by Hans Olson
With Lucian Bute’s Quebec City showdown against Glen Johnson just a few days away, let’s take a look at “The 10 Most Thrilling Quebec Fights…Ever” compiled with an assist from Canada’s boxing authority, Russ Anber.
10. The Brawl in Montreal: Roberto Duran vs. Sugar Ray Leonard I
June 20, 1980, Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Although an all time classic that had historic implications, Duran/Leonard I appears low on this list only due to the fact that it didn’t feature a fighter who was native to the Quebec region, though the sheer magnitude of the fight alone enables it to crack the top-ten.
“It was a big fight that Montreal ended up getting over the rest of the world, and that was huge,” says Anber. “I think that probably laid the groundwork—although you couldn’t tell until later years—but that laid the groundwork that Montreal could be a player on the world scene.”
The undefeated Sugar Ray Leonard put his WBC Welterweight Championship on the line against Roberto Duran in June of 1980. At the time, Leonard boasted a record of 27-0; Duran was battle tested with only one loss in 72 fights. Just under 18 months prior, Duran had vacated his Lightweight Championship with the intention of conquering the Welterweight division. His 9th fight on this quest would be against Leonard, who many considered to be the best fighter in the world at the time, pound for pound. That’s not to say Duran didn’t have an argument in staking that claim himself, which is why this fight was so important. Today, it would be the equivalent of Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao.
“Duran and Leonard are obviously the two greatest fighters to have ever faced each other in a Montreal ring. I think that’s fair to say,” continued Anber. “I don’t think there’s ever been two greater fighters who have ever fought each other in a Montreal ring, so that in itself could stand on it’s own.”
French-Canadians referred to the fight as “Le Face-à-Face Historique:” a historic face-to-face meeting. In front of 46,317 rabid fight fans in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard would engage in 15 historic rounds of warfare, neither fighter’s will bending nor breaking, each pugilist exemplifying the craft, skill, wit, courage, violence, and determination rarely seen in boxing today.
In what came a shock to many, Leonard’s game-plan early in the fight went against what many had expected. He wanted to beat Duran at Duran’s game, close quarters brawling on the inside, feet flat, ready to attack…but that was easier said than done. The charging Duran threw caution to the wind early and often, imposing himself on Leonard with unbridled ferocity. A left-hook halfway through the 2nd round jolted Leonard into a brief retreat. The intense in-fighting always favored “Hands of Stone,” and it wasn’t until the midway point that Leonard started turning things in his favor. Over most of the middle rounds, Leonard continued to stand toe to toe and trade, and he was becoming more successful as the fight wore on.
When Leonard changed course and decided to box, he was successful, and even up against the ropes when seemingly in danger, Leonard always managed to turn the tide ever so briefly with symphonic bursts of punching fury. Leonard’s ‘bolo punch’ in the 14th is still seen on many a highlight reel today. When the bell tolled at the start of the 15th round, everyone in Olympic Stadium was on their feet, press row included. With blood, sweat, and no tears…each fighter finished the fight raising their hands in celebration, Duran particularly jubilant. In the end, Roberto Duran would take Sugar Ray Leonard’s “0” from him, winning on the scorecards with scores of 145-144, 148-147, and 146-144.
9. Gaetan Hart vs. Nicky Furlano III
March 25, 1980, Paul Sauve Arena, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Having twice engaged in furious bouts already, the third fight between Buckingham, Quebec’s Gaetan Hart and Toronto’s Nicky Furlano is what many remember as the best of their trilogy.
“It was wall-to-wall action from the opening bell,” says Anber who was at the fight years ago. “It was for the Canadian Lightweight title, and it was one of the greatest fights in Canadian boxing history, especially with a Canadian title on the line. Both of them were known in their careers for their courage and their heart. Furlano went on to go 15 rounds with Aaron Pryor and Gaeton went on to fight Ralph Racine, Cleveland Denny, and Aaron Pryor in 3 of his next 4 fights. That’s big. You fight Nicky Furlano, Ralph Racine—who was a murderous puncher, Cleveland Denny, and Aaron Pryor…that’s big opposition.”
Hart would come away with a split-decision win, avenging his loss to Furlano 7 months prior.
