The current state of Boxing in Canada
By: John Robbins – October 24, 2016
The course of Professional Boxing in Canada in recent times; had seen the top level of the sport of Champions all but slow down to a screeching halt on its own home turf. Everywhere that is, with the exception of the province of Quebec of course, the boxing capital of Canada. Yet even then, gone is the constant barrage of massive sell-out crowds at the Bell Centre in Montreal, showcasing world title fights at Boxing’s highest level on a highly-regular basis. Cards that featured former French Canadian world beaters, Lucien Bute and Jean Pascal, hosting the likes of Bernard Hopkins, Glen Johnson, and Chad Dawson, which culminated when Sergey Kovalev visited “la belle province” and stopped Jean Pascal twice, Kovalev staking his claim to the Light Heavyweight division in the process; and wars where the Quebec based boxing superstars, faced off against each other, for far more than world title belts, but also for bragging rights, as to who the “Baddest man in Quebec” truly was. As well as many other brutal battles that excited audiences around the world, with local favourites of the era including, Librado Andrade and fellow Canadian Adrian Diaconu, all of which now, as the saying goes, are in the history books.
Boxing in Quebec though, always seems to find a way to survive, (unlike in the country’s largest mega-city Toronto), and the Quebec boxing scene has simply refused to die. With the promotional backbone of boxing in Quebec, “G.Y.M. Promotions”, (Groupe Yvon Michel) still leading the charge, and with their world champion, the pound for pound ranked, Adonis “Superman” Stevenson now at the helm of Boxing’s flagship in the most modern of eras, (recently emblazoning his talent regularly in Quebec City, another Boxing hotspot in the province). As well as heavy handed David Lemieux (36-3, 32KOs) under the watchful eye of, “Eye of the Tiger Promotions”, the modern day power punching main attraction thrilling audiences at the Bell Centre, in Montreal as he attempts to work his way back into world title contention. While up-and-comers like the 21 year old, Steven “Bang Bang” Butler (18-0-1, 15KOs) of Montreal, who utterly dominated and destroyed his Canadian counterpart Janks Trotter (10-4-1, 10KOs) from Calgary, on the Bell Centre undercard to David Lemieux recently. (Butler also picked up the IBF North American title belt for his efforts in that knock-out victory). Or the ever formidable, top conditioned, slick and strong, former Canadian Olympian, Custio Clayton (10-0, with 8 KO’s), originally from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, now fighting out of Montreal. Who’s been quietly climbing up the ranks at the Montreal Casino (also in a GYM Promotions production)…Boxing is still alive, well and even thriving in the province of Quebec.
Though Toronto once truly was the home of boxing in Canada, Quebec has now owned that distinction for decades. The fight scene in the mega-city certainly has seen better days. But there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel in Toronto as of late. Since the arrival of Global Legacy Boxing, spear-headed by owners, Les Woods of Port Credit, Ontario alongside legendary Heavyweight Champion, Lennox Lewis. With the additional full support of the Canadian Boxing Legend himself, George Chuvalo, who all share the common goal of bringing back the lustre that professional boxing once held in Canada’s greatest metropolis. The Boxing scene in the G.T.A. (Greater Toronto Area) is once again on the rise!
Already Global Legacy Boxing has brought the WBC World Light Heavyweight Champion Adonis “Superman” Stevenson spectacle, with the assistance of Yvon Michel, into the highest profile Canadian venue to host a world title fight outside of Quebec, Canada in ages, Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum. On a card that also featured top American prospect, Errol Spence Jr. in the co-main event. In addition, Global Legacy Boxing has also seen the return of professional boxing to the famed Maple Leafs Gardens, now the Mattamy Athletic Centre, which was once the Mecca of boxing in all of Canada. Finally there is a new promoter in town in Toronto, and along with it, world class boxing events have followed.
Global Legacy Boxing has also put together quite a stable of young, up and coming talent, as they look to continue on forward with their push to restore Boxing in Toronto to its glory days. Much like Yvon Michel has done with GYM ever so masterfully over the years, as well as “InterBox” (another longstanding promotional staple of the thriving boxing business in Quebec), while building up the sport of champions in Canada’s premier boxing province.
