The match-ups may not have been what Montreal fight fans were hoping for, and certainly the event could have come together more smoothly for the hard-working people who staged it, but in the end the less than attractive merchandise on offer at the Tohu Theatre Friday night provided more entertainment value than anyone had a right to expect. These were not alluring matches headlining the event, but the ‘rough trade’ of last second replacements serving to ensure the show goes on did in fact give Montreal fight fans something to cheer about.
In the days leading up to the event, word was the two head-lining matches featuring Erik Bazinyan and Francis Lafreniere were going to be competitive tests for both men. The undefeated Bazinyan has been searching in vain for meaningful competition for some time and the Rixa Promotions press release of two weeks prior stated that his opponent would “force him to draw on all his resources.” This reporter had been told that the fighter in question was a truly dangerous customer with success against world-ranked competition. Unfortunately, the match fell through.
Similarly, Francis Lafreniere was scheduled to face Francisco Cordero of Colombia in a battle for the IBF intercontinental middleweight title, but Cordero could not gain the proper papers to enter Canada and that match had to be scrapped at the last second as well. The scramble was on to get both boxers suitable opponents and, as reported on this site, the match-ups fight fans were left to look forward to did not evoke a sense of urgent anticipation.
Be that as it may, overall, it was a fun night of fights at La Tohu, with outcomes that only whet one’s appetite for the serious challenges to come for the prospects in the Grant Brothers stable who just keep on winning.
First up, Bruno Bredicean improved to 4-0 with a unanimous decision over Hector Osornio (7-8-3). Bruno, a protégé of Lucian Bute, showed some beautiful boxing and clearly won all four rounds. His victory was followed by the professional debut of Miguel Poissant who dropped a four round decision to Mexican Jesus Olivares (1-2). Poissant, performing in front of a friendly crowd, was rattled early in the match and never found his rhythm. Olivares connected with ease and clearly deserved the win.
The third bout of the night featured lightweight prospect Golden Garcia who stayed undefeated with a convincing fifth round TKO over Slovakia’s Csaba Bölcskei. This was a fast-paced action tilt from the opening bell with the aggressive Garcia going after his man and Bölcskei doing his level best to stay competitive though he was clearly outgunned.
The Montreal prospect appeared especially sharp on this night as he employed a relentless body attack while staying defensively responsible, blocking and slipping Bölcskei’s counterpunches with ease. A left hook to the liver put Bölcskei down in the fourth and Garcia immediately pounced with more heavy artillery to the midsection. Bölcskei hit the deck again but the game fighter got to his feet and finished the round before Garcia closed the show with a ferocious attack in the fifth. Left hands to the body produced two more knockdowns before the referee wisely called a halt.
Next up were the heavyweights as Toronto’s Oleksandr Teslenko (5-0) notched an easy win over Tamas Bajzath (12-18-1) of Hungary. This was the night’s most dreadful match as Bajzath clearly had no business being in a boxing ring. Teslenko boxed with the nonchalance of one who recognizes his opponent is of no threat whatsoever (which was clearly the case), as he stood straight up with his chin exposed and launched wide power punches which scored two knockdowns in the opening round. In the second a huge left hook put Bajzath down a third time and that was the end of that.
The following match was far more interesting as Roody Pierre-Paul (12-3-1) took on Mexican Oscar Barajas (12-3-1) in an eight round lightweight battle which was as competitive as it was fun to watch. Great match-making here as the two boxers gave the crowd a fast-paced and lively contest with several very close rounds. Pierre-Paul was the aggressor for most of the bout, but Barajas was the more accurate puncher, scoring well with body shots in the bout’s second half. The competitive nature of the contest was reflected in the scorecards with two judges calling it a draw; the third card gave it to the Mexican by two points. This writer and fight fan is left hoping for a rematch.
Now it was time for the co-main event with renowned prospect Erik Bazinyan (13-0), taking on replacement opponent Zoltan Sera (24-10) of Hungary. Give Zoltan credit: he’s a fun performer who showed plenty of bravado as he mugged and taunted and flailed about, but this was a fight that had ‘no contest’ written all over it and no doubt both boxers were aware of the fact. Midway through the first round the fighters clinched and the look of sheer contempt on Bazinyan’s face during the pause in the action said it all.
In the second Sera continued to taunt Erik, shrugging his shoulders after taking shots and inviting his opponent to be more aggressive. Bazinyan obliged and scored three knockdowns in quick succession: the first from a left hook to the liver, the second with a right hand to the head, and the finisher was another hook to the liver that left Sera writhing in agony. The best thing that could be said about the blatant mismatch was that at least Bazinyan took care of a no-hope, last second replacement the way a gifted future champion should: quickly and violently.
After the Armenian music played in Bazinyan’s honour had ended, the fans at the Tohu Theatre were treated to a dramatic ring entrance for the popular Francis Lafreniere (12-5-2), the big screen showing highlights from his thrilling battle this past January against Renan St Juste. To loud cheers “The People’s Champ” entered the ring to confront an opponent who, on paper, posed no threat, though it was impossible to overlook the fact that Attila Koros (9-5-1), who has campaigned at super-middleweight in the past, appeared bigger and more heavily muscled.
Right from the opening seconds the main event was a slugfest, which has become standard operating procedure for Lafreniere who, like his self-confessed favourite fighter, Arturo Gatti, appears to elect to eat punches in order to get his attack out of first gear. Koros was willing and the two men took turns exchanging heavy shots at close quarters as the crowd went wild. The first round was close with both men landing their share of heavy blows, but in the second a flush left hook to the chin decked Koros, who rose and fought back bravely before a right hand to the head put him down a second time. He beat the count and launched a counter attack but none of his punches fazed Lafreniere. When Koros had punched himself out, he spat his mouthpiece to the floor to force a pause in the action and survive the round.
In the third Koros came out swinging in a desperate attempt to reverse the momentum. Using movement to create punching room he connected with some solid shots, before Lafreniere reestablished command. Two quick left hooks hurt Koros and put him down again. He beat the count, but with the crowd chanting “People’s Champ! People’s Champ!” Lafreniere moved in and landed another left hook to score a fourth knockdown and end the match. A few minutes later the official result was announced as the sound system played music at deafening volume, the ringcard girls posed and preened, Lafreniere held his index finger aloft, and the fans cheered exuberantly for their hometown hero. Make no mistake: Lafreniere is popular in “La Belle Province.”
The dramatic action and quick resolutions proved a best case scenario given the circumstances for Bazinyan and Lafreniere, but the pressure is now on to ensure the next outings are more competitive and live up to their billing. Both Sera and Koros had virtually no chance of winning and the best that could be said for either opponent was that they at least gave the fans some action and entertainment. But if the Grant Brothers prospects are going to develop and realize continued success, they need meaningful opposition in the near future. This is especially the case for Erik Bazinyan who is on the verge of being a world-ranked contender but has faced fewer seasoned opponents than Lafreniere. He needs more than easy wins to prepare him for the challenges that lie ahead. — Michael Carbert
Photos by Bob Levesque.