(Montreal) Quebec boxing is struggling to regain the momentum of its glorious years, which seem, for the moment at least, behind it.
Now deprived of a champion, the two main Quebec promoters, Groupe Yvon Michel (GYM) and Eye of the Tiger Management (EOTTM) favor small venues or Place Bell in the theater format, when it is not outright Saudi Arabia.
But both groups have boxers waiting in the anteroom of world champions and 2024 could prove to be a pivotal year for boxers here.
Boxing being boxing, it also has a scandal in store for us which will fuel the media at the start of the year.
Here is an overview of the year 2023 on the Quebec boxing scene.
The Quebec women bit the dust at the world championships last year. Kim Clavel twice rather than once.
Clavel first lost to Yesica Nery Plata in January, losing her World Boxing Council (WBC) light flyweight belt while missing the chance to win the World Boxing Association (WBA) belt, held by Mexican.
After a victory against Naomi Reyes in May, Clavel lost again in a unification fight. Argentina’s Evelin Bermudez left with her belts from the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and the World Boxing Organization (WBO), after a split decision victory which caused scandal and plunged GYM into turmoil. We will come back to this.
For her part, Marie-Pier Houle had the opportunity to get her hands on the WBO welterweight belt. The Englishwoman Sandy Ryan, however, did not see it that way and instead inflicted a first defeat on the boxer from Terrebonne, by unanimous decision.
Finally, on the EOTTM side, Mary Spencer waited 10 months before being able to take her revenge on the Belgian Femke Hermans for the International Boxing Organization (IBO) super-middleweight title. Hermans, however, confirmed his first victory by majority decision, taking home the previously vacant IBF belt.
The first world champion of Quebec boxing, Marie-Ève Dicaire drew a line under her career last March.
A two-time IBF super welterweight queen, her last appearance in the ring came in November last year, when she lost a unification bout to the formidable Natasha Jones in Birmingham, England.
When announcing his retirement, Dicaire admitted that fighting a 21st professional fight was part of his thinking. But at 36, and “after missing several birthdays and family parties,” the athlete from Saint-Eustache decided to turn the page.
After coming out of a first retirement following a suspension for doping, Jean Pascal returned to the ring with no less than the IBF, WBC and WBO light heavyweight champion, Artur Beterbiev in his sights.
To do that, he had to beat an unknown German who had faced virtually no one in the division, Michael Eifert, at Place Bell in March. The winner was to become Beterbiev’s mandatory opponent at the IBF.
But Eifert’s victory was final. He dominated the fight from start to finish and Pascal never threatened him. The Pascal clan may have cried foul, but the duel was not even close.
Will this seventh defeat for Pascal sound the death knell for his career? Although he is still the 13th IBF contender, his name has not been associated with anyone after that.
As for Eifert, he is indeed the No. 1 contender for Beterbiev. But as the latter will deliver a unification fight to Callum Smith, the German will have to be patient.
Still waiting for his chance to snatch the division’s fourth belt from Dmitry Bivol, Beterbiev has only defended his titles once this year.
He scored a 19th knockout. in as many fights against Englishman Anthony Yarde in January at Wembley Arena. He had no choice: To everyone’s surprise, Yarde was ahead on two of the judges’ three cards when the fight was stopped.
Beterbiev was scheduled to face Smith in a mega-gala presented in partnership with EOTTM at the Videotron Center in August, but a severe infection caused by a botched root canal in Russia forced him to postpone that clash, which is now scheduled for January 13, always in the Old Capital.
As if the competition from England, New York and Las Vegas was not enough, we must now be wary of Saudi Arabia when the time comes for promoters here to bet on holding fights of scale.
The Middle Eastern kingdom is now one of the key players on the boxing scene. This is also where the last fights of Simon Kean and Arslanbek Makhmudov took place.
If Makhmudov scored another knockout. easy (too?) in the first round of his clash against Junior Anthony Wright, Kean suffered a correction, losing by knockout. in the third round in front of Joseph Parker.
This defeat made Kean think about his future in boxing. Makhmudov was due to return to a Saudi ring this Saturday, against Agit Kabayel. An undefeated boxer who, his clan hopes, will give greater opposition to the Montrealer of Russian origin.
After a successful year, super middleweights Christian Mbilli and Eric Bazinyan are positioned at the top of the rankings and EOTTM is working hard to find them a championship fight.
After two victories, including a spectacular one against Carlos Gongora, Mbilli appears first (WBC, WBA), third (IBF) and sixth (WBO) in the world rankings. Bazinyan, author of three victories in as many outings, comes in second (WBA), third (WBC), fourth (IBF) and fifth (WBO) places in these rankings.
Both men will be in action in January: on the 13th, in Quebec, for Mbilli, and on the 25th, for Bazinyan, who will headline the gala at the Montreal Casino.
Following the October 7 gala, during which Clavel was defeated by split decision, Yvon Michel and Alexandra Croft allegedly “verbally attacked and attempted to intimidate [RACJ representative at the gala] Sylvie Lécuyer and Benoit Roussel [ one of the three judges of the Clavel-Bermudez fight],” we read in a notice of summons issued by the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux.
The RACJ also accuses GYM representatives of having “made similar remarks towards the Régie and its officials” during the press conference at the end of the evening.
Michel and Croft will therefore have to explain themselves to the Régie, in hearings set for February 5, 7, 8 and 9.
During the post-gala press conference, Michel and the Clavel clan cried foul, specifying that they had requested the withdrawal of judge Roussel a few days before the fight, claiming statistics compiled by GYM which would demonstrate that Roussel favors most of the time opposing boxers.