In a perfect world, what happened last night in Montreal, the place we affectionately call “The Fight City,” would never arise: two major boxing cards at two different venues taking place at the same time. It makes no sense. And while both events could be termed successful in terms of attendance, behind the scenes organizers couldn’t help speculating on how many more tickets might have been sold if the boxing spotlight didn’t have to be shared.
At the Tohu theater in the Villeray district of the city, Grant Brothers Boxing and Rixa Promotions presented a showcase card for their growing stable of excellent prospects. Meanwhile, downtown at the historic Olympia Theater, Eye Of The Tiger Management also showed off their emerging elite talents, but with the added attraction of a main event featuring former IBF world middleweight champion, David Lemieux.
In the weeks leading up to last night, there was no question as to which of the two cards was going to attract more media attention. After all, Lemieux had helped sell-out Madison Square Garden when he faced Gennady Golovkin last October. Naturally his comeback bout after such a high-profile defeat was big news. Except it wasn’t. Lemieux failed to make weight on Friday and his scheduled clash with James De La Rosa fell through. Organizers scrambled to rescue the card’s headliner, even proposing a replacement opponent after De La Rosa’s people and EOTTM failed to come to terms. Alas, nothing could be done; the main event was scrapped.
Without Lemieux, the Olympia event lost much of its gravitas, but it still offered a terrific line-up of intriguing matches, as did the Tohu card. Herewith our summary of all the action:
First up at the downtown event, blue-chip prospect and decorated amateur Batyr Jukembaev in his professional debut. As readers of this site are aware, this actually was the young super-lightweight’s second attempt to commence his career. In September he fought at a local card but an awkward fall in the second round resulted in a serious knee injury for the Kazakh fighter and the match was declared a No Contest.
Now Batyr has to be wondering if someone has put a hex on him or something as his second try at a pro victory also ended prematurely and was also declared a No Contest. What are the chances? About a minute into his fight with Montreal’s Redy Hernandez (0-1), another awkward fall took place, though this time not to Jukembaev. Some wrestling and jostling between the two sent Hernandez to the deck and the fighter then claimed he had injured his ankle and could not continue. The bout was called after one minute and 29 seconds. Hopefully three times is the charm for young Batyr.
Meanwhile, across town, the Grant Brothers show opened with super welterweight prospect Bruno Bredicean (3-0) scoring an authoritative stoppage over Lucnor Diserne (0-2). We salute the young Bredicean who exhibited outstanding sartorial taste by entering the ring wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of your favorite boxing website. He then exhibited outstanding boxing skill by stopping his opponent in the third round after flooring Diserne with a huge right hand.
Back at the Olympia, super lightweight Mathieu Germain (6-0) won a unanimous six round decision over Mexico’s Noel Mejia Rincon (14-8) in a lively affair. The more aggressive Germain staggered Rincon more than once and scored a body punch knockdown in the final round, but his efforts to force a stoppage proved unsuccessful as the tough Rincon survived the bombardment.
Next up at La Tohu, it was a rematch of young prospects between Dwayne Durel and Kyle Marsh. These two battled a year ago and gave fight fans an entertaining four round scrap that went Durel’s way on the scorecards, though it was razor close. This time Durel clearly outpointed Marsh, leaving no doubts with a dominant final round. Durel is now 3-0 while Marsh falls to 0-2.
Back downtown, powerful super lightweight Ayaz Hussain (10-0) scored his eighth stoppage win and second in less than month with a second round TKO over Poland’s Jacek Wylezol. Hussain, who is a huge 140 pounder, was simply too strong and powerful. An overhand right sent Wylezol down and while he beat the count, he was clearly unable to continue.
Across town it was time for Golden Garcia (5-0) to get in some much-needed work. The talented super-featherweight whose aggressive style and facial resemblance conjures up comparisons to Roberto Duran last fought in June and on this night did not appear as sharp as in past outings. Credit to his opponent, France’s Romain Peker (8-12), who was clearly overmatched in terms of power but refused to cave in, battling hard and at times out-working Garcia. It was an entertaining six round battle which saw Garcia take a hard-earned unanimous decision. Here’s hoping Golden is back in the ring in the very near future.
Next up at the Olympia was heavyweight prospect Simon Kean (4-0) who overwhelmed Travis Fulton with his aggressiveness and power. Big right hands landed in the first round and in the second a left hook sent Fulton reeling. Seconds later Fulton was saved from further punishment by the referee.
Following Kean’s win, David Lemieux entered the ring to address the crowd and apologize for not being able to compete. He received a mixture of cheers and catcalls when introduced but the crowd applauded his remarks and his pledge to return to action as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the crowd at La Tohu was treated to a four round cruiserweight war which saw Toronto’s Shavar Henry (2-1) take a decision over game Francis Charbonneau (2-1). This match really heated up in the final round and the fans applauded the action.
