Dan Rafael of ESPN.com is reporting a very interesting development in the super middleweight division, as Lucian Bute is negotiating with Showtime for a three-fight deal with the network.
Bute (27-0, 22 KO) had his break on U.S. TV thanks to Showtime, but moved to HBO for his rematch with Librado Andrade in November 2009. Earlier this year they paired his mediocre fight with Edison Miranda with the Kelly Pavlik-Sergio Martinez fight, clearly hoping that after, they could pair up Pavlik and Bute for a major fight at 168 pounds. Pavlik lost, however, and with Showtime's Super Six still occupying most of the top super middleweights in the sport, Bute was low on possible opponents. He made a mandatory defense against Jesse Brinkley on October 15, but HBO declined to buy that fight, with ESPN3.com airing it in the United States instead.
Since Showtime has become the home for the 168-pound division, it frankly just makes sense that Bute would want to go back there. Even with the collapse of the Super Six (which is sputtering to its finish starting on Saturday), they have shown real commitment to airing fights with the division's top stars, and it has become essentially the flagship weight class of the network. Were Bute to stay with HBO, his greatest hope would be to either get one of the tournament castoffs into a fight there, or pray that HBO would take whatever mid-level fights await him in the short term. Showtime, on the other hand, is more likely to air those mid-level fights in order to build to major fights against the likes of Andre Ward, Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham, Mikkel Kessler, etc. The only idea HBO has so far is still matching Bute with Kelly Pavlik, and given that Pavlik bails on two out of three scheduled fights these days, he's not someone I'd want to rely on for my next money date.
Bute is scheduled to fight in March in Montreal, says InterBox president Jean Bedard. Will it be on Showtime? Right now, it would appear that's the case. Bedard is making it clear that he and Bute are looking to fight the best in the world, and when it comes to the super middleweight division, they all fight on Showtime.