Last Saturday’s Pascal vs Bute showdown, and the fight immediately before it, were broadcast on HBO. But the evening featured five other matches presented jointly by Interbox and Groupe Yvon Michel. And despite a hilarious booing of Montreal’s new mayor when shown on the jumbo screen, a ten-bell salute in honour of the late José Sulaiman which left my editor seething, and two majority draws, I also managed to notice a few things taking place in the squared circle. The following is a brief summary of each match on the undercard. Fighter’s records appear as they did prior to the outcome of their respective fights.
Artur Beterbiev (RUS) (3-0-0, 3 KOs) vs Gabriel Lecrosnier (FRA) (16-25-3, 1 KO) (Light heavyweight, 6 rounds)
This was all Beterbiev, as the powerful Russian fighter, who looks to be a potential champion, had no trouble with Lecrosnier. Knowing his adversary was of little threat to him, he took his time and wore him down before going for the kill in round four. A flurry of powerful blows led to a knockdown and shortly after Lecrosnier rose, the referee wisely halted the contest.
Result: Artur Beterbiev TKO Victory, 2:44 Round 4 (6)
Oscar Rivas (COL) (12-0-0, 7 KOs) vs Shawn Cox (BRB) (17-4-0, 16 KOs) (Heavyweight, 8 rounds)
Oscar Rivas was coming off a thirteen-month layoff but he had no trouble putting this one away in less than three rounds. After maybe thirty to forty seconds of harmless calisthenics, Rivas’ right hand proved the culprit in Cox’s demise; my notebook was littered with references to “big” or “huge” right hands. Two knockdowns in the second had Shawn Cox visibly shaken, and when another onslaught had him turning his back to Rivas and again looking ready to go, the referee put him out of his misery. An impressive dismantling and an encouraging one; these two heavyweights’ feet weren’t made of lead. Result: Oscar Rivas TKO Victory, 2:53 Round 3 (8)
Yves Ulysse Jr. (CAN) (0-0-0) vs Vango Tsirimokos (BEL) (6-3-0, 1 KO) (Light welterweight, 4 rounds)
Twenty-five year old Canadian amateur champion Yves Ulysse Jr. made his pro début at the Bell Centre and thoroughly outboxed and outpunched the Belgian. Tsirimokos appeared slow of foot and lacking the requisite balance and coordination for boxing. With his feet spread much too wide apart, Ulysse consistently took advantage of his own darting footwork and impressive power for a man his size; two knockdowns in the first round alone demonstrated that. Tsirimokos occasionally pulled together some good moments, but none convincing enough to give him a round. Ulysse fought intelligently, held when necessary, and outside of being staggered in the second, fought with a style reminiscent of Pernell Whitaker’s, at times flashy but really a display of ring geometry. The rookie pulled off one more knockdown in the fourth, and that was enough for the referee. A brilliant performance by a promising prospect. Result: Yves Ulysse Jr. TKO Victory, 1:52 Round 4 (4)
Mikaël Zewski (CAN) (22-0-0, 17 KOs) vs Krzysztof Szot (POL) (18-10-1, 5 KOs) (Welterweight, 8 rounds)
A more lop-sided affair I have rarely seen; local rising talent Mikaël Zewski thoroughly dominated his opponent. At fight’s end, while the Pole’s face appeared to have gone through a meat grinder, Zewski was unblemished, much like his record. Most of the fight was marked by tedium; Zewski throwing jab after jab, followed by occasional right crosses, while Szot took and very rarely gave. Zewski’s was a dominant performance without being physically overpowering; he was simply outclassing an opponent who knew less and less what to do as the fight progressed. The impression given was that of one fighter now carrying the other, in order to spare him from more embarrassment. In the fifth, Szot’s mouthpiece fell out twice within the span of about 40 seconds, an obvious attempt to get a breather. Round seven saw a conclusion to this prolonged exercise in futility, the referee no doubt concerned for Szot’s condition. The two knockdowns helped as well, as did Szot shaking his head as the referee assessed him. A dominant but unspectacular performance by Zewski. Result: Mikaël Zewski TKO Victory 0:46 Round 7 (8)
Sébastien Gauthier (CAN) (22-4-0, 14 KOs) vs Javier Franco (MEX) (21-12-2, 9 KOs) (Bantamweight, 8 rounds)
Gauthier returned from a long layoff to find a tough adversary in Javier Franco. This fight was by far the closest and hardest to score, but by no means great viewing. Gauthier sustained a cut in the first wdidn’t appear to affect him much. When I initially scored it, I had it slightly in favour of Gauthier because I felt he had landed more meaningful shots, while Franco had been the better boxer. Both managed to land good, quick 1-2-3s and body shots at different moments throughout the fight, and Gauthier appeared to me to have been staggered in the third, but it was still anybody’s fight as it went to the scorecards. Conservatively fought, with very little excitement. Result: Majority Draw (One judge scored it 78-74 Gauthier)
