If Shakeel Phinn was going to be truly tested in his first main event, it seemed likely — after a heated face off following the weigh-in — that it would come in the form of whether he could maintain his composure against a volatile opponent. In winning via disqualification in the final round of a fight he dominated, Phinn (13-1, 8 KOs) proved he possesses the burgeoning skills to match steely mettle.
Josue Aguilar, who invaded Shakeel Phinn’s personal space after they stepped off the scales on Wednesday, employed excessive “tactics” of holding, not to mention a brutally accurate low blow in round seven, in a vain attempt to disarm “The Jamaican Juggernaut.” Needless to say, the Mexican’s heinous fouling, while serving to disrupt the second half of the fight, accomplished little beyond bringing the bout to an early conclusion as the crowd jeered at the culprit.
Although Phinn stated that Aguilar (12-2-3, 7 KOs) had gotten him more pumped up than any previous foe and that he was ready to “destroy,” the first two rounds were shaped by Phinn’s professional restraint, as he remained controlled behind a sledgehammer jab that repeatedly tagged Aguilar flush. Then, later in the second stanza, Phinn uncorked a left hook that nearly decapitated the Mexican, who tumbled to his side but somehow managed to beat the count.
As the fight approached the midway point, it was clear Josue Aguilar was in spoiler and survival mode. Unable to muster any significant offence, the Mexican literally resorted to spearing, tackling, and constantly clutching Shakeel Phinn. Undaunted, Phinn pressed the action, buckling Aguilar with a sweeping right to the body in the fifth and shaking him to his boot heels with a left hook one round later.
In the seventh stanza, Aguilar drilled Phinn with the aforementioned blatant low-blow after losing a point for excessive holding. But just when it seemed like the bout was on the verge of completely devolving into a sloppy, foul-filled wrestling match, Phinn reasserted control by going on the offensive in the eighth as he gunned for revenge and what proved to be an elusive stoppage. Although some exasperation crept into his management of the later stanzas thanks to Aguilar’s negativity, which led to a disqualification at 1:45 of round ten after a third point deduction for holding, Phinn deserves plaudits for refusing to sink to his opponent’s level.
After the fight, Shakeel Phinn admitted that Aguilar’s blatant fouling frustrated him, but he credited the steady hand of trainer Ian MacKillop for keeping him composed. In the corner, MacKillop warned Phinn to remain calm in order to avoid carelessly opening up and walking onto a big counter shot. While Phinn was able to avoid any emotional outbursts in the ring, he conceded that he somewhat abandoned his impressive jab as the fight wore on.
“When I hit him with that big shot, that hook, you just want to get him out of there,” Phinn said. “Sometimes you just forget about the fundamentals that got you to that point – that got me to that knockdown. I started to lead with the hook and finish with the right hand. I would have done things differently, but he was ready to go at any point. He just wanted to hold.”
Still, there’s plenty of value in being extended 10 rounds for only the second time as pro, and Shakeel Phinn was also quick to point out that facing a rugged spoiler like Josue Aguilar, while maddening in the moment, will pay dividends as he continues to progress. It’s a reminder that he’s likely to encounter even trickier and potentially dirtier fighters, and it has also imbued him with the confidence and understanding that he can cope with onerous circumstances.
In the co-feature, Jo Jo Dan got back in the win column with a fifth-round technical knockout of Jesus Gurrola to erase the painful memories of the comprehensive defeated he suffered at the hands of newly-minted world champion Jarrett Hurd. Against Gurrola (23-11-3, 11 KOs), Dan (36-4, 19 KOs) was aggressive from the opening bell, crippling his foe with a left hook to the body and dropping him with a follow-up barrage for what looked like an early stoppage.
Credit Gurrola’ courage, as he rallied well and worked his way back into the fight to the point where he blasted and hurt the former world title challenger with a right hand in the fifth round. This, however, only galvanized Dan, who used his experience to recuperate. Dan then landed a rib-snapping left-right combination downstairs, which precipitated a brief firefight. Ultimately, Dan’s superior managing of distance, as well as his timing and straighter shots, made the difference as he again floored Gurrola, promoting the referee’s merciful intervention.
It would have been difficult to guess that Michael Gadbois hadn’t fought since December of 2015 due to a shoulder injury based on how he looked against trial horse trickster Cecilio Santos. Over six similarly dominant rounds, Gadbois (15-1-3, 4 KOs) abused Santos’ body with a whipping right hook from his southpaw stance. Gadbois also produced fluid combinations, and he employed lateral movement to befuddle his opponent. Although unable to score a stoppage, Gadbois buckled Santos (33-32-6, 20 KOs) with a left to the body in the fifth, and he punctuated his victory — via scores of 60-54 (twice) and 58-56 — with a crunching counter right hook that nearly swivelled Santos’s head and sent his rattail flying into the first row.
