In front of a raucous crowd at the University of New Brunswick’s Aitken Centre that turned the city of Fredericton, New Brunswick into a Canadian boxing mecca for another memorable night, Brandon “L-Jack” Brewer (21-0-1, 11 KOs) scored a lopsided unanimous decision over King “Hand of God” Davidson (18-3, 12 KOs) via scores of 100-90 and 99-91 (twice).
But prior to any of the gruelling action unfolding, the main event was thrust into a state of limbo at the weigh-ins held at the Delta Hotel in downtown Fredericton the day before. Davidson, who flew in from Australia at the beginning of the week, tipped the scales at 157.9 pounds, while Brewer scaled at a trim and ripped 153 pounds, comfortably below the junior middleweight limit. With precisely one hour to hit a rapidly negotiated catchweight, Davidson, after running on a treadmill in a sweat suit, took two buck naked attempts to weigh in at a shade over 156.
By the time both men entered the ring, however, the weight issue was in the past and the more pressing narrative for the night was clear: Davidson, a standout amateur with a 175-5 record, represented perhaps Brewer’s sternest test to date. And the New Brunswicker, who is closing in on a top 15 world ranking, needed to produce the kind of dominant performance that makes clear to the boxing world that Davidson and his like are mere stepping stones for an undefeated prospect determined to take his place alongside the elites. And by night’s end it was mission accomplished for Brandon Brewer.
With his entrance bathed in a dizzying light show and his ring walk heralded by the powerful, grinding bursts of a chainsaw revving, Brewer indeed chopped down another tree. And a stubborn and tricky one at that. Davidson, the first southpaw Brewer had ever faced, used cagey movement, some sneaky body punching, and the breadth of his ring experience in an attempt to draw Brewer out of his comfort zone. But to Brewer’s immense credit, the bout was contested almost entirely on his terms for ten thrilling rounds. From the outset, “L-Jack” led with an active straight right hand, splitting Davidson’s guard with crisp shots down the middle. He also switched stances as he applied pressure and outworked the more passive Davidson, who was often content to land single counter shots instead of attempting to seize the initiative.
As early as the second round, Brewer chose to spend significant stretches battling on the inside, his improved in-fighting skill the result of his time spent sparring with old rival Francis Lafreniere in Montreal earlier this year. Already in a groove, Brewer was connecting with a mix of check hooks in close, lead left hooks, and overhand rights. A Davidson flurry led to a vicious exchange that had the crowd roaring as the second stanza concluded.
In the third, Brewer connected with a sweat-spraying straight left hand from his southpaw stance and continued to beat Davidson to the punch. Davidson’s lead right hook proved to be his most effective punch of the round, but Brewer showed some savvy and moxie by tagging a napping Davidson with a flush left hook immediately after a break. On sheer activity level alone, not to mention landing the more hurtful blows, Brandon Brewer was comprehensively bossing the action.
Sensing he had found an opening for hooks from a left-handed stance, Brandon Brewer detonated a fearsome right hook off Davidson’s exposed chin to start round four before buckling Davidson’s legs with a follow-up combination. Mixing in some punishing body work, Brewer backed Davidson up and landed a sharp straight left to close the round, after which he immediately raised his arm to salute the roars of his adoring “Plaid Army.”
But Brewer’s rhythm was somewhat derailed by Davidson in the fifth after an awkward clinch and a slapping backhand shot from Davidson which led to the referee intervening. Chippy infighting ensued and a frustrated Davidson lifted Brewer completely off the canvas and walked his dangling body into a corner as the bell sounded.
In round six the Nigerian native found some success with steady work to Brewer’s flanks, and the crowd, perhaps sensing a shift in momentum, began to chant Brewer’s name. Brewer connected with a catch-and-shoot right hand, but Davidson replied with a long left cross after Brewer was made to miss and caught reaching. Brewer, though, battered Davidson with a three-punch combination, and both men then went on to land flush shots to close an action-packed and largely even round.
