Finally healthy, Lucian Bute celebrated his return from a 19-month layoff on Saturday by turning to his home fans in Montreal and mouthing the words "I'm back."
Bute (32-2, 24 KOs), a former super middleweight titlist, looked tentative in the early going before blowing through heavy underdog Andrea Di Luisa via fourth-round TKO at the Bell Centre. The 171-pound catchweight bout headlined a Premier Boxing Champions card.
"Like I said this week, Lucian Bute has come back," Bute said. "He's back. He's back!"
A beloved superstar in his adopted home of Quebec, the native of Romania had the crowd on its feet with his performance. The reception brought Bute to tears as he celebrated in the center of the ring.
Bute, who improved to 20-1 at the Bell Centre, made his first appearance since dropping a wide decision to Jean Pascal in an all-Quebec showdown in January 2014. He then withdrew from a return bout in December with a back injury.
He had little trouble against the untested Di Luisa (17-3, 13 KOs), a native of Italy who was fighting outside of his home country for the first time. Lacking flashy hand speed, movement or power, Di Luisa proved an easy foil for Bute, who failed to sit down on his punches early while trying to shake off the rust.
"After the 19 months since my last fight, I was in the gym with my team and the team said to me to just take your time," Bute said. "Just put the punches together and it will be great."
He began to rebuild his confidence in Round 3 by landing a pretty left uppercut to the body and a series of looping left hands from distance. Once Bute committed to letting his hands go the following the round, Di Luisa began to crumble.
Bute, who connected on 65 percent of his power shots overall, finished off a four-punch combination by clubbing Di Luisa and flooring him with a straight left hand.
Di Luisa, 33, quickly regained his feet but was in bad shape and cut below his right eye. Bute swarmed in to land a five-punch combination that forced Di Luisa's corner to throw in the towel, with referee Steve St. Germain calling the fight off at 1:53 of Round 4.
Alvarez outpoints game Prieto
Unbeaten light heavyweight prospect Eleider Alvarez was pushed to the limit throughout the first six rounds against unheralded Isidro Prieto before settling in and winning by decision.
Alvarez (18-0, 10 KOs), a native of Colombia who fights out of Montreal, was awarded unanimous scores of 117-111 from the ringside judges. But he was forced to overcome the aggressive pace of Prieto (24-1-3, 20 KOs), who was fighting outside of South America for the first time.
"It was a good fight, it was a hard fight," said Alvarez, through an interpreter. "He came well prepared for the fight. It was a hard fight but I'm happy."
Prieto, 29, was aggressive off the opening bell and greatly limited Alvarez's output. He staggered Alvarez in the closing seconds of Round 1 with a right hand and badly hurt Alvarez again in Round 6 following a flurry of power shots.
The native of Paraguay, who makes his home in Argentina, steadily began to fade over the second half of the fight. Not only was his output down, but he also no longer had the same snap on his punches while going to the body or looping right hands over the top.
Prieto, who had never fought past 10 rounds, was ripe for the picking late as Alvarez, 31, used his quick, stiff jab to control distance before routinely catching Prieto coming in with short right hands.
"Thank God I got the win," Alvarez said. "I prepared to go the 12 rounds. I didn't want to but I was ready for it."
Despite the defeat, Prieto outlanded Alvarez, 203 to 195, according to CompuBox.