Ten riveting north-of-the-border bouts

August, 11, 2010
8/11/10
11:35
AM ET
Roberto Duran and Ray LeonardAP PhotoSugar Ray Leonard, right, went toe to toe with Roberto Duran in Montreal -- but it cost him in the end.
When Chad Dawson and Jean Pascal meet in a light heavyweight unification title fight in Montreal on Saturday, the atmosphere at the Bell Centre will be electric. This will be one of Canada's biggest-ever fight nights, with the gritty and athletic Pascal -- who hails from Laval, Quebec -- attempting to upset the odds against the undefeated, southpaw sharpshooter from New Haven, Conn. To help set the scene for HBO's event, here is a look at 10 riveting bouts from north of the border.

Lucian Bute TKO11 Alejandro Berrio, Bell Centre, Montreal, Oct. 19, 2007

The undefeated Bute, a Romanian adopted by Montreal's boxing public as one of its own, faced his most dangerous test when challenging for the 168-pound title against the big-hitting Colombian Berrio, who had scored 25 knockouts in 26 wins. Berrio stalked Bute throughout, looking especially dangerous in the early rounds. Bute, swollen under the right eye from the third round, boxed a skilled, disciplined fight, hitting and moving and piling up points with sharp punching from his southpaw stance until he had worn the champion down. Then, in the 11th round, Bute hurt Berrio with a counter right hook and unloaded a series of stunning shots to bring the referee's intervention.

Dave Hilton TKO12 Stephane Ouellet, Molson Centre, Montreal, Nov. 27, 1998

ESPN's "Friday Night Fights" was there for this all-Montreal showdown pitting Hilton, of Scottish heritage, against French-Canadian Ouellet with the Canadian middleweight title at stake. Most of the 15,000-strong crowd was supporting Ouellet; Hilton received a mixed reception. The fight matched the occasion. Ouellet -- taller, busier and more consistent -- won rounds with textbook boxing, but the stockier Hilton landed the bigger punches. Blood from Ouellet's damaged nose turned Hilton's white trunks crimson by the later rounds. After 11 rounds, Ouellet was in front by margins of 106-103, 106-103 and 107-102 on the judges' cards. But with victory in sight, he suddenly turned away after getting caught by a right hand, and Hilton's follow-up barrage brought the referee's intervention with just 18 seconds remaining in the contest.

Simon Brown TKO3 Shawn O'Sullivan, CNE Coliseum, Toronto, June 8, 1986

Canadian boxing fans had high hopes for O'Sullivan, the Olympic silver medalist from Toronto. But after 11 successive wins, he was matched above his ability level against the more experienced Brown, a skilled and hard-punching Jamaican welterweight from Washington, D.C. NBC carried the bout live on its Sunday afternoon "Sportsworld" show, so American viewers joined the crowd of 6,500 as witnesses to O'Sullivan's shockingly one-sided setback. Many in the crowd felt referee Fern Chretien jumped in too quickly, with 23 seconds remaining in the third round. (There were angry scenes at ringside.) But Toronto sports writers supported the referee's decision: "The dazed look on Shawn O'Sullivan's face, as he pleaded with the referee to let him fight, told the story," Jim Hunt reported in the Toronto Sun.

Jimmy Carter KO5 Armand Savoie, Montreal Forum, Nov. 11, 1955

Carter, a three-time lightweight champion, was one of the underrated ring mechanics of the 1950s. He tended to take opponents lightly if he felt they weren't on his level, and he would all too often lose what seemed to be easily winnable fights. In a rematch, however, when Carter was deadly serious, it was usually a different story. So it was when Carter faced hometown favorite Savoie in Montreal. Savoie had won their initial, nontitle bout in the same city. With the championship at stake, Carter knocked out Savoie in the fifth round before a disappointed crowd of 9,136. "Carter did not remotely resemble the fellow who lost a split decision to Savoie in the same ring last spring," reporter Dink Carroll lamented in the Montreal Gazette. "In that bout, he didn't throw many punches, and none of the powerful variety he displayed last night."

Matthew Hilton W15 Buster Drayton, Montreal Forum, June 27, 1987

Youth was served as undefeated Montreal challenger Hilton battered his way to victory over Philadelphia veteran Drayton in a rousing fight for the junior middleweight title, which was televised on ABC in the U.S. Hilton knocked down Drayton in the opening round and fought through his obvious fatigue in the later rounds to win a unanimous and well-deserved decision. "I didn't think he would be strong enough to go for 15 rounds like that," Drayton told reporters afterward. Reported Stephen Brunt in the Toronto Globe and Mail: "Drayton is at least 34, Hilton is 21 and strong as a bull, and there the fight was lost and won."

