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IBF super-middleweight champion Bute sworn in as Canadian citizen

03/26/2012 01:37 EDT | Updated 05/26/2012 05:12 EDT
MONTREAL - Lucian Bute arrived in Canada in the midst of a November snowstorm in 2003 not really knowing what was in store.

The native of Pachea, Romania, was about to embark on a professional career that would see him become International Boxing Federation super-middleweight champion and earn recognition as one of the best fighters in the world.

He would build a perfect 30-0 record, with 24 wins including the first 15 of his pro career by knockout.

And on Monday, he became a full-fledged Canadian citizen.

"At the time, I didn't know what was going to happen in my career or my life," said Bute. holding the citizenship certificate handed to him moments earlier by judge Gilles H. Duguay.

"But I got settled here, I learned French, I made some friends and I felt good. I decided to build a house here, pay taxes. I was happy here."

The 32-year-old Bute was sworn in along with 30 other new Canadians from 19 countries in a ceremony in the gym at the St. Dorothy elementary school in northeastern Montreal several blocks east of the Claude Robillard Centre, where his promoter InterBox has its training centre.

The six-foot-two boxer joined his fellow new Canadians in reciting the citizenship oath and singing "O Canada" before an audience of friends, a few dozen well-dressed students who later put on a musical performance, and a throng of media.

And then he had something typically Canadian planned — flying to Florida.

Bute was to head south only a few hours after the ceremony to begin training camp for his title defence on May 26 against Carl Froch in Nottingham, England.

It will be the slick southpaw's 10th defence of the title he earned with a victory over Alejandro Berrio in 2007. It should also be the toughest test after fighting almost exclusively in friendly territory in Montreal, Quebec City and two fights in Romania.

But this day was all about smiles and handshakes as Bute got the certificate he has awaited since he gained permanent resident's status in 2007. That gave him full rights as a Canadian in every area except that he could not vote in elections. Now he can vote.

More importantly for his career, it will give him a passport that makes travel easy. He will have dual Canadian and Romanian citizenship, but the Romanian passport often requires visas and draws questions and delays at border crossings.

Bute first came to Canada as a member of the Romanian national team for the Francophone Games in Ottawa in 2001, when he won a gold medal.

"I really liked it," he recalled. "I'm not saying that because I'm now Canadian, but it was the nicest trip we had with the national team.

"We came in a private plane. We were 100 athletes in a lot of disciplines. Plus we won the gold medal. I really liked that tournament. And when I got the chance to sign with InterBox I did it right away. (Leonard) Dorin and (Adrian) Diaconu were already there. That was a plus for me. I wasn't all alone."

InterBox had a future WBA lightweight champion in Dorin and a hot prospect in Diaconu, both from Romania, but they were especially eager to add Bute, the most gifted of the lot.

He was hired as a sparring partner for former WBC super-middlweight champ Eric Lucas' rematch with German Markus Bayer, a bout that ended up being cancelled, and then was offered a contract.

His first pro fight on Nov. 22, 2003 at the Bell Centre in Montreal saw him stop Robert Muhammed in the third round.

They were lonely days early on, far from home where he had lived with his parents and four sisters. He didn't speak English or French and lived by himself in an apartment a few blocks from the gym.

"It was a difficult year," said Bute, who has been slowly learning English to go with his French. "You're in another world. You don't know what's going on."

Early in his career, he became frustrated at not being able to answer questions posed to him by a journalist and decided to enrol in an intensive French course at the University of Montreal.

Trainer Stephan Larouche helped by speaking to him only in French, as well as mixing in some made up boxing words to replace English terminology that only those two understand. Bute soon was speaking competent French.

He also got to know some of the roughly 40,000 Romanians living in Montreal and had a circle of friends. Several were on hand for the ceremony, including his fiancee.

And his rise up the boxing ladder went without a hitch.

"It takes a lot of will and desire to install yourself in a country where you don't speak a word of the language," said Larouche.

Dorin returned to Romania after his boxing career. Bute said he will likely continue to spend time in both countries, but he has built a life in Canada. He owns a house in Laval north of Montreal and has other investments.

He is also a spokesman for the Romanian tourism industry and a hugely popular figure in his native country.

"You never know what the future holds," he said. "I've integrated here. I'm happy to be here and to be officially Canadian."

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