8. Jean Pascal vs. Adrian Diaconu
June 19, 2009, Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
In what was the first time that two Quebec fighters faced each other with a world title on the line, Jean Pascal and Adrian Diaconu battled over 12 thrilling rounds, the 13,000+ on hand roaring with every punch. CBC’s Chris Iorfida called it “the most important fight to take place in the province of Quebec since Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980.” Undefeated at the time, Adrian “The Shark” Diaconu was the WBC’s reigning Light Heavyweight Champion, having earned that distinction when Chad Dawson relinquished the belt. Diaconu was elevated to the champ, having been recognized as an “interim” Champion when he defeated Chris Henry a year prior. For Pascal, he came in with grit and determination…motivated by his only loss up until that point, a close decision to Carl Froch.
Pascal was out to prove himself.
In the 5th round, Pascal landed a left hook that floored “The Shark,” and took the momentum of the fight from then on. In the end, the pride of Laval would end up victorious, Pascal taking the title from Diaconu in a unanimous decision.
7. Jean Pascal vs. Bernard Hopkins I
December 18, 2010, Pepsi Colisee, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
It what would ignite a fierce rivalry between the two, the first meeting between Jean Pascal and Bernard Hopkins was filled with ebbs and flows, ups, downs, drama—and ultimately controversy. Coming off a career best performance beating Chad Dawson on a technical decision months earlier, Jean Pascal was to be the man to finally retire Bernard Hopkins, a legendary stalwart who was coming off of an ugly decision win against the long faded Roy Jones. For the first few rounds, everything was going according to plan for Pascal. He dropped Hopkins twice (although the first one was argued by Hopkins) and seemed to be well on his way to stopping “The Executioner.” Not so fast. Hopkins was able to work his craft on the younger Pascal, putting rounds in the bank with what amounted to an old-school boxing clinic. In doing so, B-Hop fought his way back to a disputed draw. This fight set up the rematch half a year later, an encounter in which Hopkins would win, breaking George Foreman’s record as the oldest man to ever win a legitimate world title.
6. Lucian Bute vs. Librado Andrade I
October 24, 2008, Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
With what would come to be the most controversial 12th round in recent memory, Lucian Bute narrowly escaped defeat when he was able to reach his feet before referee Marlon B. Wright finished his 10-count. What had transpired moments prior is still being debated, and it likely will continue to be for many years to come. After dominating the first 11 rounds, Librado Andrade landed a series of blows that hurt the exhausted Bute. When Andrade finally got to Lucian with less than 5 seconds left, he made the mistake of not retreating all the way to his neutral corner. Wright stopped counting Bute and sternly pointed at Andrade to “get in his corner!” before picking up his count. Many viewed this as a hometown call from Wright. What is lost on many who saw the fight were the repeated elbows and roughhouse tactics that Wright allowed Andrade to get away with. Andrade’s constant resistance whenever Wright tried to separate the two fighters on breaks was surely not lost on him during said controversy. Sensing a swarming Andrade in the middle of the ring during the count, Wright correctly instructs him back to his corner. Controversial? Sure. Robbery? Nope. Marlon B. Wright wasn’t wrong.
For the non-believers, any and all doubt was settled in the following year’s rematch in Quebec City, a fight in which Bute eliminated Andrade in 4 rounds with ease.
5. Jean Pascal vs. Chad Dawson
August 14, 2010, Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
In what Russ Anber calls “the greatest win by a Canadian over the best opponent a Canadian has faced,” Jean Pascal became the undisputed Light Heavyweight Champion of the World by defeating pound for pound mainstay, Chad Dawson in 2010. Throughout the contest, Pascal repeatedly beat Dawson to the punch, winning round after round after round…his ambush attacks derailing the undefeated American. Chad Dawson did come on strong late in the fight where, in a last ditch effort, he hurt Pascal and seemed to be getting closer. Unfortunately for Dawson, an accidental head-butt halted the action in the 11th, and the fight went to the scorecards. Pascal had routed Dawson up until the 11th, and it was a coronation not for Chad Dawson that summer night in Montreal, but for Quebec’s own Jean Pascal.
4. Matthew Hilton vs. Buster Drayton
June 27, 1987, The Forum, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Certainly a classic fight if Quebec ever had one, Matthew Hilton’s defining performance came in the old Forum back in the summer of 1987. “Matthew Hilton was able to do something that likely, no Canadian for the rest of time will ever get a chance to do…and that was win a world title the same way the old guys used to win it in a 15 round fight,” notes Anber. “That’s something that I’ve always envied about Matthew, that he got to do that. All these guys today that win a world title now in 12 rounds have no idea what it took to win a world title when it was 15.”
