Montreal’s TOHU is indeed a facility specially built and designed to accommodate the circus arts, but thanks to Rixa Promotions and Grant Brothers Boxing, the venue is now regularly transformed for prizefighting. Last night, the glittering performance space played host to ten Montreal-based prospects, with prodigious talent Erik Bazinyan headlining the card in his first bout since September of 2016. Bazinyan made a scintillating return following his injury layoff, and the undercard produced a slew of impressive knockouts, one dodgy decision, and a significant upset.
As anticipated, the night belonged to the 21-year-old Bazinyan (15-0, 10 KOs), who bludgeoned Switzerland’s Alis Sijaric (13-3, 11 KOs) in four lopsided rounds. Despite his gaudy knockout record, Sijaric’s shots seemed to lack snap, although credit Bazinyan for employing a sound tactical approach in recognition of his foe’s alleged punching prowess. In the opening stanza, Bazinyan worked effectively behind a sharp orthodox jab, and he showed no signs of ring rust as he led with left hooks and fired right crosses with authority.
In the second round, Bazinyan started to set up a combination that would eventually cripple Sijaric a couple of rounds later: range-finding jabs to the body, followed by a cannonading overhand shot upstairs. What enabled this to be so effective was Bazinyan’s willingness to mix in committed body blows, with his left hook being particularly damaging. As if Sijaric wasn’t befuddled enough, Bazinyan employed an effective switch to southpaw in the third and started to blast Sijaric with flush straight left hands.
Despite a sustained effort, Sijaric was never able to establish rhythm or range; clearly frustrated, he consistently smothered his own work or swung heavily at air. In round four, Erik froze Sijaric with a body jab and then came over the top with a sweat-spraying right hand to stun his opponent. Moments later, Bazinyan, after switching to southpaw again, feinted with a body jab and this time detonated a left cross flush on Sijaric’s jaw that left him reeling and stumbling into the ropes. A fusillade of about 50 unanswered punches, including a pair of head-snapping hooks, prompted Sijaric’s corner to throw in the towel at 2:00 of the fourth.
After the fight, Bazinyan spoke about the need to respect Sijaric’s power and carefully probe his defense for openings, which is what prompted his switch to southpaw on multiple occasions. Bazinyan noted that as he grew in confidence, he was able to draw Sijaric out, creating opportunities to land fight-altering blows. Also, in regards to weighing in at a comfortable 171 pounds, Bazinyan stated that, “I’m sure my next fight will be at 168.” This suggests that 2017 will see Bazinyan establish himself as a serious threat at super middleweight as he sets to face more formidable opponents in the fights to come.
Crafty veteran Roody Pierre-Paul (14-3-1) scored a convincing unanimous decision win over tough Mexican Noel Mejia Rincon in a bout that featured pockets of heated exchanges and lengthy stretches of Pierre-Paul imposing his superior boxing skills. Over the course of eight rounds, Pierre-Paul’s most effective shot was his southpaw right hook to the body, which he used to turn Rincon’s left flank into the colour and texture of raw ground beef. After controlling the first round, Pierre-Paul drove Rincon (20-12-1) into the ropes but ate a counter hook as he applied pressure, leading to a wild exchange until the bell rang.
A sneaky right hook buzzed Rincon in the third, but Pierre-Paul was forced to give ground after absorbing a pair of slapping power shots in return. In the fourth, only a Rincon low blow could stymie Pierre-Paul, who shook the Mexican with a straight left hand. Just when it appeared that Pierre-Paul was in trouble after being thumbed, the local product uncorked a massive counter left hook that wobbled Rincon. Although he pressed for the stoppage in the final stanza and landed yet another overhand left to punctuate a body shot combination, Pierre-Paul couldn’t dispatch the gritty Mexican, who saw the final bell but lost by tallies of 79-73 (twice) and 77-75.
Despite putting in yeoman’s work on the inside, Golden Garcia was forced to settle for a controversial draw, with one 78-74 scorecard inexplicably giving the nod to Jorge Luis Melendez. The other two judges turned in identical 76-76 verdicts, which still seemed inadequate and ultimately failed to acknowledge Garcia’s sharper and more damaging power punches, not to mention his steadier pressure. In the second round, Garcia (8-0-1) snapped Melendez’s head back with a textbook three-punch combination and punctuated the round by landing a flush hook.
To his credit, Melendez (8-3-2) cornered Garcia in the forth and unloaded a volley of shots that forced the house fighter to hold, but Golden responded in the following stanza by landing a thudding overhand right and a catch-and-shoot left hook. Although Melendez scored with pockets of flurries, particularly during the first minute of the last two rounds, Garcia spent more time on the front foot. Both men were drawn into a firefight in the eighth, and while Melendez certainly had his moments, Garcia landed the cleaner shots. Unfortunately, Garcia’s competent, consistent work went unrewarded, and this result has to be viewed as maddening.
