(Quebec) Boxing has not said its last word nor delivered its last round. The attendance record for a gala at the Videotron Center is about to be shattered on Saturday evening for the defense of the titles of Montrealer Artur Beterbiev.
It was in a Videotron Center buried under snow – which continued to fall on the capital – that the promotion week for this gala was launched on Wednesday.
An “exceptional” gala, in the words of promoter Camille Estephan. Promoters are undisputed champions of superlatives. The fact remains that with two world championship fights and a critical duel for Montrealer Christian Mbilli, the card offers rare depth.
And the spectators seem to have understood it. “It’s going to be the biggest gala in the history of the Videotron Center. We have never had such a big crowd. We expect around 10,000 people on Saturday. People responded,” rejoiced Martin Tremblay, Chief Operating Officer of Quebecor’s Sports and Entertainment Group.
The record for boxing at the Videotron Center belongs to the fight between Lucian Bute and James DeGale: 9,500 spectators attended in November 2015. There were 7,800 in February 2017 for Lucian Bute against Eleider Álvarez.
However, this will be far from a record in the capital. In the old Colisée, during the “best days” of Quebec boxing, Jean Pascal and Bernard Hopkins attracted more than 16,000 fans in December 2010.
“It’s a gala that could have been presented anywhere in the world, several cities wanted to host it,” added Camille Estephan, president of Eye of the Tiger Management.
Artur Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs) and his opponent Callum Smith (29-1, 21 KOs) were not present at the undercard press conference on Wednesday. They will speak to the media this Thursday. Remember that the Montrealer of Russian origin is putting his three light heavyweight world titles on the line on Saturday.
Christian Mbilli (25-0, 21 KO) was there. He had braved the storm. “Snowstorms, I admit that you never really get used to them,” said this Frenchman who left the Paris region six years ago to turn pro after a rich amateur career.
He changed countries, settled in Montreal, put together his perfect record and is now knocking on the door of a world championship fight in a weight class padlocked by unified champion Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez. The Mexican holds all four super middleweight titles. And Christian Mbilli would like them…
“I’m sure he’ll watch Saturday’s fight on TV. I want him to understand that I am coming for him, that I want the belts,” said Mbilli, a resident of Old Montreal.
But before Álvarez or before David Benavidez, he will have to win on Saturday. It comes to that precise moment in a boxer’s career where it’s either make or break. “I have no room for error,” he says.
The Australian Rohan Murdock (27-2, 19 KOs) would like to cause a surprise. This speedy boxer had an honest career, but faltered in his biggest test, against then-undefeated boxer Zach Parker in 2020.
“I just had a daughter. She’s 5 months old, said the Australian. I want to win this fight for my family. My motivation couldn’t be greater. »
Camille Estephan is well aware of the trap that awaits Mbilli, namely taking the Australian lightly and dreaming of belts. But if he wins on Saturday during this gala broadcast on ESPN in the United States, Sky Sports in England and RMC in France, the doors could open.
“He’s at the peak of his career. If he wins this fight, he will be ready for the championship fight. But he has to win against Murdock. »
Mbilli is very close to this championship fight, being ranked near the top in all federations.
“We are capable of playing politics with organizations. But you also need performance. And on Saturday he will have his chance,” concludes Estephan.