The absurdly one-sided demolition inflicted by Deontay Wilder on Bermane Stiverne in their rematch a month ago was painful to watch in any case, but it was especially distressing for die-hard fans of boxing in Canada. This is because Stiverne was the closest thing in current existence to that rare phenomenon: a truly world-class Canadian heavyweight boxer. Before Stiverne, one has to go back some 15 years to when Lennox Lewis was still active to find a Canadian big man who was any kind of threat at the elite level. However, that’s not to say Canada doesn’t have other heavyweights of note. There are a number of boxers throwing leather north of the border who tip the scales at well over 200 pounds and two of them are in action tomorrow night.
But the fact remains only one of the men profiled in Manny Montreal’s video below is, at present, a genuine player on the world heavyweight scene. A few are legit prospects who may develop into serious contenders, but right now the lone holder of a Canadian passport who could be put in a corner opposite to Anthony Joshua or Wilder and not be completely written off as a sacrificial offering is Oscar Rivas. The former Olympian who now calls Montreal home and is part of Yvon Michel’s stable, is currently ranked number nine in the world by the WBC, and is scheduled to compete next month in France. But tomorrow night the focus of the Canadian boxing scene will be a clash between two other Canuck heavyweights, though with a belt on the line.
Before Lennox Lewis, Canada could boast a distinguished list of serious heavyweight pugilists. It’s a short list, mind you, but there’s no disputing the fact that Trevor Berbick, Donovan “Razor” Ruddock, George Chuvalo, Jack Delaney and the immortal Sam Langford combine for a truly formidable quintet of talent and toughness. We can then add Tommy Burns, a legit world champion who likely deserves better than to be remembered only for being the man who was on the losing end when Jack Johnson became the first black heavyweight king.
There’s no denying that neither Dillon Carman (12-2) nor Mladen Miljas (7-0) have yet to earn standing alongside the seven world-class heavyweights of years gone by, but Carman did earn his title belt the hard way, in a hellacious brawl with Eric Martel Bahoeli that saw both fighters hit the canvas before “Big Country” walked his opponent down and finally rendered him helpless with one of his big right hands. The sheer violence of that wild slugfest attracted notice from fight fans across the country as with the win Carman claimed the vacant Canuck crown.
However, since then Carman has demonstrated more interest in marketing himself and gaining minor celebrity status than in staying active and climbing up the heavyweight ranks. While he has scored five wins over the last three years, none have been over a world-ranked opponent. In the meantime, appearances on different television shows, including the Canadian version of Big Brother, have raised his profile but not to the extent that anyone is fooled into thinking that Carman is an elite-level boxer. Considering that “Monster Mel” boasts a record of just 7-0, a victory tomorrow night will also mean little in terms of Carman actually advancing upwards in anyone’s world rankings.
That said, the winner of tomorrow night’s battle could, if they are willing and eager to prove themselves, parlay a victory into a showdown with one of the other notable heavyweights Manny cites as a contender for the title of “King of the North.” Carman or Miljas vs Adam Braidwood, Simon Kean or “Big Ray” could result in a fun all-Canadian heavyweight slugfest. Ideally, we could then have a “Super Six” tournament of Canuck heavyweights culminating in a crowing of the true “King of the North.” It’s a scenario that’s as appealing as it is unlikely, something that would do Canadian boxing much good, but would also necessitate different promotional players working together, an impossibility it seems north of the 49th parallel.
But Les Woods of Global Legacy deserves credit for bringing boxing back to Niagara Falls and perhaps he has big plans for the winner of tomorrow night’s battle. With any luck, Carman vs Miljas will prove to be the prelude to even bigger fights, and a significant step towards eventually establishing a true “King of the North.” –Neil Crane