At a time when many fighters would have started to fade, especially in the maddening attempt to land clean against the slippery Davidson, Brewer instead upped his game and asserted his superiority in the seventh, starting the frame with a lead right hand from an orthodox stance and then landing a massive, looping overhand right to shake Davidson to the soles of his boots. Davidson, however, answered with a spearing left uppercut, only to see Brewer flood his basement and then land a booming left hand upstairs. This only seemed to galvanize Davidson, who went on the offensive but was met by another Brewer cross.
The final three rounds were contested at close range, with both fighters exhibiting their class by slipping shots and landing damaging counters amidst the crafty and gruelling wrestling required to establish those key inches of space to create openings. The difference was Brewer’s ability to more competently catch-and-shoot and force Davidson to swing at air with clever upper body contortions and head positioning on the inside.
Davidson may have had his most effective round in the ninth, and he did close the fight aggressively. But the blinding fusillades Davidson launched only seemed to impel Brandon Brewer’s gritty stands, which featured him holding his ground, even as Davidson occasionally got the better of simultaneous exchanges. At the end of the ninth, both men met in the centre of the ring and stared each other down, much to the raucous crowd’s delight.
As Brandon Brewer closed the show by walking Davidson onto a series of sneaky hooks, both men clinched and wrestled before Brewer created an opening to land a three-punch combination just before the 10-second clapper. They embraced as the bell sounded, their show of mutual respect serving as the ideal conclusion to an acrimonious fight week.
Although Brewer was somewhat frustrated with his performance, he did acknowledge that through timely stance switching he was able to create openings to land his left hook, something which had proved difficult in the early going. The benefits of his time in Montreal were also obvious, and Brewer intends on moving forward with an even narrower and more rigorous focus.
“I feel extremely strong for 154 pounds,” Brewer said. “I could be stronger, but that all comes with a full training camp and not wearing the promoter hat at the same time. So I’m looking forward to my next few fights of just focusing on the fighting.”
In the co-feature, New Brunswick heavyweight Chris Norrad (15-0, 7 KOs) battered Alberto Martinez (21-12-1, 12 KOs) into submission with a sudden explosion in round four. Norrad was methodical early, working a stiff jab and expertly slapping away most of Martinez’s return fire. Although it took Norrad a couple of rounds to warm up, he eventually started to land clubbing right hands and some punctuating left hooks.
A quick barrage of power punches dropped Martinez early in the fourth, and a follow-up assault forced the Mexican to again touch his gloves to the canvas. Norrad then detonated a New Brunswick-sized right cross off the side of Martinez’s cranium, which crumpled the gassed challenger and prompted a stoppage. With the Canadian domestic heavyweight scene heating up, Norrad is in the mix to face the likes of Simon Kean or Adam Braidwood in compelling, meaningful match-ups.
Swashbuckling journeymen Gary Kopas (8-11-2, 3 KOs) and David Whittom (12-24-1, 8 KOs) waged a crafty, compelling battle that saw Kopas score a stunning stoppage at 2:23 of the tenth and final round to claim the Canadian cruiserweight title. Although Kopas could hardly match Whittom in terms of a sculpted physique, he was clearly the more fluid boxer and forced the muscle-bound gatekeeper to eat a steady diet of overhand shots for the entire punishing bout.
Kopas hurt Whittom with a right cross in round four, mixing in body work as Whittom tried to use his height and reach to land clean from range. In the seventh, Whittom blasted Kopas’ midriff with a crippling right hand, but Kopas responded with a right of his own downstairs and a follow-up left hook to Whittom’s frighteningly exposed jaw. Although Whittom found sustained success with a sharp right uppercut, a cut over his eye in late in the fight seemed to turn the tide towards the Saskatoon native.
