Since Yvon Michel resurrected boxing at the Casino de Montreal last January we have seen a series of intriguing events staged to give young prospects the chance to build their records and gain experience. The essential appeal of these casino cards, aside from the excitement of watching pro boxing from a very close vantage point, is that fight fans have the chance to get in on the ground floor, so to speak, and follow a skilled fighter’s rise through the ranks. Considering that champions like Jean Pascal and Adonis Stevenson cut their teeth on past Montreal Casino cards, it’s a promise not without merit.
Last night’s event largely stuck to the same script: capable, if not gifted, prospects gaining essential experience at the expense of journeymen or ostensibly safe opponents. However, we are starting to see some degree of progression and the accruing of ring wisdom as at least two fighters found themselves in challenging ring situations, while a third offered a truly impressive performance. There was also the oddity of a 42-year-old man making his professional boxing debut, but more about that a bit later.
Both Dwayne Durel (5-0) and Vislan Dalkhaev (8-0) secured perfunctory wins, outboxing their respective opponents and earning one-sided decisions. Patrice Volny (3-0), who turned pro this past March, showed some power and stopped his adversary in the second.
Young Dario Bredicean (10-0) had a somewhat frustrating but no doubt educational eight round tilt with tough journeyman Baptiste Castegnaro (8-11). The older of the Bredicean brothers, two promising talents from Florida trained by Howard and Otis Grant, Dario had difficulty finding a groove or even fighting room as his opponent kept rushing in and looking to slug it out. The result was a sloppy affair with more clinching and mauling than clean punching, but what effective work that did take place was accomplished by Bredicean who earned a unanimous points win. Speaking afterwards with Otis, manager Chris Ganescu, and Dario himself, all agreed this was a fight he needed to learn from and improve upon.
Next up was a curiosity: Alexandre Choko making his professional debut in a four round match with Mike Breton (1-0). Who is Alexandre Choko you ask? And why is he having his first pro fight at the advanced age of 42? Good questions and not necessarily easy to answer. A former amateur boxer, author, interviewer, and impresario, and now a crusader against performance-enhancing drugs, it’s difficult to know precisely what to make of Choko, but if you want to learn more, click here.
There was no reason to expect much from this match and yet it certainly delivered in terms of action. By its end the crowd, which had been subdued during the Bredicean clinch-fest, came alive. Choko looked awkward and off-balance much of the time, ate more than his share of clean shots and was cut over his right eye, but he battled back as best he could and gave it his all, inspiring support from the fans. It was a fun fight, and while Breton clearly got the better of it, one judge scored it a draw so Choko can say with a straight face it was close. Anyone up for Choko vs Breton II?
Back to serious fisticuffs with the undefeated and increasingly popular Marie Eve Dicaire (4-0) taking on Karla Zamora (3-2) in a six round welterweight war that, in terms of back-and-forth, fast-paced action, was clearly the fight of the night. There’s no question Dicaire brought more to the match than Zamora in terms of both technique and power, but the smaller Mexican fought with courage and gave an inspiring performance. Again and again Zamora was rocked by heavy punches but she never failed to regroup and fire back, more than once putting Marie Eve on her heels with her spirited attack. Dicaire grew visibly frustrated with her inability to drop her gutsy opponent and had to settle for a unanimous decision, but credit goes to both boxers for putting on a war. Classy gesture from Zamora as, after being competitive and fighting her heart out, she applauded the judges’ decision.
On to the main event and another impressive performance from Custio Clayton (10-0), the former Olympian and blue-chip prospect who continues to steamroll his opponents. This writer has seen Clayton in action a number of times and has always been impressed, but the recurring complaint has been the feebleness of Custio’s opposition. This time no one could easily dismiss the chances of southpaw Ramses Agaton (17-4-3) who brought to the ring youth, significant experience and toughness. And indeed this was perhaps the first time Custio could not dominate with impunity. Which is to say, that while he did win virtually every minute of the fight, he had a potentially dangerous opponent on his hands with the ability to make him pay for his mistakes, but Clayton, who was recently featured in Ring magazine as a “new face” in the sport, didn’t make many.
Too strong, quick and powerful for Agaton, Custio took his time, managing distance beautifully and winning almost every exchange, in the process taking few punches in return. By round eight he sensed his opponent was weakening and he amped up the pressure, leveling truly hurtful punches. The attack rose to a vicious crescendo when a wicked right hand put Agaton on the canvas near the end of the round. The hurt fighter stayed on one knee and shook his head as the referee counted him out.
Montreal can boast more than its share of gifted young prospects — Erik Bazinyan, Shakeel Phinn, Steven Butler, Batyr Jukembaev — and there’s no doubt Clayton — powerful, quick, cagey and strong — deserves consideration as maybe the most complete of the bunch. No matter where you rate him, this was his most impressive performance to date and it’s clear he’s ready to move on to bigger challenges. Interestingly, I find myself writing a sentence almost identical to the previous one virtually every time he fights.
The next Groupe Yvon Michel casino card is slated for December 10 and in addition to both Bredicean brothers, Volny, and Dicaire, it will be a chance to see streaking super middleweight Phinn, plus light heavyweight top contender Eleider Alvarez, who is being prepped for a shot at Adonis Stevenson. And, like all of the fight cards at the Casino de Montreal, it’s another chance to see the fighters who, with a little luck and patience, will only become bigger stars in the years ahead. — Michael Carbert