MONTREAL - It's not for a title or against an elite opponent, but Lucian Bute's next fight could be the most crucial of his career.
Bute (30-1-0) will be rebounding from a loss for the first time in his career when he takes on Russian light heavyweight Denis Grachev to headline a Nov. 3 card at the Bell Centre.
A TKO loss to England's Carl Froch on May 26 in Nottingham cost Bute his International Boxing Federation super middleweight title, a belt he originally claimed in 2007 and successfully defended nine times. The defeat ended the Romanian-Quebecer's perfect run of 30 straight pro wins.
"Now, after one loss everyone probably thinks that Lucian Bute's career is over," the former world champion said at Wednesday's press conference promoting the fight. "But you're going to see that Lucian Bute is capable of overcoming difficult times and climbing back up to where I was."
Bute was an overwhelming favourite to extend his perfect record against Froch. But he was dominated by his opponent from the opening bell and yielded in the fifth round to the delight of Froch's hometown crowd.
It was a devastating loss in a title defence that held the promise of leading to a title unification bout with WBA and WBC super middleweight champion Andre Ward. Instead, the 32-year-old Bute faces a completely different career crossroads.
"It's not about proving something to anyone else," Bute said. "What I have to show, I've shown. I did it. I defended my title nine times. I lost a fight, it's not the end of the world. Just about every great champion has lost. It happens. That's boxing. But I'm going to do everything to prove to myself that I'm capable of getting back to where I was and reclaiming the world champion's belt."
Stephan Larouche, Bute's trainer, recognizes what's at stake.
"He absolutely has to win this fight," Larouche said. "He has to win his rounds convincingly. He has to be relaxed and in control, and he needs to demonstrate that will to win. If the opportunity presents itself he has to be mean and ready to finish off the fight as soon as possible."
A win over Grachev will place Bute in position for a contracted rematch against Froch in Montreal.
Having learned a hard lesson, the former champion is not looking past his next fight.
"Boxing is very, very dangerous," Bute said. "Grachev is a very tough opponent. He's very aggressive and he hits hard. He has never lost as a pro and he's coming to fight, not just to take his purse. It's been a year and a half since I've fought at home and I'm looking forward to getting back into the Bell Centre ring."
Rising welterweight Mikael Zewski is scheduled for an eight-round welterweight fight with Mexico's Roberto Ventura. The Trois-Rivieres native is 16-0 and looking forward to a rare home bout in Quebec.
"Absolutely, I'm fighting in such big venues and always on huge cards so I think that when I'll get to the level of fighting for world titles and everything this is something I have already seen, Las Vegas, the huge crowds and the big press conferences," Zewski said. "You have 10,000 people for the weigh-in in Las Vegas. It's crazy and this is the experience of fighting in Las Vegas and the United States all the time."
Renan St-Juste of Repentigny, Que., will face American Allan Green in a 10-round light heavyweight fight, and super flyweight Sebastien Gauthier of St-Jerome, Que., will fight former champion Rodrigo Guerrero of Mexico.
Light heavyweights Schiller Hyppolite of Montreal and Chicoutimi's Francy N'Tetu will also square off, and lightweight Michael Gadbois of Saint-Hyacinthe, Que.
Quebec City welterweight Pier-Olivier Cote was originally on the card but he had to withdraw from his bout against Mexico's Cesar Chavez because of health issues that have curtailed his training.