Adonis Stevenson, Badou Jack bout a glimpse into Toronto’s future as a fight town?
The seasons for both of Toronto’s beloved Maple Leafs and Raptors are over, which in most years means that sports enthusiasts in the Greater Toronto Area focus their efforts more closely on the Blue Jays and Toronto FC.
But at least for one night, there was another act in town that brought people to their feet. And if Lee Baxter Promotions has their way, it won’t be a single occurrence.
On May 19, over 4,500 fans turned up at the Air Canada Centre for a fight between Montreal-based WBC light-heavyweight world champion Adonis Stevenson and his Swedish-American opponent Badou Jack.
After a fairly routine first half of the bout, with Stevenson controlling the action but not landing anything of substance, the pace quickened as both fighters took turns landing heavy blows that brought fans to their feet. Duelling chants of “Stevenson”, “Jack” and “Superman” created an atmosphere that is all too rare inside Ontario’s boxing scene.
If this is a turning point for boxing in Ontario, we may be thanking both Stevenson and Jack for their efforts for decades to come.
Toronto has consistently struggled as a fight city. While the UFC was able to find some success in the market, thanks in part to the considerable popularity of Quebec’s Georges St. Pierre, boxing has never been able to find a foothold. Outside of Clyde Gray challenging Jose Napoles in 1973 and Nicky Furlano challenging Aaron Pryor in 1984, the city has struggled to produce any boxing talent of note.
And the problem isn’t unique to Toronto. While fighters like Steve Molitor found success on a world stage, few others from the province has been able to develop any sort of fanbase or success.
None of this is to suggest that there isn’t a boxing scene. In recent years, fighters like Brandon Cook and Logan McGuinness have taken their talents around the world. Numerous promotions have laid the groundwork over the past few years for major fights to take place in Ontario. The work of United Promotions and Lee Baxter Promotions, coupled with work from Global Legacy has built a small but strong base of loyal boxing fans that didn’t exist in the province even 10 years ago.
What Stevenson and Jack showed us is that boxing can thrive in Toronto. If we can put over 4,500 people in the Air Canada Centre on three-weeks notice, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the building could be far closer to filled with a proper lead-up and an undercard full of Ontario-based talent.
While there are still a number of hurdles to climb – not the least of which is getting Canada’s major sports networks like Sportsnet and TSN to acknowledge the existence of boxing – we’ve seen that there’s a market for world class boxing in the city.
There are millions of sports fans in Southern Ontario that are ravenous for new, interesting things to spend their money on.
Why can’t it be boxing?