By Hans Olson
One of the most enjoyable things to witness as a boxing fan is the ascension of young talent. Over the years, the Quebec region has seen a number of fighters rise from humble beginnings to superstar status. Take for instance Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal, who each just a few years ago were fighting 4-rounders in local casinos. These days, both Bute and Pascal are major ticket selling attractions in Montreal and Quebec City. It’s a long way to championship glory…and many fighters don’t reach the heights that Bute and Pascal have reached.
There are many fighters in the Quebec region who are just beyond prospect status…nearing on contender status. Names like Antonin Decarie, Pier Olivier Cote, Adonis Stevenson, Dierry Jean, and Kevin Bizier all had incredible years in 2011. In 2012, we’ll find out where they go when they go “next-level.”
Sometimes, it isn’t easy. David Lemieux was on the fast-track to championship stardom until last April, when he ran into the rugged Marco Antonio Rubio, who stopped him during a WBC middleweight eliminator that was televised on ESPN’s “Friday Night Fights.” His return bout, December’s decision loss to Joachim Alcine is likely to send him back into a rebuilding phase in 2012. It appears now that the next big thing to compete with the fanfare of Bute or Pascal might not be David Lemieux after all…at least not yet. He is only 23 years old after all.
This brings me back to the idea of a fighter being “in prospect,” which the Merriam-Webster defines as “possible or likely for the future.”
The two names with the most possibility and the brightest future as I see it, are Eleider “Storm” Alvarez and Tyler Asselstine.
“I had a good amateur career in Colombia,” said Alvarez to Boxing Insider last month after his first round annihilation of Emiliano Cayetano, a win that earned him the vacant WBO NABO light heavyweight title. “At 15, I was champion of my province, and part of the team at that age. At 16, I won a Bronze at Juniors; at 17 I was champion in the youth category from Colombia. The best memory is the gold medal I got in the Pan American Games in Brazil.”
Winning the Gold at those 2007 Pan American Games highlighted a stellar amateur career for Alvarez…a career that many have said was one of the best in Columbia since the days of Olympian Robinson Pitalua.
As a professional, Eleider is rising fast. Since turning pro in September 2009, Alvarez has dominated. Fighting each of his 7 bouts in Montreal under the tutelage of Marc Ramsay, Alvarez has shown poise and confidence beyond his years. The recent drubbing of Cayetano was no exception.
“Well I thought before the fight that it would be a good fight, but my shots were able to finish that,” said Alvarez, whose chilling punching power ended things quickly.
“I thought that the fight would’ve gone further.”
Most fans did as well. It’s not like Cayetano was a bum…he went into the fight with a record of 21-3, having been in with the likes of Karo Murat and Mads Larsen. Although he lost those fights as well, he wasn’t eliminated in the way that he was by Alvarez.
Outside the ring, Alvarez enjoys a quiet life…starkly contrasting the violent one between the ropes. “Well, my life back in Colombia is like all humble athletes…spending time with friends, playing cards and dominos,” said Alvarez who now lives in Montreal. “This is all very different, but I’m happy to be here in Quebec.”
And Quebec is happy to have him, for he could be one of the regions next big stars. Promoted by Groupe Yvon Michel, the sky is the limit for Eleider “Storm” Alvarez.
“Yes definitely. I watch a lot of his fights, and learn a lot from him,” replied Tyler Asselstine when I asked him earlier this week about his style and it’s resemblance to that of another Quebec southpaw, Lucian Bute.
The thing is, Tyler Asselstine has all the tools to be something of a Bute 2.0 in the lighter weights. He has devastating power, sharp skills, and a ravenous desire to be successful. “My goals for 2012 are to keep improving, and also to expand my fan base and stay undefeated,” continued Tyler, who is penciled in to fight again in February at the Bell Centre. “Fans can expect to keep seeing exciting fights, and also to see an improved Tyler Asselstine.”
Originally from Kingston, Ontario, Tyler has fought all but 2 of his pro bouts in Montreal…effectively staking his claim as one of the Quebec region’s best up and coming fighters. “In September 2010 I signed an exclusive contract with Hennessy Sports Canada,” Tyler told me when I spoke with him a few months back. “My team consists of Adam Harris (promotor) Eric Belanger (head coach), Rob Laplante (coach), and new addition to our team Ian McKillop (coach), which I’m very happy about. I train 6 times a week, twice a day. Boxing is my job. I take my training very seriously and have a great team to keep me on track.”
His last outing was a successful one, shutting out the gritty Philippe Frenois over 8-rounds on the undercard of David Lemieux vs. Joachim Alcine in December.
Already developing a name for himself in Quebec, Tyler Asselstine will be a name boxing fans Stateside will surely be aware of in the not-too-distant future.
It’s not written in stone that Alvarez or Asselstine are the next Lucian Bute or Jean Pascal. Much like the stars before them, Stephan Ouellet and Erik Lucas, it’s a long, hard road to the top…but a road that starts somewhere.
For now, they are just young prospects. The fact is, the COULD be stars eventually.
Only time will tell.
Boxing Insider’s Hans Olson can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @hansolson