The last time David Lemieux was set to headline a boxing event in Montreal, he left his fans profoundly disappointed. The popular power-puncher with the GQ looks was scheduled to face James De La Rosa at The Olympia in March, but he failed to make weight and the match was scrapped at the last second. Lemieux’s promoter, Eye Of The Tiger Management, made a bolder statement last night, staging a ten fight card at The Bell Centre, Canada’s premier boxing venue. Lemieux came through this time and gave his hometown fans something to cheer about in the main event, but in fact it was undefeated Steven “Bang Bang” Butler who won the night.
Over half of the arena’s lower bowl was cordoned off, but the remaining seats were filled, the crowd later announced at over five thousand, a respectable turn-out considering Lemieux’s one-sided loss to Gennady Golovkin and subsequent no-show had to have eroded fan support. Ticket-holders were treated to an entertaining series of matches whose outcomes surprised in a number of instances. Often victories are preordained for house fighters as they are matched with carefully chosen opponents, but last night saw some unexpected results which made for compelling viewing.
For example, super welterweight Mian Hussain suffered his first defeat when his match with Mexico’s Silverio Ortiz (35-18) was called off after round three. Up to that point Ortiz appeared to have the better of it, landing a big right hand in round one and scoring a knockdown in round three. But Hussain reportedly sustained an injury to his left eye and, after much consultation in his corner, the fight was stopped, giving Ortiz the upset win. Hussain drops to 16-1.
Other matches resulted in less startling outcomes. Undefeated super middleweight D’Mitrius Ballard (15-0) blew out Gergo Horvath (9-2-1) in two rounds, while Montreal super lightweight Mathieu Germain (8-0) earned a unanimous decision over Manuel Mares (16-10). Lightweight Ablaikhan Khussainov, in only his third pro fight, destroyed Hungary’s Attila Csereklye (6-3) in less than two rounds, the Kazakhstan native targeting his opponent with his devastating left hook. Khussainov, his body taut and lean, looked much improved compared to his pro debut last July 7 and is definitely a prospect to monitor.
But Khussainov was not the only Kazahk appearing on the card as his friend and countrymen, super lightweight Batyr Jukembayev, took on experienced Mexican Ivan Pareyra (20-8). Southpaw Jukembayev (5-0) put his combinations together patiently, disrupting Pareyra’s rhythm by adroitly changing the pace and elevation of his punches, and the result was a dominant and predatory performance by one of Montreal’s most exciting young talents. A brutal fourth round, in which the Mexican was knocked down twice, was followed by a hellish fifth which saw him decked three more times and finally stopped.
“Wow, that was a hell of a performance,” said Camille Estephan afterwards. “This kid is extremely talented, extremely serious, on a mission. He wants to be the next Golovkin. Can he do it at 140? He has what it takes, so now it’s up to us to get him there.”
Fans were then treated to Trois-Rivières heavyweight Simon Kean (6-0). His opponent, Mexico’s David Torres Garcia (10-4), entered the ring sporting the belly of a woman carrying octuplets and presented no threat whatsoever. Garcia’s corner threw in the towel during round two, saving their obese charge from further punishment. The fight proved little, beyond what a powerful looking specimen Kean is, but the crowd was energized at the sight of the hypertrophied heavyweight, who also happens to be white and Quebecois. Estephan beamed when his name was invoked at the post-fight presser and if the 27-year-old former Olympian keeps winning, there’s no doubt he will receive a vigorous push from Eye of the Tiger.
After Kean, Sorel native David Theroux (11-2) faced Mexico’s Jose Emilio Perea (24-7), who was last seen in Montreal this past May when he fell to Custio Clayton in ten rounds. Theroux was met with a loud ovation from his home supporters, but from the opening seconds the contest unfolded badly for him. Knocked down early, Theroux got to his feet only to be ravaged against the ropes and he was lucky to escape the first round. While he fought his way back into the match, the obdurate Perea wanted the win as badly as he did and the result was an entertaining action battle, both men landing heavy body punches at close quarters. The final round was a desperate brawl but it wasn’t enough for Theroux to pull it out. The tough journeyman earned a deserved points victory, the outcome proving foreign fighters can get a fair shake in Quebec.
Serious Montreal boxing fans were looking forward to the next bout, as Eye Of The Tiger’s Ghislain ‘Mani’ Maduma (18-3) took on Filipino Ricky Sismundo (31-9) in a ten round super-lightweight match. Last May Sismundo gave Montreal’s Dierry Jean a very tough battle, the resulting draw decision largely viewed as generous to the local fighter. The prospect of seeing Maduma take on the relentless Sismundo sounded like a recipe for a great fight, as well as a good test for Maduma, a former Manny Pacquiao sparring partner.
However, expectations went unfulfilled as after Sismundo scored a flash knockdown in the opening round, the match settled into a tedious groove, interrupted only briefly by a good exchange at the end of round seven. But the bout was decided in a suddenly dramatic round nine in which Sismundo stunned his man with a hard right hand and scored a second knockdown. A visibly hurt Ghislain rose and was fortunate to make it to the bell, but in the final stanza he could do little more than survive. Sismundo earned a clear points win and Maduma has since announced his retirement.
In the co-main event, Steven ‘Bang Bang’ Butler, who Estephan has referred to as the ‘Sidney Crosby’ of boxing, blew out respected Janks Trotter (10-4-1) in a single round to win the vacant IBF North American super welterweight title. What was supposed to be a test turned into a blitzkrieg, as Butler’s synthesis of straight punches and ring aggression devastated his opponent. An overhand right stunned Alberta’s Trotter early and Butler wasted no time taking advantage, pasting his adversary with shots, the ropes holding Trotter up. The fight moved back to ring center but another vicious right hurt Trotter and the follow-up flurry sent him through the ropes, forcing the referee to stop the match as the crowd chanted “Bang-bang! Bang-bang!”
At the post-fight press conference, the 21-year-old Butler, who recently became a father, spoke of the epiphany he had at ring center as the crowd chanted his name and he reflected on the scope of his following. Estephan defined Butler’s performance succinctly by stating “A star is born!” He added that Butler’s next opponent might be undefeated Canadian champion Brandon “Bad Boy” Cook.
In the main event, David Lemieux got off to a fast start against Argentina’s Cristian Fabios Rios, forcing his opponent to the ropes and unloading heavy shots. But Rios proved his toughness as he absorbed Lemieux’s vaunted power and, undeterred by the assault, came back to land solid jabs in round three. The former champion remained in control through most of the fight, but couldn’t find the knockout win he wanted. Instead the tough Rios scored a symbolic victory by staying on his feet through all ten rounds.
At the press conference, Lemieux, whose right eye was marked, stated that he wasn’t happy with his performance. “I’m not satisfied. There are things that I wanted to do much better. But hats off to Rios. He boxed well and merits all my respect.” Lemieux’s next match may come on December 17th at a slated Golden Boy Promotions show in California, but Estephan refused to divulge what opponents were being considered.
Despite the three unexpected losses, in the final analysis it was still a good night for the Eye Of The Tiger crew as the outfit’s two biggest names scored significant wins. And for Camille Estephan, who had been effusive in his praise of Butler, it must have been gratifying to see “Bang Bang”give his most electric performance yet on the company’s biggest show to date. The young man’s skill and showmanship resound with a Montreal crowd that reveres action and he guaranteed future interest and ticket sales with a thrilling knockout. Lemieux may have been the headliner last night and he may have scored an important victory, but it was Butler who truly shined. — Robert Portis
Photos by Bob Levesque.