Sensing that Whittom was fading, Kopas jumped on him in the final round, connecting with a three-punch flurry and eventually draping Whittom over the top rope with a barrage. After a somewhat confusing reset from the referee, Kopas blasted Whittom with a right cross-left hook, sending Whittom wobbling into the ropes where the fight was waved off. “It feels awesome. I can’t even express how it feels,” an elated and exhausted Kopas said after the fight. (Ed. note: Whittom is currently at a hospital in St. John in critical condition. He was able to leave the ring without assistance, but later collapsed and was taken to hospital. He has since been placed in a medically induced coma.)
Joey Laviolette (6-0, 4 KOs), in a methodical and professional performance grounded in expert distance management and crisp combinations, battered Emmanuel Villamar (8-3, 1 KO) into submission when the Mexican’s corner brought a halt to the bout prior to the start of round six. As the bout progressed, Laviolette proved capable at cutting off the ring, which was essential given Villamar appeared content to circle and keep his hands holstered.
In round two, a right uppercut stunned Villamar after Laviolette had invested in thudding body work. The ensuing stanza featured three multi-punch volleys from Laviolette, who punctuated his combinations with hurtful left hooks to the body. As the bout wore on, Villamar’s face morphed into a bloody, puffy mask, and a fifth round rally was only met by Laviolette’s crippling and timely counters. Impressive performance from the former amateur standout.
In what turned out to be a frightening mismatch, prospect and former elite amateur Ryan Rozicki absolutely annihilated Ray Sayers, who was fighting for the first time in over a decade. Sayers was game early and willing to let his hands go, but Rozicki calmly brushed his assaults aside before ripping a body shot followed by a massive overhand right that almost knocked Sayers through the ropes and led to the bout being immediately called off. Rozicki is a powerful prospect to watch and is clearly ready for sterner competition.
Other undercard action featured two Donnybrook Gym fighters emerging victorious. Claire Hafner (1-0) won her pro debut over Annie Mazerolle (3-3, 1 KOs) behind an active jab and effective boxing off her back foot, while Tom Vautour (4-1, 4 KOs) blasted out Jesus Llamas in a one round firefight. Vautour, it should be noted, was rocked early and stumbled into his corner, but he opted to stand his ground and throw his entire arsenal at Llamas, blasting the Mexican with a crushing left hook that effectively turned the tide. From there, Vautour applied relentless pressure, and while he was caught a few more times, he bludgeoned the stumbling and swaying Llamas about the ring until a cannonading right hand ended the bout.
Amateur stalwart and former National Team member Brody Blair (1-0, 1 KOs) made an emphatic professional debut against Tim Valdez (1-4, 1 KOs). Blair stiffened Valdez with the first left hook he landed and then had Valdez’s eyes rolling back with a devastating overhand right. Blair’s first assault in the second round again had Valdez dancing in pot holes, and his wide-eyed shock as Blair trashed him in a neutral corner spoke to the young prospect’s explosiveness. Similarly, Robbie Cameron (6-5, 4 KOs) used a third-round explosion to halt a game Denis Martin (2-9, 1 KO), the final knockdown coming via a sharp uppercut after Martin had landed punishing body shots in the second.
Once again Brandon Brewer organized and headlined a meaningful fight card in New Brunswick, advancing his career with a significant victory while featuring some intriguing talent from the Maritimes, particularly Blair, Rozicki, and Laviolette. But as he stated post-fight, Brewer could do with a stretch of focusing solely on boxing, as wearing the promoter’s hat can be exhausting and trying, especially as he zeroes in on a world ranking. Brewer’s ability to juggle myriad responsibilities and expectations with humility and grace is stunning.
But in order to take his career to the next level, and to eventually bring even more world-class boxing to New Brunswick, Brandon Brewer knows that his role as a fighter must come first. He will certainly continue giving back to his community, and the Aitken Centre will surely play host to more memorable nights like this one. Whether Brewer’s next step is more time in Montreal, or a few fights abroad, New Brunswick can take pride in a home-grown professional boxer who is clearly going places, but who will always stay intrinsically connected to his home.
“Three in a row, and I’m proud of that. I really am,” Brewer said. “I’m proud of myself, and I’m proud of my team.”
— Zachary Alapi
Photos by Ellen TS Photography.