Quebec boxing | ” Here we go again “

More and more frequent galas. Reigning champions or championship fights announced. After years of torpor, is Quebec boxing starting to regain momentum?


Published at 12:50 a.m.

Updated at 6:00 a.m.

Flourishing at a time not so long ago, boxing here has had its share of black bread in recent times. The pandemic, which has long paralyzed combat sports in Quebec, has obviously not helped. But even after the resumption of activities, we felt that the industry was looking for its bearings… and a standard bearer.

However, in recent months, the picture seems rosier. Promising hopes are on the rise, and the public is responding to the events. In January, in particular, the duel between Artur Beterbiev and Callum Smith attracted a little more than 10,000 spectators to the Videotron Center. A figure that was almost utopian after the Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal era.

“Here we go again,” says Bernard Barré, vice-president of operations and recruitment of the Yvon Michel Group, bluntly, when The Press contacted him Monday.

Nonetheless, Quebec boxing may be doing a little better, but it is still looking for a star. An athlete who will transcend his sport and around whom the entire population can rally.

Bute and Pascal no longer fight. David Lemieux and Marie-Ève ​​Dicaire, very popular during their careers, have also hung up their gloves. So who will be the next to rouse the crowds in the arena?

“There is a hollow in this regard. We are looking for the Quebec star who will pull the raft,” concedes Barré.

type="image/webp"> type="image/jpeg">>>

PHOTO MORGANE CHOQUER, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Bernard Barré, vice-president of operations and recruitment of the Yvon Michel Group

Recipe for a star

And what does it take to be a star boxer in Quebec, exactly?

Talent and success in the ring, that goes without saying. A belt around the waist always makes a nice calling card. But above all, you need a charisma and a personality that fans must be able to identify with.

“In hockey, it doesn’t matter because as long as you score goals, you’re fine. In other sports, it doesn’t work like that. You need a personality, something to sell. And unfortunately, not everyone has this,” explains Barré.

This often requires a good command of the French language. And this may explain why a triple world champion like Beterbiev, for example, does not enjoy even greater notoriety.

“Boxing is a spectator sport. There are athletes who are super talented, but who are not popular. And others, like [Arturo] Gatti, perhaps have less talent, but they come to get people,” explains Antonin Décarie, vice-president of Eye of the Tiger.

According to the latter, the current generation of boxers may be less known, but they are certainly not less talented. “At the moment, there are perhaps fewer pure-bred Quebecers, as they say, but there has never been so much talent,” he assures.

type="image/webp"> type="image/jpeg">>>

PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Antonin Décarie, vice-president of Eye of the Tiger

Local duels

On this subject, veteran cornerman Russ Anber is sad to see very few local pugilists competing against each other during the various galas. This is the key, according to him, for boxing to really stand out again in the Quebec sporting ecosystem.

“We are a province of 9 million people and we are not capable of organizing a fight between two Quebecers? », he asks ironically.

He cites as an example the recent duel between Erik Bazinyan and Shakeel Phinn. We can also think of the fight between Francis Lafrenière and Renan St-Juste, at the Bell Center in 2016, which made the crowd scream in a good way.

“Quebecers do not want to face another [boxeur] local because they are all afraid of losing, Anber laments more seriously. […] They are afraid of losing their clean sheet. They prefer to fight against Mexicans or others [boxeurs étrangers]. »

When the room is divided [dans ses encouragements]even if it’s lower caliber guys fighting, it’s quite a fight.

Russ Anber

While waiting to see the next all-Quebec shock materialize, bets are on as to the identity of the next big idol of boxing fans in the province.

Could Christian Mbilli, who scored a resounding victory in Shawinigan last weekend and who is rising to the top of the world rankings, be the chosen one? He certainly has the talent and potential. The future will tell us.

Until then, it remains to be hoped that Quebec boxing will continue on its current momentum.

“We’re used to the waves, but we always end up getting through them. As long as there are two individuals left on earth, there can be boxing,” assures Bernard Barré.

-

-

NEXT Memorial Cup: Owen Beck and the Spirit head to the final, dominating Moose Jaw 7 to 1