Montreal is The Fight City. And in June, 2017, it’s gone into overdrive.
This past Thursday night saw another quality show at the Montreal Casino from the good people at Groupe Yvon Michel. The week before that we had Francis Lafreniere, Erik Bazinyan and the Grant Brothers prospects in action at The Tohu Theatre. The week before that was “Boxe Mania,” featuring Adonis Stevenson, Eleider Alvarez and Jean Pascal. And then the other night, absent David Lemieux, pretty much the entire Eye Of The Tiger Management stable was in action at the historic Olympia Theatre. Yeah, we’ll admit it: we’ve been scrambling to keep up.
On Thursday the performance of the night was a toss-up between those of either middleweight Patrice Volny (7-0) or welterweight Bruno Bredicean (9-0). Volny looked downright nasty as he demolished Adriel Juzaino (25-15-3) in less than one minute of action. He basically just went out and blew away his opponent in a matter of seconds, hardly missing a single punch, cutting angles with precision, hurting his man with a sharp right hand and then driving Juzaino to the canvas with a two-fisted assault. The Mexican got to his feet but the referee wisely called a halt and “Vicious” Volny gets his seventh win just 15 months after turning pro. He’s now set to fight Adam Green (14-6) in Toronto on July 21st for the Canadian title.
But as devastating as Volny was, Bruno Bredicean was equal parts gutsy and determined, showing amazing grit by fighting on after breaking his right hand in the second round of his battle with Fernando Valencia (9-3) and managing to grind out a decision win. Valencia didn’t travel up to Montreal to hand Bruno his ninth pro victory on a silver platter and it was six tough rounds as the younger of the Bredicean brothers found a way, despite a serious handicap, to keep battling and take the close decision.
But of course those were not the only performances worth writing about from Thursday night. Groupe Yvon Michel puts on quality cards for your hard-earned dollar so we also had popular welterweight Marie Eve Dicaire going to 8-0 with a decision over scrappy Alejandra Ayala (5-2), while in the night’s co-main, Shakeel Phinn (14-1) blew away Pablo Nievas (33-15-1) in two rounds, ending the match with that cannon of a right hand he carries around. Then welterweight Custio Clayton took centre stage and pitched a 10 round shut-out over Mexico’s Johnny Navarrete (33-10-1) to up his record to 12-0.
Phinn and Clayton are among the most exciting of the many pro prospects fighting out of Montreal and both are on the cusp of breaking through to serious contender status. Shakeel holds the Canadian super middleweight title while Clayton annexed both the IBF International belt and the WBC Continental championship with his win over Navarrete. Clayton, it should be noted, was in fact scheduled to perform on the June 3rd Bell Centre event but when his opponent showed up grossly overweight, the match had to be cancelled, which meant Custio was forced to endure two grueling weight cuts within the span of 12 days, but he still came up with a dominant performance.
In the end it was another entertaining fight card at the Montreal Casino showcasing exciting young talents and once again Yvon Michel demonstrates his intent to remain the central player in the game when it comes to professional boxing in Montreal. But just two nights later it was the turn of Eye Of The Tiger Management, GYM’s chief rival, to put on their own showcase event and while no one questions the allure and atmosphere of the casino’s Cabaret Room, the historic Olympia Theatre on St. Catherine Street with its gorgeous art deco stylings is an equally atmospheric venue for a major fight card.
The fans at the Olympia were especially energetic thanks in part to the lively group hanging around the theatre’s refreshment stand, but also due to the numerous knockout wins which opened the show. Cruiserweight Artur Ziatdinov scored a first round TKO over Csaba Schrammel (0-3-1) in his pro debut, and then featherweight Andranik Grigoryan also took care of business in just one round, knocking out Ricardo Ocampo (12-7) to go to 2-0. Following that, light heavyweight Nurzat Sabirov (2-0) stopped Lorawnt Nelson (2-2) in the third, breaking Nelson’s jaw in the process. And super middleweight Clovis Drolet is now 2-0 after scoring a third round TKO over Gustavo Sanchez (13-16-1).
