Let’s face it, the phrase “Canadian Heavyweight Championship” is not one that’s likely to increase your average boxing fan’s pulse rate. In fact, it’s unlikely your average sports fan, even in The Great White North, knows who the holder of that title presently is, let alone fight fans south of the border. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons to pay attention. In fact, if, like me, you’re sick and tired of Wladimir Klitschko type heavyweight fights and thought Tyson Fury’s recent win over “Dr. Steelhammer” would make an excellent cure for insomnia, then big man fisticuffs Canadian style just might suit you down to the ground.
Skeptical? Well, why not take a look at one of the best slam-bang heavyweight shootouts to be seen anywhere in the last few years. Featuring no fewer than nine trips to the canvas between the two massive battlers, this has to be one of the wildest heavyweight brawls of the last decade, but at the end of 2014 it received few votes for Fight of the Year, no doubt because it involved two Canadian boxers who were on just about nobody’s radar and whose combined records were a paltry 15-6. But the vacant Canuck title was at stake, George Chuvalo was ringside, and in terms of sheer action, Dillon Carman and Eric Martel-Bahoeli definitely delivered:
Given all the thrills and spills and the fact the rowdy affair raised the profiles of all involved, one might think a rematch would have been a no-brainer, and in fact when both Carman and Martel-Bahoeli appeared on the same Grant Brothers Boxing fight card in Montreal last March, it looked like the stage was set for a return. That night both men again gave fans a memorable show, especially Martel-Bahoeli as he engaged in a frenzied battle with Ottawa’s Samer Barakat that featured several knockdowns.
But any plans along those lines were scuttled by, believe it or not, a 51-year-old ex-Canadian champion named Donovan “Razor” Ruddock who managed to stop huge Toronto heavyweight Raymond Olubowale (who, it should be noted, has split two bouts with Bahoeli) the very next night in Mississauga in his first fight in 13 years. Ruddock then scored a second win in his unlikely return with a decision over Montreal’s Eric Barrack who injured his ankle in the opening round. With two victories, Ruddock, who in decades past had fought Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, was suddenly a legit contender for Carman’s Canadian title.
But first, the Canadian champion had some business to attend to, namely going on national television and making a pitch to a panel of wealthy investors in the hopes of getting a major financial boost as well as some newfound recognition. Dillon “Big Country” Carman, whose slogan is “Stand Up, Canada,” successfully convinced three tycoons to stand up and bet a cool fifty grand on his future success. Then, as the video shows, Carman went out and put an end to Ruddock’s comeback with a third round knockout in Toronto.
Which brings us to tomorrow night at the Casino de Montreal. While there are only eleven bouts on his pro record, Eric Barrak has been in the fight game for a long time, some two decades. The thoughtful 38-year-old heavyweight has no illusions about his current status, but at the same time he knows a golden opportunity when he sees one. If there’s a Canuck ‘Rocky’ story happening right now, it’s this one, as Barrak, who is a sales rep and has worked in the past as a bouncer, gets his first shot at the Canadian title.
No doubt Carman is favored to get the win tomorrow night. While Barrak is coming off a loss to Ruddock, the champion appears to have all the momentum with four consecutive stoppage victories. But clearly the Quebec heavyweight, who has the distinction of having defeated the legendary “Butterbean” in an MMA match, is highly motivated and in excellent condition. While, as Barrak mentions in the interview, he has struggled in the past to balance work, family and training, for this bout he dedicated himself like never before, putting in the hours in the gym and, as he puts it, “doing his homework.” Giving away six inches in height, Barrak will be looking to get inside, pound the body and put some serious pressure on the younger “Big Country.”
Meanwhile, Eric Martel Bahoeli had the misfortune of having his next bout postponed three times before it was cancelled altogether. He was scheduled to face James Toney in Ottawa (yes, that James Toney, who is 47 years old, can hardly talk, and who, like Ruddock, should not be sanctioned to box by any self-respecting athletic commission). But the match fell through and Bahoeli, who enjoys spending time on Facebook, expressed frustration over the cancellation of the fight, as well as the fact that Barrak is getting a shot at Carman before he does.
The best case scenario is that regardless of the outcome, Barrak and Carman give Canadian fight fans another memorable action-packed battle. Then Barrak could take on Bahoeli, with the winner to get a rematch with Carman. Or how about this: let’s throw Olubowale, Barakat and Didier Bence into the mix and have a Canadian heavyweight Super Six tournament. Just keep the ring nice and small and fans of slam-bang action fights will have no choice but to acknowledge that Canada is the place for no-holds-barred heavyweight mayhem.
In any case, here’s hoping both Carman and Barrak bring it tomorrow night. It would appear the challenger has the desired attitude:
— Robert Portis