This stable of young Canadians that Global Legacy Boxing is now building, includes the recently crowned Commonwealth (British Empire) Cruiserweight Champion, “Dangerous” Denton Daley (16-1, 9KOs) of Brampton, Ontario. An electrifying talent who has boxed professionally exclusively on Canadian soil, and has picked up many explosive finishes along his path of destruction and success. The GLB roster also bolsters another Ontario, Canada native in current Canadian Heavyweight Champion, Dillon “Big Country” Carman (11-2, 10KOs) who has been keeping the fans well entertained in the Canadian Maritime provinces of late, (along with east coast Canadian boxing staples, Tyson Cave (29-3) of Nova Scotia, and Brandon Brewer (20-0-1) from New Brunswick, who aren’t Global Legacy fighters, but who have been the lifeblood of the Maritime Canadian boxing scene for a while now, keeping the sport alive out on the east coast).
Then there’s the six foot, four inch monster, a relative unknown, who’s travelled over to Canada from the Ukraine, bringing with him some seriously devastating power punching, and a solid pedigree of over 247 amateur bouts, Oleksandr “Sasha”, “The Panther” Teslenko! “Sasha” Teslenko is a massive guy who has the boxing scene across Canada buzzing right now with his brutal force, in ring determination, and unlimited potential. Teslenko is still fresh on the professional boxing circuit. But with a record of 7 wins, no losses, and 6 knockout victories under his belt already, Teslenko has also already fought in 5 different Canadian cities, spread over 4 different provinces across the country. In his next scheduled competition (which is on previously uncharted ground for the 24 year old prospect, in Winnipeg, Manitoba) on October 28th, 2016, “The Panther” tour looks to continue to keep on picking up steam, and fans, as he once again attempts s to crush his competition inside the ring, on his way up the boxing charts.
Match-maker, Jim Gentle, formerly of Stele Boxing Promotions, which was a staple of professional boxing in Ontario, Canada for many years, has also added his expertise to the long list of advisors assisting Les Woods and Lennox Lewis’ venture into the promotional side of the squared circle. And it shows in the quality of competitive bouts they’ve already had under the Global Legacy Boxing banner, in the 2 years that they’ve been in the boxing business. Keeping the bouts competitive and entertaining, along with the high level of talent on display, is a major part of what has set Global Legacy Boxing apart from other promotions across Ontario and aside from GYM and InterBox, pretty much all of Canada. As the vast majority of the remaining boxing promoters in the country, are consistently hosting mainly grassroots level matches, with the occasional Canadian Title bout, as their showcase attraction.
Recently, another new promotional group has arrived on the scene in Ontario, Canada as well. “Three Lions Promotions” held their inaugural boxing card in Hamilton, Ontario on October the 1st, 2016. The show was a charity fund raiser for The Robbie Wilcox Cancer Foundation, and Camp Trillium (a childhood cancer support centre) that consisted of ringside tables including dinner service, as well as a high volume of general seating, which showcased a WBA-NABA North American title fight in the main event. A hard fought battle that was won by young Super-Lightweight prospect, Steven “The Piranha” Wilcox (15-1-1). Wilcox is a multi-time Canadian amateur national champion with a bright future in the sport. On the undercard, his younger brother Jessie Wilcox (5-0) also a stand-out former amateur national champion, picked up a win in the brother’s hometown of Hamilton, to the delight of fans who have clamoured about the highly successful and extremely entertaining event ever since.
