Francis Lafreniere and Erik Bazinyan headline tonight’s boxing card at Montreal’s Olympia Theater, but that was not the Grant Brothers’ initial plan. In fact, very little has gone according to plan for the people working hard to make this event happen for Montreal boxing fans.
Originally, former world titlist and hometown hero Renan St Juste was slated to be the main attraction for the card and was set to face Calgary’s Janks Trotter in an intriguing match-up between prominent Canadian talents. But after verbally agreeing to the planned middleweight bout, Trotter, just a month before fight night, abruptly demanded a catch-weight, refusing to enter the ring unless St Juste agreed to weigh-in at 158. Naturally St Juste resented the last minute demand and the Grant Brothers scrambled to find a new opponent for their headliner.
But not long after doing so, St Juste, less than two weeks before the scheduled event, suffered an injury in training which, to everyone’s dismay, was soon diagnosed as a detached retina. So long, St Juste.
In the meantime, other planned matches presented their share of problems. Exciting pro prospect Shakeel Phinn’s name had to be scratched from the card after he was offered the chance to perform on the undercard of next month’s Adonis Stevenson title match in Quebec City. And then, just ten days ago, Erik Bazinyan’s scheduled opponent suddenly backed out, forcing organizers to once again scramble to find a replacement.
To add to the headaches, Golden Garcia’s opponent almost backed out of his agreement to fight before changing his mind at the last second, and yesterday, Tyson Cave’s opponent, Abraham Gomez of Mexico, arrived at the weigh-in a whopping 15 pounds overweight. After much consternation, the boxers agreed to meet at a new contractual weight limit, but Mr. Cave and others were clearly not happy.
So if you see Otis and Howard Grant and their marketing manager Maxine Fortin at the Olympia tonight and they appear at all stressed or troubled, you will understand why.
Despite these problems and setbacks, tonight’s event promises to be a noteworthy one with Bazinyan’s replacement opponent a tougher challenge than originally scheduled, and with Canadian champion Francis Lafreniere potentially facing a tough battle from former Commonwealth title challenger Mohammed Akrong. And the flamboyant Tyson Cave will seek to put on an impressive performance in his return to the ring after being robbed on national television this past December. Cave no doubt received wider attention than ever before after dropping a decision to Oscar Escandon on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights, a verdict which prompted Teddy Atlas to begin foaming at the mouth before calling it a “crime” and “a sham.”
In addition, a couple of heavyweight matches on the card could provide plenty of fireworks. The last time Dillon Carmen and Eric Martel-Bahoeli were in the ring, it was against each other as they gave fight fans a brawl to remember for the Canadian heavyweight title. Carmen prevailed in a wild shootout that saw both men hit the canvas multiple times before it was finally stopped in round seven. Tonight’s matches could be the prelude to an eagerly anticipated rematch. Martel-Bahoeli will face undefeated Samer Barakat of Ottawa, while Carmen takes on Mexico’s Benito Quiroz.
Also on the card, a pair of young lightweights, Dwayne Durel and Kyle Marsh, will make their pro debuts against each other, while Montreal super-featherweight Golden Garcia meets Jessie Macmillan of Halifax. Should be a great night of boxing action. And hey, Montreal fight fans, after everything they’ve gone through to make it happen, Grant Brothers and company deserve your support. — Robert Portis