A Tale of Two Main Events

Two popular Quebec boxers headlined main events in separate cities last night. While one man and his fans were left disappointed, the other scored the biggest win of his career in what should be a harbinger of future action fights against better competition.

In Montreal, light heavyweight Jean Pascal (29-2-1) fought Argentine Roberto Bolonti (35-3) to a no decision. It was a let-down for all concerned, concluding in just the second round when Pascal hit Bolonti late in a clinch with a flush but innocuous-looking shot, and the Argentine collapsed to the mat. There is no reason to believe that Bolonti was incapacitated by this blow, which, while precise, was anything but hard. He moved and gestured and even sat up, but in the end refused to leave the ring under his own power. Instead he was strapped into a gurney and loaded into a waiting ambulance.

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Pascal had little opportunity to showcase his skills.

Meanwhile, in New York, David Lemieux (33-2) stopped Gabriel “King” Rosado (21-9) in round ten of a fight staged to ascertain whether Lemieux is a legitimate middleweight contender. By dominating and taking out the tough Rosado, he showed that he is.

The Fight City crew was in attendance yesterday at the Bell Center and the event managed to disappoint our low expectations. Every one knew that, barring an upset, Pascal-Bolonti was a fight of no consequence. It was being contested only to get Pascal rounds in advance of his recently announced March date with Sergey Kovalev, as well as not to forgo the gate revenue that had been accrued when Lucian Bute was the event’s headliner prior to pulling out with an injury. Our pessimism held up.

The two bouts that preceded the main event were dull. Prospect Stephen Theroux easily decisioned Maurycy Gojko, a fighter with 45 career losses, in a barbarous spectacle in which only the young Quebecor was punching. Following that, Montreal middleweight Schiller Hyppolite dominated Norbert Nemesapati, who landed no more than a handful of meaningful punches. The fight was stopped in the eleventh round when the referee determined that watching the defenceless Nemesapati lose brain cells was no longer palatable entertainment. Hyppolite’s power and moxie resonated with the Montreal crowd, who gave him a resounding ovation when the bout ended.

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Schiller Hyppolite dominated.

After a lavish, WWE-style entrance, Pascal stepped into the ring wearing a Jean Beliveau jersey. His actions that prompted the stoppage weren’t reminiscent of the class for which the recently deceased Canadiens legend was known. During a clumsy clinch near the end of the second round, Pascal hit Bolonti late. It was ruled an unintentional foul because both men threw punches during the clinch. Bolonti dropped as promptly as Manny Pacquiao did when he got knocked out by Marquez, where he lay paralyzed on the mat. I hope he isn’t hurt, but I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of falling from such a weak shot; it was surreal, even staged-looking, and the comedy was exacerbated by the the big screen shot of paramedics applying an oxygen mask to Bolonti’s face. The crowd’s initial confusion gave way to anger and then amusement. Bolonti was booed as he was carted away.

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Bolonti (right) looked like a warrior, but in the ring he was anything but.

Afterwards, Pascal corner man Roy Jones called Bolonti’s fall “disgusting”. Pascal said his fateful punch was “unintentional”, reasoning that doesn’t hold up under even the most forgiving assessment. Because of its rather rancid whiff, “dogshit” is how I would describe this fight.

After the Pascal bout ended, the Lemieux-Rosado main event was shown on the impressively clear Bell Center big screen. This was a hugely important fight for David Lemieux’s career, because HBO had given him a platform on which to demonstrate his power and improved skills against Gabe Rosado, a limited but extremely tough Philadelphian who’s become a middleweight gatekeeper. A loss might have permanently relegated Lemieux to the division’s second tier.

Clearly aware of the fight’s stakes, Lemieux dominated from beginning to end, winning almost every round. He busted Rosado’s notoriously sensitive face, which by the second round had already begun to swell. In the third, Lemieux knocked Rosado down with a heavy left hook. Rosado rebounded in round four, landing several flush shots that bloodied the Montrealer. It was the most dramatic round in an entertaining action fight.

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Lemieux connects with a left on Rosado.

Despite his bravery, Rosado was done in by Lemieux’s superior power and aggression. The Montrealer walked “King” down the entire fight, tracking him into the corners and along the ropes, where Lemieux seemed to load up on every punch, a tactic that might doom him against a better opponent. But despite his dominance, Lemieux failed to secure a clean knockout, perhaps because he sought it too eagerly. Rather than attack Rosado’s body, Lemieux repeatedly targeted the head. Numerous times he swung with the right hand and completely missed, leaving himself vulnerable, but Rosado could not take advantage. Had Lemieux applied a committed body attack, Rosado would have been forced to offer more openings upstairs, possibly facilitating the knockout Lemieux desired.

But it hardly mattered as Lemieux kept putting Rosado on the defensive and winning rounds. As the fight wore on, “King’s” face became more grotesque. His left eye was almost completely shut, and underneath this slit his purple cheek had taken on the appearance of a plum. In the tenth, the ring physician determined Rosado was no longer fit to box and the referee stopped it. But short of getting the clean knockout, the night could not have unfolded better for David Lemieux. In an American main event, he delivered exactly what HBO wanted, and gained much credibility in stopping a man with a warrior’s reputation. It should also be mentioned that Lemieux, once derided as a frontrunner, demonstrated he can maintain a high work rate late into a fight.

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Afterwards, Lemieux was asked about his future by Max Kellerman, and the line of questioning predictably led to Gennady Golovkin. He said he isn’t afraid of “GGG”, and while this may be true, he’s probably not ready for him yet. Golovkin will make him pay for his mistakes, something Rosado could not do. There are other established names at middleweight, like Miguel Cotto or Peter Quillen, who are more realistic challenges for Lemieux right now. He should gain experience and find success against this tough second tier before he steps in with the best in the world. Or, if his team feels a fight with Golovkin is too good an opportunity to pass up, concerns about experience might be superseded. But that would be a huge risk.

After the stoppage, Lemieux wrapped himself in a Quebec flag and turned to salute the Brooklyn audience he had just entertained. They had come for violence and he delivered exactly that. Boxing fans have now taken notice of what Montreal has long known: David Lemieux brings excitement. The future promises more.      — Eliott McCormick

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