3. Dave Hilton vs. Stephane Ouellet I
November 27, 1998, Molson Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
In perhaps the greatest fight in Quebec’s modern era, Dave Hilton and Stephane Ouellet met in the ring in 1998 before 17,000 fans jam packed into the Molson Centre. The fight was hyped up not by just the contrasting styles and personalities of the fighters, but of their languages as well. Ouellet had captured the hearts of the French speaking population, opposite of the English speaking Hilton. A classic Francophone vs. Anglophone rivalry. “Dave Hilton was just as much loved by the French population as he was the English. All this did was rile more of the English fans to come out who might not have come out for an Ouellet fight. Hilton certainly had his supporters from the French market. The French speaking sports fan has always had boxing as part of their sporting soul, so they come out whether it’s English or French. The success of fighters in this province is derived from the support they get from the French media, and the French audience regardless of the fighter’s language.”
English or French, the fight delivered.
“Hilton/Ouellet to me ranks up there due to the climate that it produced due to the anticipation,” notes Anber. “It was for the Canadian Middleweight title, but more important, it was for the bragging rights of Quebec. That’s what made it such a huge fight. The local rivalry that came out of that fight was just incredible. Everything, from the English/French angle, to the bad boy Dave Hilton to the poster boy of Stephane Ouellet. It was just a huge, huge fight.”
The 12th round ending was just as big. And shocking. “It ended up being a huge, huge upset. I think if Ouellet ends up going through the 12th round and wins the fight—it changes the course of history. Who knows what would’ve happened after that, because Ouellet at the time was the #1 contender in the WBC. Davey Hilton was on the comeback trail! The fact that Hilton ends up winning the fight with seconds to go in the last round changed the course of history of boxing in this province. Davey Hilton as a result of that goes on to win a world title. Stephane Ouelett, arguably, is never the same after that fight. He gets knocked out in the rematch and never attains the heights that they had projected he would. It basically changed the course of history in this province. Or at least altered it.”
2. *TIE* Eddie Melo vs. Fernand Marcotte I
October 31, 1978, Verdun Auditorium, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Eddie Melo vs. Fernand Marcotte II
June 26, 1979, The Forum, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
“When Eddie Melo fought Marcotte the first time, he had only been pro for like a year,” remembers Anber. “That’s inconceivable by today’s standards, and he turned pro when he was 17! Back in those days it wasn’t a provincial commission. It was a city commission. Well, the city of Montreal wouldn’t allow Melo to fight. So his promoter—who was Regis Levesque at the time—took the fight to a bordering town called Verdun, which is on the south shore. There was no athletic commission there. He turned pro when he was 17, and by the time he was 18, he only had 9 fights and they threw him in there with Marcotte. It’s unimaginable by today’s standards where we would take a kid inside of a year and put him in with not just any Canadian champion, but somebody who was as talented, and experienced as Fernand Marcotte.”
The fight was an all time great…the young Eddie Melo pulling the upset over Fernand Marcotte.
The return fight was just as good.
“The second Melo/Marcotte fight…that was huge. That stirred more excitement even over any world title fights that have been held in this city. The rematch between those two guys after Melo had won the first fight, it was incredible. Melo was a young kid, he was the greatest gate attraction that had been seen probably since the days of Donato Paduano. He certainly stirred more electricity than Donato did. Back in those days, unlike today, Canadian title fights were 12 rounds, and they wore 8 oz gloves! Marcotte dropped Melo in the last round to win a decision!”
1. Archie Moore vs. Yvon Durelle I
December 10, 1958 The Forum, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Before there was Bernard Hopkins, there was Archie Moore. “The Old Mongoose” was just a few days shy of his 42nd birthday when he faced the 29-year-old Yvon Durelle. A 4-1 underdog, Durelle shocked everyone when he knocked Moore down no less than three times in the first round of a fight the Canadian Press hailed “The Sporting Event of the Year” in 1958. The Light Heavyweight Champion barely made it out of the round. “I had fought a lot of great punchers, and I could always handle them pretty well,” Moore said in an interview with Jim Prime that appeared Ring Magazine in 1997. “But this guy—oh boy, he hit me harder than I’d ever been hit in my life.”
Archie Moore and Yvon Durelle would both trade heavy blows through most of the fight. An adjustment period enabled Moore to create the angles and distance needed to avoid Yvon’s savage right hand.
In the 10th, a chopping right from Moore was followed up with a left, right, left combination that sent the proud Canadian crumbling face down on his knees. Durelle would get to see the 11th, but not much of it. A counter right hand sent Durelle face first towards the ropes, and a series of shots from Moore put him down for good.
Although they would rematch less than a year later in a fight that Moore would win by 3rd round knockout, their epic first encounter will always be the one to remember.
Boxing Insider’s Hans Olson can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @hansolson