Eleider Alvarez (COL) (13-0-0, 8 KOs) vs Mike Gardiner (CAN) (10-0-0, 6 KOs) (Light heavyweight, 10 rounds)
Far and away the most fascinating fight of the evening, not only for the action in the ring but for what took place immediately after the fight’s conclusion. Prior to their meeting on Saturday, there had been talk, perhaps idle, that there was some animosity between these two, Gardiner having been one of Alvarez’ sparring partners. The early rounds saw Alvarez coasting, as if he’d figured his man out from long hours of sparring. Far from harbouring any ill will, they even gave each other respectful taps at the ends of the early rounds. Gardiner’s defense was a simplified version of Cus D’Amato’s famed “peek-a-boo” style, wherein the arms and hands were moving on a vertical axis, but were not complemented by shifting upper body movements. Gardiner kept walking straight into a powerful left jab, Alvarez having no trouble finding the target and violently snapping it back. By the second, Gardiner was already cut. Alvarez kept his distance for the most part, only planting himself on the ropes when trying to entice his former sparring partner into something rash. Although Alvarez’ defense was superb and his punches clearly better than Gardiner’s, he inexplicably began to forgo his reach and height advantage to fight inside. Although he was not hurt, by round five, Alvarez was showing signs of fatigue. The in-fighting had drained him and Gardiner began to come on, mauling his adversary and taking the distance Alvarez needed to land his jab. Round six saw more of the same, and outside of a nice sequence of quick uppercuts which Alvarez threw to get out of trouble, the fight was clearly turning in Gardiner’s favour.
Next round, Alvarez got cut, and was hurt by powerful straight shots. Likely realizing the fight was now close, Alvarez came out guns blazing in round eight. So did Gardiner. Great exchanges ensued with Gardiner taking some wicked shots and at the end of the round the Ottawa native appeared the more exhausted of the two, collapsing onto his stool upon returning to his corner. Whatever purported animosity there was between these two men, it certainly appeared to be real now. The last two rounds saw Gardiner work extremely hard and take plenty of punishment which would have put many down for the count. Alvarez had regained some measure of control, keeping Gardiner at bay in spurts, and retreating to compose himself. Realizing he could not win by knockout, Alvarez spent the latter part of the final round backpedaling away from Gardiner, stalking him with his arms hanging, taunting Gardiner while clearly exhausted. Fans clamoured when Alvarez literally turned and ran in the waning moments of the fight, and were even more upset when he began showboating. Already having antagonized the crowd with his late-fight antics, public opinion was unanimously against Alvarez when, prior to the tabulation of the scorecards, he spurned Gardiner’s attempt to shake hands, not even turning to acknowledge his former sparring partner, instead opting to walk to the other side of the ring without making eye contact. The crowd booed this lack of sportsmanship mercilessly. Gardiner’s toughness and persistence endeared him to the crowd, which cheered raucously every time he appeared on the huge screens before they lustily booed the decision in Alvarez’s favor. Result: Eleider Alvarez, Unanimous Decision
Mike Perez (CUB) (20-0-0, 12KOs) vs Carlos Takam (CMR) (29-1-0, 23 KOs) (Heavyweight, 10 rounds)
The less said about this one the better. A fetid display of everything that’s wrong with the heavyweight division: two gargantuan men who can’t move, can’t box, and have no earthly business being paid as professional boxers, and who certainly have no place as the appetizer to an HBO main event. As respectable as I believe Mike Perez to be, and understanding that his recent experience with Magomed Abdusalamov surely must remain palpable, when two mean step into a ring, I expect them to fight. It is a hard profession indeed, but the one they chose nonetheless and this fight threw all pretensions of combativeness out the window; jabs into thin air do not a fight make and both seemed intent on making it through the ten rounds without a scratch, as long as they made some form of physical contact each round, so disinterested did they appear. Later rounds saw them pick up the pace, but I don’t think anybody really noticed, and what little was seen had the allure of smoke and mirrors; I don’t believe anyone there felt this was any more of a fight than a professional wrestling show. At the end of ten rounds, both stood embracing each other, smiling as though they were glad to have gotten their pay and not been pelted for putting together such weak performances. Could have ended sooner if Perez’ cut had not held up (Wait, someone got hit?). Result: Majority Draw
— Mathieu Brousseau