by Hans Olson
“When you have passion, you can work hours without feeling like you’re doing it,” says Stephan Larouche, trainer of IBF Super Middleweight Champion Lucian Bute.
Boxing is Stephan’s passion.
“I’ve been raised in it,” continued Stephan. “I was a fighter, I’ve been carrying the bucket, I’ve been training, I’ve been promoting, I’ve been matchmaking—I’ve been painting the walls in the amateur gym. I think that a lot of people that are involved in boxing have been through almost every department, and that’s no different with me.”
Stephan Larouche began his life in boxing as a 75 lb. 13 year old kid in Quebec.
“My cousin was a fighter. I went to see one of his fights. He was a southpaw, and he was one of the best Quebec fighters,” reflects Larouche. “In fact, he won a Quebec Championship. That motivated me to start boxing. I was an amateur fighter until 1984 or 85, and then I became a trainer right away. I never thought I would be in the game for so long.”
It’s been a celebrated career for Stephan Larouche, one where he has seen success as an amateur trainer for Canada’s Boxing Team at the Olympic Games in 2004, all the way up to training multiple world champions in the pros.
“My first world champion was Eric Lucas,” said Stephan, who was in the corner of Lucas when he defeated Glenn Catley for the WBC’s vacant Super Middleweight Championship in July of 2001. “It was an unbelievable feeling because I had never felt it before. I would say it was the greatest feeling because I didn’t know what to expect.”
Stephan’s methodology to working with fighters is simple: communication and respect. It’s a creed he lives by, and Stephan surrounds each of his fighters with a strong team, every member working together toward the same goal. “I think when you realize that what you know is boxing…besides that…you need help from the outside,” says Larouche. “You need help in terms of consulting. It has to be physical preparation, nutrition, and psychological preparation. When you realize that you’re not good at everything, you build a good team. I think that the trainer is the chief. He surrounds himself with people that help and hear the requests and needs for the fighter. You have to keep your eyes open all the time, and you have to listen. This is my philosophy. Communication and respect.”
One fighter who clicked with Stephan Larouche from the very beginning is Lucian Bute.
“When he first came to Montreal, he was a sparring parter of Eric Lucas. He was still an amateur fighter. I could see the seriousness, the dedication, the maturity in Lucian, this young kid. And he was very clever, and very intelligent. So I was always impressed by him.”
Together with Stephan, Lucian Bute has risen to the upper echelon of the sport. He’s the reigning IBF Super Middleweight Champion, and undefeated in 29 professional fights. On Saturday night, Lucian will attempt to defend his title against Glen Johnson in front of a raucous crowd at the Pepsi Colisee in Quebec City, Quebec—a region where Bute is a bonafide superstar. I asked Stephan about this, and how he’s seen the fight scene in the province grow over the years.
“There’s the guy named Hans Karl Muehlegg, who’s German. He’s the one behind Interbox. He had the idea of getting a team of boxers and trainers that would be professional and clean. He said ‘I want guys to wear suits, I want a nice hotel for the press conferences—I don’t want boxing to be seen anymore as low class.’ So that was Mr. Muehlegg’s idea. I think in addition to that, was his investment. The money that he put behind promoting boxing.”
There was a seismic shift in the Quebec region around this point.
“I think that when Eric Lucas became the world champion, people got attracted by him because he was charismatic, but also humble and modest,” said Stephan. “Going to a boxing event was no longer just a boy’s night, a boy’s club. There were couples that would come there. Young people. It was a happening. It was more than just a boxing fight. I think it even grew up bigger than the sport itself.”
It’s a craze that continues to this day. Over 13,000 tickets have already been sold prior to this Saturday’s bout.
“We’ve got Interbox and Groupe Yvon Michel, who both promote professionally and have helped boxing get to where it hasn’t been reached in the past,” says Larouche, who along with his training duties, is currently Interbox’s manager of operations.
With a life dedicated to boxing, Stephan Larouche has little time for anything else. When he does get a chance to relax, it’s well deserved. “I do have a life besides boxing which is the people around me that are close to me. My girlfriend, my friends…and I love being away. I like to be in my cottage up north fishing and relaxing.”
Relaxation won’t come before Saturday night though, where Stephan Larouche accompanies Lucian Bute in arguably the most important fight of his career. That’s when everything that Stephan does matters most…even if can be difficult trying to articulate. Few know what it feels like to train a world champion, and just what it feels like when you defend something you’ve worked so hard to get.
“It’s always a good feeling,” ends Stephan.
“It’s hard to describe…”