The last time Eye of the Tiger Management brought a fight show to hockey-crazed Shawinigan, packing the Centre Gervais Auto with thousands of loyal lunatics from Quebec’s Mauricie region, it marked a culmination of one of the most ingenious promotional arcs ever for a Canadian prizefighter. Simon Kean, a 2012 Canadian Olympian and then-undefeated pro, routed a gregarious but novice pugilist in British Columbia’s Adam Braidwood. In three punishing rounds, Kean gave Braidwood a bone-crunching Shawinigan Handshake and that night it appeared nothing could stop Kean’s rise to domination of the Canadian heavyweight boxing scene.
Fast-forward one year, and some aspects of Eye of the Tiger’s return to Shawinigan were the same: the lively pre-fight tailgate party (rain-soaked this year), Kean and Braidwood both in action, an unmistakable buzz in the typically sleepy town that’s now proven itself a legitimate boxing outpost in fight-mad Quebec, and a stacked undercard of developing prospects from one the world’s rising promotional operations.
But some things were different, too: Kean and Braidwood were appearing in separate bouts, with the latter not having fought since Kean left him bloodied and senseless, draped over the top rope like a dazed drunk at closing time. But, more significantly, something had gotten in the way of Kean’s ascendancy, that being former Canadian heavyweight champion Dillon Carman, who pole-axed “The Grizzly” with a single right hand in the fourth round of a firefight in Quebec City last year. So if there was any buzz heading into Kean vs Carman II, it was more of the “hushed-tone” variety: What if Kean gets knocked out again? Is his career at stake?
Well, it wasn’t exactly a confidence-inducing performance — although it did thrill from a raw entertainment standpoint — but Simon Kean (17-1) bludgeoned Dillon Carman (14-5) into submission in the third round of a contest that quickly devolved into something more resembling a barroom brawl than a boxing match.
The build-up to Kean vs Carman II didn’t exactly inspire confidence in the mental preparedness of the man from Trois-Rivières. The pre-fight hype and promotional tour sizzled thanks to the francophone media’s keen interest, but Kean seemed rattled at almost every turn. While Carman came across as cool bordering on smug, Kean was emotionally unhinged, his attempts to verbally battle Carman in English backfiring. Shifting back and forth between rage and fear, Kean seemed volatile, if not terrified of history repeating itself. “Big Country,” on the other hand, appeared confident he was about to send “The Grizzly” into permanent hibernation.
And in fact, when the battle started, it appeared Kean’s erratic pre-fight behaviour was a harbinger for a repeat of the first fight. “The Grizzly” lumbered like a dancing bear, expending a shocking amount of nervous energy that gushed like the sweat dripping from his body. Meanwhile it was Carman who weilded a stiff jab that sliced through Kean’s guard with alarming ease.
That weapon, along with some timely overhand rights, and simply by boxing with a modicum of balance and control, won Carman the first two rounds. His steady and measured approach contrasted with Kean’s clubbing home-run swings and movement that would have made you think the canvas was dotted with some of Quebec’s infamous potholes. After two rounds, the consensus on press row was that Kean was once again heading chin-out towards disaster.
However, a funny thing happened in round three as Kean suddenly remembered that he was a 2012 Olympian who actually knows how to box. All at once he settled down, pumped his jab effectively, and landed some whipping body shots to Carman’s softer midsection. He unleashed his right hand with conviction, which appeased a colleague on press row convinced he must have injured it, and he finally let his powerful left hook — the one punch he’d been committed to all fight — flow naturally instead of pushing it.
Calmer and thus more focused, Kean worked behind a sledgehammer jab before smoothly ducking a right hand, weaving his way up, and then snapping home a compact left hook that sent Carman crashing to the canvas. Dillon beat the count but Kean’s follow-up attack, at once ungainly but effective, forced the referee to move in and save the Ontarion from further punishment. With his body sagging and blood leaking near his right eye, Carman had been ambushed by Kean’s superior technique, his will to fight back ruthlessly taken from him.
The partisan crowd in Shawinigan rose in collective screams of beer-soaked delight as Kean climbed the ropes and extended his lumberjack arms into the air. But they were cries of vindication as much as celebration. In their eyes, Kean corrected a wrong, or at least something they had been led to believe was an aberration. The relief in the arena was palpable, as the fans from the Mauricie region proved that it’s truly special when people rally around a local superstar for an intriguing domestic fight.
