Last night at the Claude Robillard Sports Complex in Montreal, Eye of the Tiger Management staged a pro-am card comprised of six amateur and four pro bouts. As with most shows that occur away from television, it was undertaken as a developmental opportunity for rising local boxers seeking exposure, a chance to give the prized young pros in the EOTTM stable an opportunity to refine their skills before facing better competition.
The card was headlined by super welterweight Steven “Bang Bang” Butler, a native of nearby Saint-Michel whom Eye of the Tiger promoter Camille Estephan has referred to as “the Sidney Crosby of boxing.” The professional portion also featured appearances by Kazahk countrymen Batyr Jukembayev and Ablai Kussainov, the latter scoring the night’s highlight via spectacular knockout. The lone other pro fight featured the debut of Montreal middleweight Josue St-Cyr, who looked sharp in dispatching Mike Breton.
On the first bout of the pro portion, Ablai Khussainov (2-0) made his Canadian debut against Montreal’s Roodsy Vincent, who was boxing for the first time as a professional. Khussainov, a veteran of 200 amateur fights according to manager Anna Reva, is seeking to make a pro career in North America, and had little margin for error yesterday.
Vincent’s supporters helped foster the night’s livest atmosphere, cheering raucously throughout, but to no avail as Khussainov stalked the Montrealer for three rounds, landing cleaner combinations and heavier shots. In the third he ended things concussively by driving home a calamitous left hook to Vincent’s exposed chin. It was the most emphatic blow anyone landed last night, and endeared him to a Montreal audience for which hard-punching Eurasians have become commonplace.
Up next was a middleweight bout between two boxers making their pro debuts, Josue St-Cyr and Mike Breton. The disparity in talent was clear from the outset as the faster, sharper St-Cyr made short work of his opponent, stopping Breton with a perfectly-timed counterpunch toward the end of the third round. While yesterday’s sample is too small to make declarative judgements about St-Cyr’s ability, he looks promising and it will be interesting to see what opportunities he receives from Eye of the Tiger Management.
The co-main event featured Batyr Jukembayev (4-0) against Mexico’s Randy Lozano (10-10-2). The outcome was obvious from the beginning, as Lozano had neither the skill or power to challenge Batyr, who showed the Kazahk fighting pedigree made famous by Gennady Golovkin, patiently walking Lozano down while bruising him with hooks, uppercuts, and clean power shots. In the third Jukembayev sent Lozano to the canvas with another flush punch, mercifully ending a non-competitive thrashing.
In the main event, EOTTM’s highly-touted prospect, Steven “Bang Bang” Butler (17-0-1), overcame Brazil’s Robson Assis (15-3) by third round stoppage. Butler endured some clean counter fire in the opening round, but soon after began to dominate, mixing shots to the body and head, and launching straight blows the Brazilian couldn’t easily see. After scoring the first knockdown of the match, Butler made a throat-slashing gesture and he continued to preen each time he sent Assis to the mat. As in the preceding three fights, the main event didn’t escape the third round.
Beyond its sheer entertainment value, there was little to glean from yesterday’s event. Batyr Jukembayev is an excellent prospect whose skills are as sharp as they are comprehensive. Possessing terrific balance, hand speed, power and combination punching, he appears well equipped for the challenge of facing truly world class talent. If one were buying stock in the future of a Montreal fighter, he is as safe a bet as any.
As Estephan acknowledged yesterday, Butler, who is only 20, is an infant by professional boxing standards, with much room for development. He is still growing into his body which, with its long, nimble arms, is a good one for boxing purposes, but he will have to improve defensively, most obviously by moving his head more. Last night Butler was hit clean in the first round, though this may have been the result of facing a southpaw for the first time. Initially flummoxed, he soon found his rhythm and dictated the match thereafter. In this sense, it was another tangible step forward in his development.
For both fighters, a boost in competition should follow soon. The success they crave will not come on local house shows (which are fun and necessary to the scene’s lifeblood), but on the stages where success isn’t preordained. Only there can hope and hype become reality. — Eliott McCormick
Photos by Bob Levesque.