The last time we saw Francis Lafreniere in action it was unforgettable. On January 30th in the Bell Centre and on the undercard of Pascal vs Kovalev II, the brawler from Saint Clet, Quebec battled for ten bruising rounds with veteran Renan St Juste for the IBF International middleweight title. It was a thrilling slugfest from start to finish with both men giving all they had for the win. The difference was Lafreniere’s sheer aggression as his non-stop attack earned him a unanimous decision victory. At the final bell the crowd rose as one to give the epic battle, a deserving candidate for Fight of the Year, a standing ovation.
Tonight Lafreniere returns to action as the headliner for the latest showcase card from Grant Brothers Boxing and Rixa Promotions. No doubt Francis is the draw with hundreds from his hometown buying tickets to the second in what promises to be a series of successful events at the Tohu Theatre, an excellent venue near the city centre. However, while everyone had hoped to see Francis compete for another title belt, this time the IBF Intercontinental middleweight crown, against Francisco Cordero of Colombia, that match has been scuttled by some last second visa problems.
Instead, Lafreniere, who is undefeated in his last eight matches and also holds the Canadian middleweight title, will face Attila Koros (9-4-1) of Hungary in what can only be viewed as a tune-up match. The downgrade may not matter to most of Lafreniere’s fans as long as he wins, but with the man they call “The People’s Champion” coming off such a tough war just four months ago, and with rumours he has suffered an injury in training, some might question the wisdom of this move. Suffice to say, it’s not the scenario his team had envisioned.
Erik Bazinyan‘s opponent has also changed at the last minute and thus the hunt likely continues in terms of finding one of the most talented prospects in Canada some meaningful competition. Zoltan Sera (24-9), also of Hungary, has lost six of his last 11 and doesn’t figure to offer the streaking Bazinyan much of a challenge. That said, it’s always a treat to see the gifted, young “B-Zo” in action. He’s a clever counter-puncher who sets traps for his opponents and then catches them with his powerful right hand and come Saturday morning his record will, in all likelihood, be a sterling 13-0.
Boxing fans can also look forward to seeing other members of the Grant Brothers/Rixa stable in action with prospects Bruno Bredicean, Golden Garcia and Roody Pierre-Paul all taking the next steps in their young careers. Our own Manny Montreal has a soft spot for the man he calls “Ojos Locos,” as Montreal’s Golden Garcia (5-0) is a true “blue collar” boxer, getting up every morning to run before working full-time shifts and then training at the gym at night. A huge Roberto Duran fan, Garcia is an aggressive pressure fighter with good stamina and a deadly body attack.
Manny is also a big fan of young Bruno Bredicean (3-0), who has fewer fights than his brother Dario, but is just as promising a talent with solid fundamentals, a sharp jab and excellent footwork. Lucian Bute is part of his management team and the former world champion has been seen giving fellow southpaw Bruno the benefit of his experience and insights. We have a chance tonight to see the results of that influence and Bruno should, like all of the young talent in action tonight, score another win. — Robert Portis