The evening’s major upset belonged to unheralded Mexican Guillermo Garcia, who absolutely tattooed the previously undefeated Dwayne Durel, only to see the judges nearly rob him. The bout was inexplicably scored a split decision despite Garcia (6-3, 3 KOs) consistently wobbling Durel (6-1, 3 KOs), who showed tremendous heart in a fight that simply got away from him early. There were signs of trouble from the outset as Durel ate a stinging overhand right in the opening minute, and yet, the Laval native rallied well and scored with a pair of hurtful body blows and a follow-up right cross. The second round, however, would alter the entire fight, as a spearing right uppercut absolutely floored Durel, dropping him flat on his back. To the young man’s credit, he beat the count, but he was fortunate the shot landed just prior to the bell.
Although “Diamond” was able to steady himself and walk Garcia onto some right hands, he kept eating flush hooks. Garcia consistently timed Durel with overhand rights, drawing blood in the fourth due to Durel’s leaky defense. Sensing he needed a knockout to win, Dwayne fought with abandon in the fifth as the bout morphed into a thrilling war of attrition. But Durel spent too much time loading up with his right hand, and while he stood tall and slugged, he proved susceptible to counters and gave away the last round in the final third after absorbing a trio of eye-catching return shots. The 57-56 card for Durel was preposterous, and the two other judges scored the bout 57-56 and 59-54 in favour of the rugged Mexican.
Talented and charismatic prospect Jordan Balmir of Drummondville kept his record perfect with a knockout of Hungarian Akos Kovacs. Balmir (4-0) stalked Kovacs (2-3) early in a low crouch, bobbing and weaving without throwing anything of note as he probed for openings. Kovacs actually landed a pair of right crosses as he circled, but Balmir shrugged them off as his eerie stalking drew the Hungarian out of his comfort zone. Balmir opened up towards the end of the opener, but then took over in round two, battering Kovacs about the ring, taunting his overmatched foe and slipping shots on his way in until a pair of clubbing right hands ended the bout. Kovacs absorbed the first right hand, froze, and bent at his waist, which enabled Balmir to land a second crushing blow to floor his opponent for the count.
Dario Bredicean abused a somewhat flabby Francisco Rios, stopping him in the second. The gap in technique, timing, and speed was stark, as Bredicean (13-0) controlled the opening stanza behind his southpaw jab and stinging straight left hand. He also did some excellent work with his free hand in the clinch when Rios (12-7-3) did his best to spoil the action. Although Dario buzzed Rios in the opening round, his emphatic assault in round two seemed to come out of nowhere. After trapping Rios in a corner, the classy Bredicean unloaded a volley of about 30 unanswered punches before the referee ended the mismatch.
Although Bredicean conceded that this was a stay-busy fight, he also expressed that he has complete faith in the path set out by his team, which includes Lucian Bute, Chris Ganescu, and the Grant Brothers. “2017 is an important year,” says Dario. “Bruno and I are in Montreal now full-time and we’re very happy with the situation and we want to take advantage of it. We know there’s going to be opportunities with both Rixa and Yvon Michel, so we feel everything is moving in the right direction and you’ll see both of us back in the ring again before long.”
2016 French Olympian Christian Mbilli (3-0) provided further evidence that he has the makings of an elite pressure fighter as he scored a third knockout in as many outings behind a punishing fusillade of body blows. In halting Sergio de Leon (7-2) at 1:13 of the third round, Mbilli sustained a high volume of thudding combinations, culminating in a pair of right hand body shot knockdowns that forced the game but battered Mexican to take a full count.
Chann Thonson used a combination of composure and cat-like reflexes to deal with the awkward swings of David Berner to score a TKO at 0:28 of round two. The plucky Hungarian actually started well, slapping Thonson (2-0) with a pair of hooks. That success, though, would prove fleeting. Thonson dropped Berner with a right cross-left hook combination and floored him again with an overhand right seconds later. The end came swiftly in the following stanza, with Thonson clipping an off-balance Berner (3-2) with a blinding combination.
Mohamed Soumaoro (1-0) and Jean Michel Bolivar (1-0) made successful and emphatic professional debuts, scoring explosive stoppages in separate bouts. Soumaoro halted Antonio Vergara (1-2-1) inside of a round after patiently stalking his foe with a steady jab until the chance to land an overhand right presented itself; a barrage of shots, including a thudding left hook around Vergara’s guard, prompted a swift intervention from the referee. Bolivar flattened Istvan Szucs (2-7) in three rounds behind a brutal body attack that resulted in a trio of knockdowns. — Zachary Alapi
Photos by Bob Levesque.