The second of the Hussain brothers, super welterweight Mian, now stepped through the ropes at the Olympia to risk his undefeated record against Italy’s Tobia Loriga (28-7-2). Fans saw a dominant performance from Hussain (15-0) and a noble one from the out-classed Loriga who was dominated and knocked down three times but refused to cave in. Crisp counter shots and impressive speed paved the way for a six round unanimous decision for the highly talented Mian.
Flavius Biea improved to 10-0 with an impressive victory over Ulises Jimenez (21-19). While Jimenez presented little challenge, credit Biea with mixing up his punches extremely well and completely dominating the experienced Mexican before forcing a stoppage in round four. Biea’s quickness, accuracy, aggressiveness and power translated into one of the best performances on either card.
Back downtown, it was time for what would prove to be the most dramatic battle of the night. Super middleweight Schiller “Batman” Hyppolite (20-1), fresh off a first round knockout win in Gatineau on February 21, faced undoubtedly the toughest challenge of his career to date in veteran Darnell Boone (23-23-4). As serious boxing fans know, you can’t let the record fool you; Boone is an experienced and dangerous fighter with tremendous punching power. As Hyppolite would soon learn.
The younger man started out well, boxing carefully and landing crisp punches, staying clear of Boone’s vaunted power, his quicker hands allowing him to win most of the exchanges. But in round five a right hand bomb detonated on Hyppolite’s jaw and down he went. No one can say what might have transpired had the punch landed with more than ten seconds left in the round, but it didn’t and Schiller survived. However, he looked less than steady at the start of round six and a series of blows had him staggering into the ropes. The referee gave a second count and suddenly Hyppolite’s points lead had all but vanished.
Credit to “Batman” for gathering himself and rebounding with a strong round seven and his greater activity and cleaner punches allowed him to go on and sweep the last three stanzas. Boone simply wasn’t active enough in the late going to capitalize on his success in rounds five and six and the unanimous decision went the younger man’s way.
Back uptown, Ontario’s Steven Wilcox (13-1-1) and Mexico’s Pedro Navarette (29-21-3) did their best to give the Tohu crowd similar excitement as they engaged in a spirited battle. Their eight rounder featured plenty of back-and-forth action though Wilcox’s greater activity and accuracy gave him a clear advantage and all three judges credited him with the win. In terms of entertainment value, this was the best match of the night on the Grant Brothers card.
With the Lemieux fight cancelled, main event status at the Olympia fell to undefeated Steven Butler’s match for the vacant IBF Youth Super Welterweight title. This writer has no idea what such a title represents and suspects it’s really just an excuse for the IBF to collect a sanctioning fee, but it allowed Eye Of The Tiger to bill this as Butler’s first world championship fight. Whatever. The fact remains neither Butler (15-0-1), nor opponent Sladjan Janjanin (13-1), were yet world-rated heading into this match. The best that can be said is that Butler took full advantage of the opportunity and looked every bit a future champ as he aggressively took charge in the opening round, scored two knockdowns in the second round courtesy of body punches, and then landed big right hands in the third to force a stoppage.
Back at La Tohu, Roody Pierre-Paul (12-3) and Cecilio Santos (28-29) went to work. Santos showed a lot of guile and ring smarts, but his stronger, younger and more aggressive opponent out-worked him in almost every round. Unanimous decision to Pierre-Paul.
While the Olympia featured a public statement from David Lemieux between fights, Rixa and Grant Brothers offered fans a special tribute before their main event to Francis Lafreniere, who had impressed everyone with his glorious win over Renan St Juste last January. In a thrilling match, which has to be considered a leading candidate for 2016’s Fight of the Year, Lafreniere overcame tremendous punishment to outlast his game opponent. A special video tribute was shown before Otis Grant and Eric Kerub of Rixa Promotions joined Francis in the ring and spoke to the cheering crowd.
Now it was time for the main event as undefeated Erik Bazinyan (12-0) faced Hungary’s Gergo Horvath (6-1-1). Once again, Bazinyan showed his excellent technique, timing, quickness and power as he outclassed his opponent from the opening bell. Those hoping the undefeated Horvath might present Bazinyan with some degree of challenge were disappointed as Erik took him apart with ease, vicious right hands leading to a second round TKO win. For those managing Bazinyan’s career it’s proving a difficult task to find opponents who can test their fighter and help him develop. There’s no doubt Bazinyan has the talent and skill to become an elite level pugilist, but credible and capable opponents are required to help him realize his tremendous potential.
So after all that action, all those matches on a single night, this writer has a few questions in mind. First, can the powers-that-be please work to ensure we don’t have two major boxing cards happening in Montreal on the same night ever again, as it makes no sense and just creates headaches for everyone, fans included? Second, can Rixa Promotions and Eye Of The Tiger Management ever join forces and put together a single event featuring their best fighters? Instead of two very good cards, why not one excellent event? Imagine all the great fights that could happen — not to mention the money that could be made! — if the different promoters in Montreal started collaborating instead of competing.
Further to that, anyone up for an all-Montreal super-middleweight showdown between undefeated talents Hippolyte and Bazinyan? Here’s hoping.
— Robert Portis