20 March 2011 – Steve Wellings
It is now literally two down and one to go from the three world title fights involving Irish boxers. Brian Magee went out on his shield in Montreals Bell Centre on Saturday March 19 as he found the punches of champion Lucian Bute a little too hot to handle. Dropped three times in total, the final visit to the canvas resulted in referee Pete Podgorski calling time on Brians brave challenge in the tenth round.
Magee worked behind a high guard throughout the contest and aimed to establish his strong southpaw jab. Butes loose style would prove to be a problem from the start, with the Romanian native -now firmly based in Canada- whipping in sneaky right uppercuts as Magee moved in expecting the left hand cross. The champions unorthodox style made him a difficult fighter to predict.
Brian caught Butes attention in the third round, shaking him with a solid counter left hand. The Lisburn man was warming to the task, moving his well-supported opponent into corners and searching for the sort of form that saw him stop Mads Larsen in seven rounds to win the European super-middleweight title in 2010. The fact that Lucian was taken into the ninth round by unheralded Jesse Brinkley in his last fight would provide experienced Magee with the confidence that he could also stick around into the later rounds. Brians compact style was garnering success by the middle sessions, even though Butes pot-shotting was no doubt grabbing the points on the three judges scorecards.
In the sixth round Butes vaunted power came to the fore when a chopping left hook to the solar plexus dropped Magee to his haunches. The 35-year-old rose sharply and gathered his breath. He had been ripped into superb condition by his training team, consisting of Bernardo Checa and Alec Doherty, and sucked in plenty of air while referee Podgorski doled out a count.
In the seventh Brian tried to put the pressure on, but was strictly head hunting and neglecting his usually effective right hook to the body. Bute, on the other hand, was finding his own body shots were working a treat. One appeared to land flush but the IBF official was located behind the action and erroneously ruled it low. Moments later there was no disputing the quality punches that were landing cleanly. Magee touched down again, legitimately this time, as the same slashing hook plundered his body. With multiple trips to the canvas, it was becoming reminiscent of Magees 2004 Kings Hall battle with Robin Reid.
The challenger bit down hard on his gumshield and bulled forward, realizing that he had to stop Bute in his tracks, or at least dent his confidence. If Magee could drag him into the later rounds then there was a chance that the Montreal man might begin to crumble, like he did against Librado Andrade.
It turned out that his was purely straw clutching. The points deficit was growing to unreachable levels and Brian needed to start hurting his man. Credit to the former IBO boss who never considered boxing his way to a points loss, even when on the receiving end of more torso-bashing in the ninth round. He kept circling and moving forward, desperate to land some money punches.
He may of even ridden out the storm, Bute was on the back foot again but just luring Magee into a false sense of security as it happens. In the tenth round, the IBF ruler swiveled his hips, waited for Magee to expect the body shot and dropped in a superb left uppercut to the jaw. Brian caught it with his mouth open and fell to the canvas, prompting the third man to wave it off immediately, at 2:04 of the tenth round. The stoppage was met by a roar of approval from over 12,000 fans.
Now in the twilight of his career, we will wait for the official word from Magee as to whether he views this world title crack as the culmination of a careers work, or if he will once again look to tread the British and European title scene for another run at glory.