easy decision over. Pascal may provide a tougher fight. There are many problems here. For one, if Pascal were not to retain, we may see a trilogy. Bute may not want to move up in weight either, even for the allure of being a two division champ. Pascal, however, has campaigned most of his career ar 168 and I would be surprised if he was unable to move back down. Pascal also seems to want to stay at 175 and fight Dawson though too.
This may be the toughest fight to make, but... just imagine the intensity of that arena, not to mention the quality of the potential fight.
Option #5 - The soft voluntary defense
There are always a million different directions to go in with the soft voluntary, but I see two options as more viable than others. Peter Manfredo Jr brings a name to help sell tickets (not that that is needed), plus just enough of a fanbase to create some drama. More likely, however, is fellow Quebec super middleweight Sebastian Demers. Demers has a fanbase right in Montreal and stands little to no shot at winning. He's really the perfect soft voluntary defense for Bute. Curtis Stevens could also be a dark horse here.
It must be disappointing to see the true other stars of the division tied up for Bute. However, there are fights to be made in waiting. I think I've outlined the most probable and realistic of them. Feel free to add your own.