Welterweight Ayaz Hussain went to 13-1 after securing an eight round decision over tough veteran Armando Robles (31-7-2) and popular David Theroux (12-2) used his greater speed and mobility to box his way to a decision over Francisco Javier Perez (16-9-1). Mathieu “G Time” Germain (10-0) then excited the crowd with a kinetic performance that saw him pitch an eight round shutout over Spain’s Pablo Fuego (12-4). Germain used impressive speed to move in and out of range and strafe an increasingly frustrated Fuego with combinations, the audience eating up Germain’s athletic flourishes.
The crowd was still buzzing over G-Time’s performance when it erupted with raucous cheers for the comeback fight of popular young talent Steven Butler (19-1-1). The jewel of the Eye Of The Tiger stable, Butler suffered a serious setback and his first pro defeat when he was stopped in seven rounds by Ontario’s Brandon Cook after a tremendous back-and-forth battle, a result which sparked a riot at the Bell Centre.
But Saturday night at the Olympia young Butler appeared as sharp as ever in handing tough Damien Mielewczyk the first stoppage defeat of his career. After a somewhat conservative opening round, “Bam Bam” let his hands go in the second and his advantages in quickness and sheer power were obvious. Flush shot after flush shot connected and Mielewczyk’s face was soon covered in blood before a right hand to the chin sent the Polish fighter to the canvas. The referee immediately stopped the bout and the crowd went into a frenzy. It was a vicious knockout for Butler, who would appear to not be suffering any lasting effects from the loss to Cook. In fact, he looked more muscular and powerful than in the past and ready to pick up right where he left off before last January’s setback.
Next was an intriguing match-up between undefeated Yves Ulysse Jr. and Filipino warrior Ricky Sismundo (31-10-3). This was Sismundo’s third consecutive fight in Montreal as last year he held Dierry Jean to a draw in a match many thought Sismundo deserved to win, and then he upset Ghislain Maduma on the undercard of David Lemieux’s fight at the Bell Centre against Cristian Rios. But Ulysse Jr. (14-0) halted Sismundo’s Montreal win streak with a comprehensive victory in a fast-paced and entertaining match, taking almost every round, flooring the Filipino with a right hand in the second and staggering him in the fourth. Sismundo put in a solid effort, but Ulysse Jr. had all the natural advantages: height, reach and power, and basically dominated whenever he really wanted to. Still, Sismundo never stopped throwing leather and the result was a lively, if largely one-sided, battle.
After Butler’s electrifying performance and the entertaining Ulysse Jr. vs Sismundo bout, the night’s main event featuring heavyweight Simon Kean, aka “The Grizzly” (10-0), was unfortunately a let-down. Fans were naturally hoping for some serious fireworks between two big men, especially as something called the IBO Inter-Continental heavyweight title was at stake, but the headlining contest was an awkward mismatch. How Kean’s opponent, Marcelo Nascimento, ever compiled a record of 23-15 will forever remain a mystery as he appeared to possess no serious ring skills whatsoever.
What followed was a tedious and awkward affair as Nascimento, constantly backing away and clinching, lacked the ability to compete, while the lumbering Kean struggled to find the right distance or timing to set up clean, effective punches. A knockdown in the second appeared to be as much the result of the inept Nascimento tripping over his own feet as it was the hulking Kean landing a solid blow but finally, at the start of round five, “The Grizzly” broke through to level some heavy shots, sending his Brazilian opponent to the canvas and ending the fight.
With the final match of the card in the books, attention soon turned to the big screens at the front of the theatre where appeared the live broadcast of the Andre Ward vs Sergey Kovalev rematch. Ten live bouts, plus the Ward vs Kovalev rematch: needless to say, that’s a show any fight fan would deem worth their hard-earned cash.