Meanwhile, fight fans had plenty to cheer about from the undercard in terms of impressive performances and violent outcomes. One of the highlights saw ridiculously skilled Andranik Grigoryan (11-0) produce a career-best win and the performance of the night by exacting some sweet revenge on Jorge Garcia Jimenez (14-3-1) who had stopped stablemate Francois Pratte Bernard in eerily similar fashion. Back in March, Jimenez sent Bernard into retirement with a sickening one-punch knockout that left the Quebecker prone on his back with part of his tongue literally bitten off. Well, karma is a funny thing, and Jimenez got his own dose of retribution when Grigoryan obliterated him with a right hand that left him flat on his back and unable to beat the count.
Grigoryan’s one-hitter quitter was apparently so cathartic that it turned him into a sobbing mess as he trotted about the ring to thank the raucous crowd. In Grigoryan’s last fight, he definitely came across as overzealous and borderline arrogant as he postured and preened against Jonathan Aguilar, leading to Grigoryan shockingly finding himself on his ass after he’d scored a hard knockdown moments before. There were no such mental lapses this time. Grigoryan was disciplined, able to detonate sizzling power shots, and with his spectacular victory he reportedly claimed the NABA featherweight title.
The aforementioned Adam Braidwood (14-2) certainly exorcised a few demons by returning to the scene of his devastating loss to Kean almost exactly a year to the day. In Braidwood’s first fight after a frustrating year of inactivity, he appeared composed and fluid as he pumped an effective jab and even incorporated a few feints against the over-matched Andrew Satterfield (5-3). A couple of hard knockdowns convinced the American’s corner to throw in the towel, giving Braidwood a gratifying knockout in front of a crowd that embraced him 364 days after collective frothing at the mouth over his demise. If Braidwood stays active, he can quickly become a meaningful player on the domestic heavyweight scene, and with his gregarious personality and the odd niche he’s carved out in Quebec, that’s an exciting prospect.
Also on the undercard, Kim Clavel (9-0) continued her sprint towards a world title shot with an eight-round boxing clinic over Nora Cardoza (14-7-2) in what was already her fourth bout of the year. Hard-hitting Russian transplant Artur Ziyatdinov (10-0) was extended the distance by spoiler Marcos Nicolas Karalitzky (6-3-2) in what served as a training exercise on how to cut off the ring. Raphael Courchesne (7-0) and Kaemy Cloutier (3-0) were victorious in separate bouts and continue to progress solidly in their fledgling careers, while popular grinder Vincent Thibault (9-0) survived a first-round scare to drop Alan Carrillo (10-4) with a body shot and stop him in round six.
Much has already been said on this website about Lexson Mathieu’s prodigious talent, and he annihilated Fernando Galvan (4-4) with knockdowns from both stances before turning off the Mexican’s lights with a single shot in round two that left the poor Galvan prone and out cold under the ropes. If Mathieu (4-0) is a legitimate bluechip prospect, so is Avery Martin-Duval (1-0), a multi-National Amateur Champion who won his pro debut via an opening round TKO and is certainly a prospect to salivate over in the lighter weight classes.
A few more thoughts on Carman-Kean II: We need a trilogy fight for several reasons. Even though he settled down and boxed effectively in the third round, Kean’s performance did not inspire confidence that he’s ready to level-up. If he can return against Carman and do the business with more poise, then we can start talking about eyeing greater challenges. Also, Kean vs Any Significant Anglo-Canadian Heavyweight is the ticket to sell fights outside of Montreal.
At thirty, “The Grizzly” is a young heavyweight, so the thinking here is let him work the domestic scene, which will continue to help Eye of the Tiger make deeper inroads in this boxing-crazed province. Plus, Kean and Carman still have a score to settle. They’ve each won by knockout, but Kean has in no way proven he’s definitively better than “Big Country.” Although that reality doesn’t auger well for Kean’s world title prospects, it means fans should come out of this as the true winners if and when Carman and Kean clash again. — Zachary Alapi
Photos by Vincent Ethier.