Boxing: Ex-champ Pascal’s clash with Alvarez clash looks to revive boxing interest

Boxing: Ex-champ Pascal’s clash with Alvarez clash looks to revive boxing interest

Eleider “Storm” Alvarez, left, of Montreal, advances on Lucian Bute, also of Montreal, during the Light Heavyweight bout, in Quebec City on February 24, 2017. Much of the Canadian pro boxing news of late has been gloomy, but a fight card in June highlighted by a clash of local contenders Jean Pascal and Eleider Alvarez and Adonis Stevenson’s light heavyweight title defence could get fans excited again. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot.

MONTREAL — A clash of local contenders Jean Pascal and Eleider Alvarez and a title defence by Adonis Stevenson may be just what was needed to shake Canadian pro boxing out of the doldrums.

Fans who have had little to get excited about, except perhaps David Lemieux’s re-emergence as a middleweight contender, have been buying tickets for the June 3 card at the Bell Centre that will also feature rising welterweight Custio Clayton of Dartmouth, N.S. against an as-yet unannounced opponent.

“The lineup is the best on paper since we did Pascal versus (Lucian) Bute,” promoter Yvon Michel said Wednesday of the 2014 fight between former world champions from Montreal, won by Pascal. “That fight wasn’t as spectacular as people expected.

“But it’s a great lineup and there’s also a very solid undercard. We’ve seen it in the sales. There are no ringside seats left. We’re selling more in the stands. There will be a lot of people watching on TV as well. We have all the ingredients of a great show.”

Michel has been on the defensive of late. A report last week said Clayton (11-0) is growing impatient at not getting the fights he needs to move up the rankings, while Russian-born light heavyweight Artur Beterbiev (also 11-0) has gone to court to have his contract terminated so he can find a new promoter.

“We have no problem with Custio,” said Michel. “Beterbiev believes the contract is terminated. We don’t agree. It’s nothing personal. I have a good personal relationship with Artur, but we don’t agree so someone else will make the call.”

He hopes a strong fight card will get everyone excited again.

Both the main event and the co-feature are light heavyweight bouts, with the winner of Pascal-Alvarez becoming mandatory challenger for Stevenson’s World Boxing Council title.

Stevenson (28-1), who has taken heat for avoiding the best in the 175-pound division, did not silence any critics by taking a rematch with Andrzej Fonfara (29-4) instead of his mandatory challenger Alvarez, who has been waiting nearly two years for his first shot at a world title.

The belts from the other three top sanctioning bodies, the WBA, WBO and IBF, are held by American Andre Ward, who took them from Sergey Kovalev in November. Stevenson hasn’t faced either of them, so Ward and Kovalev have a rematch June 17 in Las Vegas.

Many see Pascal-Alvarez as a more intriguing bout, pitting 34-year-old Pascal (31-4-1), the former WBC champion, against the younger, perhaps hungrier Alvarez (22-0), a Colombia native who fights out of Montreal.

Pascal has dropped his usual pre-fight trash talk and swagger and even claims the role of underdog in a bout most see as a toss-up. Alvarez was his gym mate until recently, when both were trained by Marc Ramsay.

“I’m sure it’s because he doesn’t want to get into a verbal confrontation with his former coach and former teammate, so he’s decided to be low profile,” said Michel. “It’s an act.”

Pascal won the WBC title in 2009 and lost it two years later in his second bout with ring legend Bernard Hopkins. He has since had two more shots at a title, but was pounded both times by Kovalev. He rebounded with a modest win over Ricardo Ramello in Trois-Rivieres, Que. in October.

If he beats Alvarez, he could be in for yet another chance at a title.

“Every bout I had was a good battle,” said Pascal. “I always try to please the crowd.

“I think I’m still up there, still a big name for the up and comers. Of course I feel I have two strikes against me because Alvarez knows me well and Marc knows me by heart. But business is business. During the fight we will be enemies but after we’re going to be friends again.”

Pascal has gone back to his roots to prepare. He is now trained by Stephan Larouche, one of his coaches from the 1994 Olympics, and is back at his old gym in the basement of the Claude Robillard Centre.

“This is what boxing should be all about,” said Larouche. “Who will win?

“Even among people who know boxing, one will pick Pascal and one will pick Alvarez.”

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

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