Fight Time In The Fight City

When it rains, it pours. This time last week the skies were clear and quiet in Montreal, maybe a bit too quiet. Then all at once boxing was back in the news and in a big way with local pugilists making waves and major fight cards scheduled for the fall. Suddenly it’s fight time again in The Fight City. Let’s get to it.

First, the Montreal boxing season really kicks off on Saturday night with the latest fight card at the beautiful Tohu theatre on Jarry East brought to you by Rixa Promotions and Grant Brothers Boxing. Francis Lafreniere and Erik Bazinyan continue to be the top draws for the Rixa-Grant Brothers operation and with “The People’s Champ” taking a bit of a break, it is “BZO” who headlines along with Golden Garcia and Roody Pierre-Paul. As reported on this website, the 22-year-old Bazinyan, easily one of the most talented and promising prospects in Canada, has turned a corner in his development and is more dedicated than ever to his career and we should see another impressive victory on Saturday night.

But while Bazinyan, Garcia and Pierre-Paul are all solid local draws, an unexpected addition to the Tohu event may steal some of their spotlight. Rising light heavyweight Ryan “The Real Deal” Ford (12-0) was added to the bill at the last minute which makes the card even more intriguing. This is the first chance for Montreal boxing fans to see Ford in action but hopefully not the last. In fact, as Ford is now training full-time at the Grant Brothers gym, maybe this is a sign of things to come. How about Ford against some of the other Montreal light heavyweights, like Jean Pascal or Eleider Alvarez? But I digress.

Anyway, as always, the Tohu theatre is one of the best venues to watch boxing with not a bad seat in the house and as the Grant Brothers stable continues to grow and progress we can look forward to bigger fights for their headliners in the very near future. But that show is just to get us started.

Ryan “The Real Deal” Ford: at The Tohu on Saturday night.

The next major event comes to us on September 28 at the Montreal Casino with Groupe Yvon Michel offering us an excellent line-up of fight talent, including heavyweight Oscar Rivas, super middleweight Shakeel Phinn and Dario Bredicean. We are told that the good people at GYM are working hard on at least two more casino shows to take place before December, plus they’re trying to put together a title defense for Adonis Stevenson to happen before the end of the year (more on that in a bit). Note to all Montreal fight fans and media: this Friday a major press conference hosted by Yvon Michel happens at 10 am at the Casino Montreal to announce GYM’s plans for the rest of 2017.

Expect to see Shakeel Phinn in action again soon.

Now last week saw Eye Of The Tiger Management release their line-up for a huge card happening on October 27th with no fewer than nine matches on the bill including a major all-Canadian showdown for the main event. Montreal’s Yves Ulysse Jr (14-0) and Calgary’s Steve Claggett (25-4-1) will face-off in a showdown to decide who is the best super-lightweight in the land. This is the type of meaningful match-up we need to see more often and Claggett deserves credit for calling Ulysse out on social media, and Eye Of The Tiger deserves applause for then stepping up and making this fight happen. Claggett is no push-over and Ulysse is one of Montreal’s most skilled prospects. This is a crossroads battle with huge implications, one Canadian fight fans can’t miss.

Yeah, we’re pumped.

And thus it was great to see Steven “Bam Bam” Butler (19-1-1), who is also slated to appear on the October 27 card, demonstrate the same kind of competitive spirit when he called out Francis Lafreniere for a future match. That’s an all-Quebec showdown sure to make the turnstiles sing. The fighter they call “The People’s Champ” has indicated via social media that a match against Butler is just fine by him, so let’s see if the people at EOTTM and Rixa can come to terms and make that bout happen too.

In addition to Butler and the big Ulysse Jr. vs Claggett match, Mathieu Germain, Simon Kean and Batyr Jukembayev will all be in action on October 27 at the venerable Metropolis nightclub, which is now officially named the M-Telus, because corporations rule the world and have no respect for tradition or history.

Lafreniere’s response to Butler’s challenge.

So some major fight cards coming together and being announced, plus the champion so many boxing fans love to hate, Adonis Stevenson, was back in the news as Eleider Alvarez held a press conference to denounce the WBC light heavyweight titlist for his reluctance to finally take on “Storm,” who happens to have been Stevenson’s official “mandatory” contender for at least two years. No kidding.

Following Stevenson’s knockout over Andrzej Fonfara this past June, the official word from his camp was that he wanted first and foremost the winner of the upcoming rematch between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev. However, Ward is evidently not interested, so Yvon Michel had indicated that Alvarez is the most likely next opponent for Adonis, though we now know that Stevenson is not particularly enthusiastic about such a bout because apparently the financial terms don’t excite him. But following Badou Jack’s emphatic win over Nathan Cleverly on the Mayweather vs McGregor undercard, an Adonis vs Badou fight unexpectedly appeared on everyone’s radar, with Jack calling out Stevenson after his big win and Stevenson responding in kind via social media.

It’s got to finally happen.

Alvarez then called a press conference last week to indicate that he was not pleased. “It’s been almost two years since I became his mandatory challenger,” declared the fighter who has wins over Isaac Chilemba, Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal. “I deserve my chance. I agreed to step aside twice [so Stevenson could make optional title defenses]. I will not do it again. It’s my turn. The WBC gave me their word.”

For more on this perplexing situation, watch Manny Montreal’s thoughts on how Stevenson has painted himself in a corner and a fight with Alvarez is beyond overdue. Time to face the music, Adonis, because you in fact have made this match even more “mandatory” than it already was. Check it out:

Despite Stevenson’s objections, the WBC is going to look absolutely impotent if he defends his title against anyone other than Eleider Alvarez. And, as mentioned, Groupe Yvon Michel is indicating that Stevenson vs Alvarez will happen before the end of 2017. So there you have it: major events in September; a meaningful all-Canadian showdown on a big card in October; more casino cards in October and November, plus, quite likely, Adonis Stevenson vs Eleider Alvarez. And then another Tohu Theatre card in December. If we also get Steven Butler vs Francis Lafreniere out of all this, then Montreal fight fans are officially spoiled rotten.       — Robert Portis    

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