These new promoters are a much welcomed addition to the handful of longstanding promotional groups that have already existed in the Greater Toronto Area for years. Which obviously is great news for the boxing fans in Ontario, who had been waiting for something big to happen to the sport that used to fill up downtown Toronto’s Carlton Street, with eager spectators back in Boxing’s heyday once upon a time, in the now mega-city. All of whom were anticipating action packed showdowns, like George Chuvalo versus “The Greatest of All Time” Muhammad Ali. The same fans who for years would fill the same stadium that the Toronto Maple Leaf’s played in, just to watch closed circuit boxing matches on the big screen. Who prior to Global Legacy Boxing making their mark on the sport in Canada recently, hadn’t seen world title fights on their home soil of that calibre, since the days of Steve “The Canadian Kid” Molitor, when he was in the midst of his long standing reigns as world champion, back when Molitor used to pack the house at Casino Rama, all the way up north of Toronto in Orillia, Ontario. This is definitely a welcomed change for Toronto’s professional Boxing scene. No Doubt. And since the co-owner of Global Legacy Boxing Lennox Lewis’, mother and father, both still live in the province of Ontario, along with a very large Lewis family contingency. It makes perfect since for the former Canadian Olympic Gold Medallist to be such a huge part of this effort to restore the sport of Boxing’s legacy, in the Canada’s largest city.
Looking out to the west, the most notable prize fighter on the horizon, has got to be the Calgary based prospect, Steve “The Dragon” Claggett (24-4-1, 16KOs). Claggett’s record is a bit deceiving if not tainted, in that some of his losses have appeared to be hometown decisions that just didn’t occur in his hometown. And after already having held on to multiple Canadian titles, “The dragon” recently won a war of attrition, in his greatest showcase bout to date, this past September, in Las Vegas, earning himself a WBA–NABA USA title in the process. Claggett is an old throwback type of Boxer/Puncher. Who’s mentality is that he is willing to get in the ring, anytime, anyplace, under almost any circumstances, on his journey to one day contend for a world title. Claggett at 27 years old is an already well travelled road warrior, who’s well schooled in the sweet science, and he’s the kind of fighter who always looks to put on a great show, with no other objectives in mind aside from winning, and thrilling the fans.
Much like in Ontario, the Canadian west coast boxing circuit has had a handful of consistent promoters in recent years, keeping the sport alive. However the vast majority of the competition out west is still at the grassroots level, with local fighters filling up the cards, and the occasional Canadian title bout as the main attraction…or possibly a Women’s world title fight featuring Jelena Mrdjenovich on a KO Boxing Promotions televised event out in Edmonton, Alberta. Keeping the west coast boxing scene relevant of late have been promoters like Calgary’s, Eric De Guzman, and his “Teofista” boxing promotion, who will host the return of Orangeville, Ontario native, Logan McGuiness (23-0-1) on October 28th, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta. As well as “King John Boxing” who is set to host Ontario based fighters, the already touted Oleksandr Teslenko and Steven Wilcox, also on October 28th, 2016 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
There have been many changes in the past couple of years, to the overall complexion of professional boxing in Canada. Most of which has been for the better of the sport, and also for the betterment of the next generation of the sport’s athletes. One thing that has remained consistent in the Canadian boxing scene of late is the resurgence of young fresh talent. New faces making their way up onto the world stage, and their resolve to become something greater, than the confines of the Canadian boxing industry’s standard, for so long now. Meaning, the young and hungry Canadian fighters themselves these days, want more opportunity to grow, to improve, to test their metal against higher level opposition, and they are doing so wherever the opportunities lie. One of the oldest principles of pugilism, “To be the man, you have to beat the man”, has not been lost on this new generation of Canadian pugilists. So whether it’s Shiller Hyppolite (21-1, 14KOs) a rising Super Middleweight who boxes out of Montreal, under Eye of the Tiger Promotions, who’s next bout, the toughest competition he’s faced to date, will be for a piece of WBC hardware in Germany, when he faces a young Turkish fighter named Anvi Yildirim (13-0, 8 KOs) on November 5th, 2016. Or Trois Rivieres, Quebec’s, Mikael Zewski (27-1, 21KOs) who’s fought his last 5 fights outside of Canada. Or Cornwall, Ontario’s, Tony “Lightning” Luis (21-3) who’s fought his last 7 bouts outside of Canada. Or even Toronto, Ontario’s, Phil Lo Greco (27-3, 15KOs) who has faced all 13 of his most recent opponents, outside of his home country of Canada. Professional Boxers on the rise in Canada in this new era, have proven time and time again, that they are willing to travel anywhere that they have to, and fight whoever stands in their way, en route to their final destination…A shot at being called Champion, of the entire world!