Jean Pascal W12 Adrian Diaconu, Bell Centre, Montreal, Dec. 11, 2009

Pascal had defeated Romanian-born Diaconu to become light heavyweight champion six months earlier, but although he also won the rematch, it was a grueling and painful ordeal, as he fought from the early rounds with the handicap of an injured right shoulder. It looked as if Pascal might be on the verge of surrender as he turned away in agony in the 10th round, but he came out firing punches with both hands to sweep the last two rounds on the judges' scorecards. "I dislocated my shoulder three times in the fight," Pascal told me in an interview for Boxing Monthly. "I had to fight the pain and fight Diaconu, and I won both fights."

Jose Napoles W15 Clyde Gray, Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Sept. 22, 1973

The stylish and dangerous Napoles -- born in Cuba but based in Mexico City -- predictably retained his welterweight title, but Gray put up a sterling performance that earned the challenger much credit in the Toronto media. Napoles won a widely scored, unanimous decision, but the 26-year-old challenger from Scarborough, Ontario, had him under pressure in the final round. "It would be a mistake to think that this one was that close, because it wasn't," reporter Jim Kernaghan noted in the Toronto Star. "Gray's high marks come from his ability to take the fight away from the master briefly midway through the match and his last-ditch, 15th-round attempt to pull it out."

Muhammad Ali W15 George Chuvalo, Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, March 29, 1966

Ali's heavyweight title defense against Toronto's Chuvalo was much-criticized for being a mismatch. Although noted for his toughness, Chuvalo had lost two of his past three bouts. Ali (who was often referred to as Cassius Clay by writers of the time) predictably proved far too good for Chuvalo, but the Canadian fighter provided stubborn resistance and was not disgraced. "It was a one-sided match in which even the most generous scoring gave Chuvalo just four of the 15 rounds, but it wasn't the gruesome slaughter many observers had forecast," Jim Proudfoot reported in the Toronto Star. "Chuvalo accepted Clay's best punches without flinching and kept plodding straight ahead, stubbornly flailing away ... his pace never slackened for 15 rounds."

Roberto Duran W15 Sugar Ray Leonard, Olympic Stadium, Montreal, June 20, 1980

No Canadian boxer was involved, but Duran's unanimous (yet close) decision victory over Leonard in their eagerly awaited welterweight title bout was perhaps Canada's biggest fight in terms of the worldwide attention it received. Leonard, who had won his Olympic gold medal in Montreal four years earlier, fought Duran on the inside instead of using his superior speed and flashy skills. But Sugar Ray finished as the stronger man, winning the last three rounds on the consensus scoring of the judges. A crowd of 46,317 watching in a rain-sodden outdoor arena saw what William Nack of Sports Illustrated described as "a four-fisted, toe-to-toe epic that swept like a malevolent wind from corner to corner and along the ropes, drifting only occasionally to the center of the ring."

The fight was notable for the number of even rounds scored by the judges: Indeed, Italian judge Angelo Poletti had 10 of the 15 rounds even. "Ray's mistake was that he had it in his head that he was stronger than Duran," Leonard's cornerman, Angelo Dundee, told the media afterward. "He stayed in there with him. He wanted to knock him out."

Archie Moore KO11 Yvon Durelle, Montreal Forum, Dec. 10, 1958

Quite simply, Moore's light heavyweight championship match against Durelle, the "Fighting Fisherman" from the maritime province of New Brunswick, was one of the most sensational and dramatic contests in boxing history. Moore, believed to have been 41 or 44 years old at the time, was down three times in the opening round -- although referee Jack Sharkey, the former heavyweight champ, ruled that one of the visits to the canvas had been a slip and not an official knockdown. Durelle -- rough, tough and rugged -- dropped Moore again in the fifth round, but by the seventh, the great old champion was in command with ring generalship, artistry and accuracy. Moore knocked Durelle down in the seventh round, again in the 10th and twice in the 11th. "It was one of the greatest light heavyweight fights ever staged," reported Jack Cuddy of United Press International. Moore "survived terrific punishment and dished it out in a fashion that few youngsters could have paralleled."
Graham Houston is the American editor of Boxing Monthly and writes for FightWriter.com.

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