- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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When Showtime put together the ongoing Super Six World Boxing Classic in July 2009, it conspicuously left out super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute from the six-man field of top 168-pounders, even though he had defended his title in previous fights on the network and was clearly one of the best fighters in the division.
But now the Montreal superstar appears headed back to Showtime under a three-fight deal the network is negotiating with InterBox, Bute's promoter.
"A lot of things change in boxing," InterBox president Jean Bedard told ESPN.com on Tuesday.
Bedard acknowledged that he and Showtime's Ken Hershman are negotiating a deal.
"We are working on something, but nothing is finalized," Bedard said. "We are in serious discussions right now. That is as far as I can go right now. But what I can tell you is, yes, we are working on something.
"I don't want to go into too much detail because nothing is finalized. Yes, we have discussions with Showtime. Yes, we want to fight the best super middleweights."
"We don't have a comment," Showtime spokesman Chris DeBlasio said.
Showtime has directed much of its energy and budget toward fights in the Super Six tournament, which has seen its share of issues with delays, cancellations and three of the original participants -- Jermain Taylor, Mikkel Kessler and Andre Dirrell -- dropping out. But with Andre Ward, Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham headed to the semifinals along with the winner of Saturday's Group Stage 3 bout between Glen Johnson and Allan Green, Showtime still has several appealing fights in the division and seems to be setting the stage for a major fight between the tournament winner and Bute.
"There are still some things to work out, but I think Showtime has the good boxers with them that we want to fight, so I think we can have a plan with them," Bedard said. "We need to bring the fights that the fans want to see, and we are ready to go."
After Showtime televised two of Bute's title defenses, a decision win against Librado Andre in their first controversial fight in October 2008 followed by a four-round blowout of Fulgencio Zuniga in March 2009, the network made little effort to keep him on board when it put together the Super Six later in the year.
As a result, InterBox took Bute (27-0, 22 KOs) to HBO, which featured his rematch with Andrade and his next defense against Edison Miranda, both of which Bute won via sensational knockout. However, when Bute, 30, made his sixth defense against mandatory challenger Jesse Brinkley on Oct. 15, HBO was not interested and the bout landed on ESPN. HBO had interest in a potential fight between Bute and former middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik in the first part of next year.
Bedard said Bute will fight next in March in Montreal, where he has regularly drawn passionate crowds to the Bell Centre, although a fight with Pavlik is unlikely. Pavlik, who lost the middleweight title to Sergio Martinez in April, was due to return Nov. 13 on the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito undercard, but pulled out on Monday, citing an injury. He probably won't fight the rest of 2010, making a March fight with Bute unlikely.
With Pavlik on the sideline and Bute not interested in moving to light heavyweight, a division HBO is involved in, HBO had little to offer Bute.
"The thing that is sure is that Lucian will fight in Montreal in March, that is the plan," Bedard said. "The issue we have is that he is in (his native) Romania now on vacation, so it's tough for me to have serious conversations with him. But what we have talked about and what we want to do in 2011, as he has always said, is that he wants to be seen as the best super middleweight and fight all these guys -- all the good super middleweights. That's what we want and that's what the fans want."
As for Bute, a 6-foot-2 southpaw with known for an excellent body attack and uppercut, being left out of the original Super Six talks, Bedard downplayed its role in the present talks.
"Because I am in the middle of negotiations, I prefer not to comment on that," he said.
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Lucian Bute appears headed back to Showtime under a three-fight deal the network is negotiating with InterBox, Bute's promoter.