So let’s recap. On June 3rd we had the Boxe Mania card from Groupe Yvon Michel and Showtime. In addition to the two big light heavyweight showdowns, Stevenson vs Fonfara II and Alvarez vs Pascal, prospects Dario Bredicean (14-0), Christian M’Billi (4-0) and Mikael Zewski (28-1) all walked away winners. Then on June 10 we had the latest Rixa Promotions card with nine matches and all of the local talents, including Francis Lafreniere and Erik Bazinyan, notching victories. So add those to the Montreal Casino card and the Olympia show and what we have is a grand total of 29 matches involving at least 30 Quebec or Montreal-based fighters in the span of just two weeks.
And while no Montreal boxing fan in their right mind is going to complain about this, one can’t help but wonder: when might we see some of this Fight City talent square off for local bragging rights? Given the abundance of young, hungry, Montreal-based pugilists, is it too much to ask for the local promoters to collaborate and give us some meaningful contests that would help determine who the truly world-class talents are in this boxing-mad town?
Or let’s put the question another way. What if Mexico, or Poland, or Argentina decided to stop sending boxers over to give Montreal fighters the experience they need? What would happen if suddenly the people who organize and stage all these great Montreal fight cards could no longer fly in fighters from far off locales to stock their shows? Well, maybe, just maybe, it would push them to start working together to put on the kind of matches that will make this city really sit up and take notice.
Last week someone started a rumour that next for Simon Kean was Groupe Yvon Michel heavyweight Oscar Rivas, that an all-Montreal heavyweight showdown was on tap for sometime soon. But when the boss of Eye Of The Tiger, Camille Estephan, was asked about it, he immediately dismissed the idea. And while the ostensible reason would be that Kean is not yet ready for a guy like Rivas, the deeper underlying reason is that Estephan is not about to do any serious business with his rival, Yvon Michel.
Oh, but if only he would. If only all the guys with the money and the contracts and the connections could put aside their egos and their lawsuits and their acrimony and get busy making this city come alive with one high-stakes showdown after another. Look at all that Montreal-based fight talent and then tell me that the next logical step isn’t to move on from beating up on Mexican journeyman to instead making truly compelling match-ups between crosstown rivals. Doesn’t anyone remember the electricity we had in this town 18 months ago when Francis Lafreniere and Renan St-Juste locked up and the fans at the Bell Centre gave them a prolonged standing ovation, the battle going on to make numerous Fight of the Year shortlists? Local rivals throwing down for meaningful stakes: that’s what makes for great fights and gets the attention of the prized “casual” sports fan.
So yeah, it’s likely premature to talk up Kean vs Rivas, but the number of quality match-ups between the GYM, Rixa and Eye Of The Tiger stables that an imaginative Montreal fight fan can ruminate on is ridiculous. Who wouldn’t love to see Shakeel Phinn vs Erik Bazinyan? Francis Lafreniere vs Steven Butler? Custio Clayton vs Mathieu Germain? How about Francy Ntetu vs Dario Bredicean? Or Butler vs Sebastien Bouchard? And we’re just getting started. What about Batyr Jukembayev vs Yves Ulysse Jr.? Or Ryan Ford vs Jean Pascal? Or Adonis Stevenson vs Artur Beterbiev? Or Bazinyan vs Schiller Hyppolite? And what about bringing in some of the talent from Ontario or the east coast? How about Lafreniere getting chances for revenge against Brandon Cook or Brandon Brewer? Any takers for Tony Luis vs Golden Garcia? And then think of the rematches! The rivalries and trilogies!
While some of these matches are probably impossible or nonsensical for various reasons, the point is this: three or four or a dozen fight cards in a month is awesome, but if the powers-that-be here really want to take things to the next level and start capitalizing on what some are calling a Golden Age for boxing in Montreal, it’s time, for the good of the fighters and the good of the sport, to start thinking about truly consequential matches, ones that will really make the turnstiles sing, matches that will raise the stakes, the ones that will inspire new stories and new rivalries and make boxing history in Montreal. — Michael Carbert