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Friday Night Lights: Antonin Decarie, Jo Jo Dan, Shamone Alvarez, and Steve Forbes

by Hans Olson

This Friday night the bright lights of ESPN’s nationally televised Friday Night Fights will showcase the skilled Laval native Antonin Decarie and Romanian/Canadian punching prodigy Jo Jo Dan. The card, part of Groupe Yvon Michel’s “Fast and Furious” boxing series, will take place at Montreal ’s Bell Centre in front of a spirited crowd in the boxing rich province of Quebec . Although fans are sure to back the two local pugilists, across the ring both Decarie and Dan will find difficult challenges in Shamone “The Truth” Alvarez and Steve Forbes.

Antonin Decarie, 28, looks to once again propel his career into championship contention. His only loss thus far came in May of last year, when he traveled to France and fought in a losing effort against Souleymane M’baye for the WBA’s interim Welterweight title. Quickly bouncing back, Decarie fought to a nice majority decision victory over rough and tumble journeyman Irving Garcia. Showing some grit, Decarie battled through a cut he received in the 8th, stuck out his jab and showcased nice lateral movement throughout the final 2 rounds to cruise to the hard fought victory. It is doubtful that if given the same circumstances “The Truth” will set him free.

Shamone “The Truth” Alvarez, 34, is focused to get back on the winning track himself. Weeks of preparation have led to this important fight. “Training camp went good, everything is on point as far as weight, conditioning, sparring and all that; it all was rather excellent” Alvarez told Boxing Insider. “I haven’t fought on ESPN in a while, so it’s cool to be back, it feels good to be back on TV.”

Shamone’s career got off to a great start, going 19-0 until he met former Manny Pacquaio challenger Joshua Clottey in an IBF title eliminator back in December of 2007. Alvarez was competitive, but not enough to get the nod in what was to be a 12 round majority decision victory for Clottey. Since then, the slippery southpaw has gone 2-2 in his last 4 bouts including a heartbreaker against Ayi Bruce in December of last year. Many ringsiders felt Alvarez won, but 2 of the 3 judges saw it otherwise scoring the bout a majority decision for Bruce. A loss is not something that Shamone is willing to accept again; he came to Canada to win. “I’m not worried about being in Canada , I’m worried about another loss,” said Alvarez. “It hurts when you train for so long and have to walk around the next few weeks after a fight knowing you could’ve won, yet you come away with an L. Nobody likes coming away with an L.” Some feel taking a decision victory in Canada against a local fighter can be tough, so does Shamone feel any added pressure to score a knockout? Not necessarily. “I’ve been boxing for a long time, I’m pretty comfortable and secure in the ring, and I’m not too worried about it. A knockout would be nice, but I’m not looking for it.” A crafty boxer, Alvarez presents a few wrinkles which could give Decarie some problems. Shamone is excellent when he punches in combination, can control distance very well, and has better-than-average hand speed. Alvarez has never been stopped, and also demonstrates good defensive tools. What makes this bout intriguing is that despite those tools, one of Decarie’s best weapons is his straight right…and it could find a home on Alvarez. The last time Decarie fought a left handed fighter was Terrance Cauthen in October of 2009. Cauthen took hard rights all night which eventually led to a TKO victory for Decarie. Interestingly, Cauthen was a replacement opponent for Alverez who suffered a leg injury a week before the bout was to take place. We’ve come full circle to 2011 where the fight is finally now happening. Look for a highly competitive bout between two determined fighters, both looking to advance to the next level.

Major implications are abounding in the evening’s co-feature between Jo Jo Dan (27-1) and former “Contender” standout Steve Forbes (35-8). Jo Jo Dan’s only career loss came at the hands of current WBC silver Welterweight Titlist Selcuk Aydin. A win Friday against a name such as Forbes may put in him a position to avenge that loss sometime in 2011. Jo Jo rebounded nicely from his lone career blemish by making quick work of Andres Pablo Villafane back in October on the undercard of fellow Romanian/Canadian Lucian Bute’s knockout victory over Jesse Brinkley. Against Villafane, Jo Jo controlled everything; Villafane only doing enough to scratch his way into the 4th round where he took a vicious left hand to the body that sent him down for the count. One wonders how a 33 year old Steve Forbes can take Jo Jo’s power, but like Alvarez, Forbes has never been stopped.

Steve Forbes came to prominence on the second season of “The Contender;” the reality series that lasted for a few years on various networks including NBC, ESPN, and Versus. Successful with boxing fans and curious onlookers alike, “The Contender” launched the careers of fighters Sakio Bika, Sergio Mora, Peter Manfredo Jr., Cornelius Bundrage, and Troy Ross, to name a few. Through the ups and downs, one thing is always certain: Steve Forbes will come to fight. He has been in with the best, and although they were losing efforts, he went the distance with future Hall of Famer Oscar De La Hoya and current WBC Welterweight Champion Andre Berto. He’s coming off of a 2nd round KO victory against Roberto Valenzuela, and would love nothing more than a significant victory on national television. Lefties with some pop like Jo Jo seem to give him trouble, but his experience and ring knowledge may be enough to take Jo Jo into the later rounds. If that happens, we could be in for an entertaining scrap.

Catch all of the action this Friday, Feb. 11 on ESPN2 and ESPN3 (9 ET).

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