Bruno Bredicean, who had scored two explosive stoppages in a row, was extended the distance by rugged Mexican Jose Manuel Mares in what morphed into a war of attrition. Although Bredicean (8-0, 3 KOs) won a deserved majority decision via scores of 59-55, 58-56, and 57-57, the emerging prospect had to dig his heels in and wade through some difficult spots to grind out a victory.
Bredicean moved expertly in the early rounds, employing sharp lateral shifts to reset distance and prevent Mares (17-12, 15 KOs) from getting into an offensive rhythm. After jumping out to an early lead behind ring generalship and crisp single shots, including some sharp right hands upstairs, Bredicean was cruising. And yet, Mares lingered in the pocket, his countenance unshakable. In the fourth round, Bredicean, despite landing a massive one-two early, got rocked shortly after seeming to indicate that his eye was bothering him.
Give Bredicean credit for wresting back control of the fight in the fifth, although the contest had morphed into a grueling battle. Bredicean stayed in the pocket and fought off his front foot, ripping shots from in close as he willed himself to steal the round. In the sixth, just as Mares started to batter Bredicean, the Grant Brothers charge landed a volley of hooks as he turned the tide, reflecting his clear combination of skills and heart.
Jessica Camara, Donnybook Gym‘s newest protege and a 2015 Canadian National Champion, made a successful professional debut by scoring a convincing unanimous decision win over Heidy Martinez via scores of 40-36 and 39-37 (twice). Camara (1-0) got off to a thunderous start, connecting with booming overhand rights that had Martinez (2-2) dazed and blinking furiously. After the fight, though, Camara would reveal that she hurt her power hand in that opening stanza.
Still, the Montreal-based Ontarian moved beautifully, maintaining her balance as she darted in and out of range to tattoo Martinez with fluid fusillades of punches. By the second round, Martinez’s nose was leaking blood, and Camara did well to punctuate her combinations with a head-rattling left hook to help compensate for her injury. Martinez was game, but Camara, despite some adversity, is off to an impressive start in the paid ranks. She’ll return to action in June in Ontario.
In a post-fight media scrum, Camara stated that she was pleased with her sharpness despite not having fought in a year. Although the beginning of the bout was somewhat surreal, she quickly found her rhythm after the first couple of exchanges. Also, in true fighter fashion, Camara didn’t tell her corner that she’d hurt her hand, and Martinez also appeared oblivious.
“As the rounds went on he [trainer Ian MacKillop] said pressure her more – you can finish her in the third,” said Camara. “But my right hand was hurting. I was trying to pressure her but I felt like I couldn’t dig to the body as I would have liked to.” But Camara otherwise felt fresh going into the fourth round and is ecstatic to put this victory in the bank and move on to what she feels will be an even smoother second outing.
Roodsy Vincent decisioned Aaron Lazcano over four rounds in an entertaining scrap that saw both men throw a high volume of punches. Lazcano (2-2) sustained a cut over his left eye due to a clash of heads in the second round, but the fight was hardly sloppy. Montrealer Vincent (2-1, 1 KO) landed the cleaner flurries and fought well in spots with his back against the ropes. Scores were 40-36 (three times).
As has become the custom with Yvon Michel‘s Casino de Montreal boxing series, the evening belonged to prospects and emerging contenders who were given serious challenges. Although cards such as this one reveal only glimpses of what’s to come from fighters like Shakeel Phinn or Bruno Bredicean, they are crucial steps in the development of individual talents and the city’s flourishing boxing scene.
And there’s still plenty that can be gleaned: Montreal may be home to a yet another elite female talent in Jessica Camara; Bruno Bredicean showed the type of heart he’ll need as he continues to climb the ladder; and Shakeel Phinn, who sold out the Casino’s cabaret room for the first time as a headliner, served notice that his rapid development into a dangerous contender cannot be ignored. This may indeed prove to be the first of many main events for Shakeel Phinn, one he’ll never forget but that he’ll continuously surpass.
“The whole process of the main event – the posters, the flyers, all these little details – just got me super excited,” said an ebullient Phinn. “All the press conferences, the interviews, the TV – it’s definitely a dream come true. I’m happy I had a lot of people here for me. I’m not a really known guy yet in the boxing world, but I think after tonight I will be a little bit more.”
— Zachary Alapi
Photos by Bob Levesque.