The Canadian Press
Being the heavy underdog and fighting in his opponent’s hometown is nothing new for Irish super-middleweight Brian Magee.
After all, the 35-year-old from Belfast walked into Aarhus, Denmark, only 14 months ago to take on local favourite Mads Larsen and came away with the European title.
“I’ve been an away fighter all my life,” Magee said at a news conference Wednesday in Montreal.
Magee was there to promote his bout on Saturday night at the Bell Centre against Lucian Bute of Montreal.
Bute (27-0) will face Magee (34-3-1) in a battle of left-handers for his seventh defence of the IBF belt he won in 2007 with a victory over Alejandro Berrio (24-5-1), who will fight in one of the co-features against Renan St. Juste (22-2-1) of Repentigny, Que.
The other co-feature has rising light middleweight star Vanes Martirosyan (28-0) of the U.S. against Bladimir Hernandez (18-4) of Mexico. The bout is live on the specialty channel Showtime in the U.S. and on pay-per-view in Canada.
Magee is given little chance by the oddsmakers of toppling the highly skilled Bute, but that was also the case when he faced the veteran Larsen.
“Fighting away from home and being an underdog is good experience to have under your belt,” he said. “It’s not new for me to be an underdog, so I have to believe I can win here.
“I have to have the performance of my life, but anything’s possible.”
His manager Pat Magee (no relation) said Larsen confounded the perhaps overconfident Larsen.
“The key was Brian’s aggression in the fight,” he said. “It took Larsen by surprise.
“Brian hadn’t shown that aggression before and he applied it from the first round. We could see the look of amazement on Larsen’s face. Brian never lost a round.”
Bute’s manager Stephane Larouche saw it from a different angle.
“Larsen didn’t fight,” he said. “He thought he could wait and then knock him out, so he let him come forward.
“He thought he wouldn’t make much damage and [Magee] found hole there [to the body] and then got him to the head. The fans and the media discredit Magee a lot, but Lucian and I take him very seriously.”
The Bute camp has been repeating that like a mantra since their fighter returned from a two-month camp in Florida this week looking tanned and fit.
It will be the first bout of a multi-fight contract Bute signed with Showtime and reportedly will earn him about $1.2 million US. Magee feels it would be only natural for Bute to be looking ahead to higher-profile opponents.
There has already been much talk that his next bout will be against another Dane, former champ Mikkel Kessler who is expected to watch from ringside.
“I’m only concentrating on Brian Magee, I’ll worry about Kessler after I win this fight,” said the 31-year-old Bute.
What concerns Bute is that he has not fought a fellow lefthander since he beat Sergey Tatevosyan in 2007 and has faced only two southpaws in his career. Magee was up against a fellow lefty in Larsen.
“It’s been four years since I faced a southpaw but we had left-handed sparring partners,” Bute said. “And we watched a lot of video of Magee.
“He’s a guy who is physically strong and very aggressive. He hits hard with both hands, but he has weaknesses too and we have a good game plan.”
It is a second visit for Magee, although the last was as an amateur for the 1982 world junior championships. He remembers little from that except that he won his fight.
When asked how he would celebrate if he pulls off an upset, he said: “with a pint of Guinness, of course.” And a trip to the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday.
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