Yvon Michel‘s Casino de Montreal boxing series is now an entrenched fixture in the city’s vibrant combat sports scene, serving as a proving ground for emerging prospects and burgeoning contenders. And while Thursday’s offering from GYM certainly lived up to the high standards of past iterations, it also featured something historic: a woman headlining a fight card in Quebec for the first time ever. Indeed, the night belonged to the skilled and affable Marie-Eve Dicaire (7-0), who outclassed Lisa Noel Garland (15-7, 8 KOs) over eight rousing rounds.
While the spotlight should deservedly shine on Dicaire, who will now hold top ten ratings from multiple sanctioning bodies after besting WBC #6 Garland, the card also provided a platform for the pro debut of a bluechip Olympian, an all-Canadian slugfest between undefeated prospects, and the continued progression of two of Montreal’s more intriguing talents. Moreover, a Mixed Martial Arts contest, which saw Yoni Sherbatov score a TKO at 44 seconds of the opening round over Martin Sandoval via liver kick, diversified the action. It also makes one wonder whether there’s more crossover potential between boxing and MMA in our fight-mad city.
2016 French Olympian Christian M’Billi (1-0, 1 KOs) made an emphatic professional debut with a second round knockout of Adrian Arenas (2-5). Early in the contest, M’Billi played possum, absorbing shots on his tight guard as he stalked forward with eerie composure. Then, the first punch M’Billi loaded up on, a left hook to the body, nearly crumpled Arenas. It would prove prophetic.
It was that same left hook that felled Arenas in round two, but not before M’Billi showed his class with some crisp counter right hands. At times M’Billi didn’t fully turn his shots, but even so, his raw power is undeniable. He was aggressive from the outset of round two, and he battered the hapless Arenas before scoring the stoppage at 1:26 of the second stanza. With such an easy, emphatic win, M’Billi could return on the Lucian Bute-Eleider Alvarez card on February 24 in Quebec City.
Bruno Bredicean (7-0, 3 KOs) scored his second consecutive stoppage in another poised and powerful performance against a rugged opponent in Mexican veteran Alejandro Herrera (16-6-2, 5 KOs). Bredicean started patiently, boxing behind his jab and controlling distance with calculated movement. As he began to land right hand counters, Bredicean’s most effective punch quickly revealed itself: a left hook as Herrera pulled away from inside exchanges.
Bredicean landed his left at will, and once he started to mix in more consistent body work and straight right hands, Herrera was reduced to a panting, bloody mess. Herrera found himself wilting in round four after Bredicean cornered him and unloaded combinations, but it would take another full stanza of punishment, including a ludicrous volley of consecutive right crosses, to sap Herrera’s will. The official verdict was a TKO for Bredicean after Herrera couldn’t answer the bell for the sixth.
The most compelling and competitive fight of the night belonged to Quebec’s Patrice Volny (5-0, 3 KOs) and Ottawa’s Louisbert Altidor (5-1, 1 KOs), who once against proved that with all the burgeoning talent in Canada, more domestic showdowns are a necessity. What was unusual about this contest, though, was that both Volny and Altidor were undefeated prospects.
Earl in the fight, Altidor actually appeared the stronger of the two men. Applying steady pressure and throwing the more thudding shots, Altidor found success landing to Volny’s lanky, upright body. Altidor’s early strategy paid dividends; he was able to consistently back Volny up, pin him against the ropes, and unleash scoring combinations. By round three, however, Volny had settled into his rhythm.
Volny found success with his counter right hand and a snapping left hook to the body. He also became more defensively responsible as the bout progressed, blocking Altidor’s shots on his tight guard. Round five featured gripping two-way slugging, with Volny gaining strength as Altidor started to fade. A massive right hand hurt Altidor in round six, and both men, to the delight of their respective cheering sections, unleashed sustained volleys of hooks and crosses until the final bell. A rematch down the road makes sense, as Volny prevailed via deserved majority decision (57-57, 58-56, 59-55).
Shakeel “The Jamaican Juggernaut” Phinn (12-1, 8 KOs) scored a dominant stoppage of the overmatched Victor Manuel Palacios (13-14-2, 8 KOs) when the Mexican’s corner brought a halt to the fight after three rounds of pure punishment. Despite his obvious physical and technical advantages, Phinn patiently stalked Palacios early, measuring his target with carefully selected power jabs, which he seemed able to land at will, and body shots when he got in punching range.
In round two, a cut opened up the on right side of Palacios’ brow and leaked for the rest of the bout. By this point, Phinn was landing thudding counter right hands after deftly slipping Palacios’ winging shots, and he started to work his uppercut during a dominant third round. A massive left hook nearly put Palacios down, and Phinn punished him along the ropes for sustained stretches until the round, and fight, mercifully ended. Expect another active year for the thrilling Phinn, who remains flexible as a promotional free agent.
Despite her lofty WBC ranking, Lisa Noel Garland, who strutted into the ring with “Long Live Gatti” on her robe in an attempt to endear herself to the local faithful, offered little in terms of technical prowess. She did, however, apply steady pressure and attempt to lure Marie-Eve Dicaire into a sloppy war of attrition. Dicaire, to her credit, boxed with discipline over eight rounds, playing matador to Garland’s bull. Over the first three stanzas, a familiar pattern emerged: Garland rushing in while winging shots, Dicaire using her footwork and combinations to land scoring blows, and Dicaire leading effectively with left hands from her southpaw stance when Garland paused to regroup.
The action intensified in round four and culminated in Dicaire dropping Garland with a cuffing right hook. Dicaire pressed the action but ran out of clock, although she continued to administer a comprehensive beating to the increasingly frustrated South Carolina native in the ensuing stanza; in fact, Garland, displeased with Dicaire allegedly hitting her on the break, paused in the centre of the ring to shout, “Bitch! Fuck you!” The outburst only galvanized Dicaire, who proceeded to pummel Garland for the better part of three painful minutes.
As Dicaire started to walk Garland onto more thudding shots, she nearly scored her first career stoppage in round seven. Dicaire forced Garland to retreat to the ropes and they exchanged freely, and sometimes wildly, with Dicaire clearly getting the best of the action and stunning Garland with her straighter, slicing punches. Still, the knockout remained elusive, as Dicaire’s power shots didn’t carry the necessary snap to drop Garland again. That said, Dicaire did connect with a handful of head-rattling left hands, but Garland, clearly of tough Southern stock, ate them gamely. Ultimately, it was easy pickings for Dicaire, who prevailed by scores of 79-72 and 80-71 (twice).
With Marie-Eve Dicaire’s triumph and the fact that her supporters are both rabid and loyal, don’t be shocked to see her challenge for a world title in Montreal within the next year or two, which would mark another historic first for one of the world’s leading boxing metropolises. While questions still linger about Dicaire’s lack of power and how that will impact her at world-level, such concerns should take a back seat (for now) to her literal and symbolic win on Thursday evening. If we are indeed on the precipice of a boxing Golden Age in Montreal, Marie-Eve Dicaire served notice that the city’s male pugilists aren’t going to be the only standard-bearers.
— Zachary Alapi
Images courtesy of Photozone.