Monday, August 27, 2007

Fight night

The Ottawa Sun
© Copyright 2006, Sun Media Corporation
AT THE LAC LEAMY CASINO Sunday, February 26, 2006
Tag: 0603261222Edition: Final
Section: News Length: 88 linePage: 7


Left. Right. Left. Left. Right. Left.
Leather smacks leather. Grunt. Breathe.
In a small room off the back corridors of the Lac Leamy Casino theatre, super-lightweight World Boxing Council champion Hermann "Black Panther" Ngoudjo prepares for his title fight against a Chilean. The room was designed for tamer performers. The two mirrors, facing each other, are framed by light bulbs and the lack of ventilation allows for the smell of sweat to quickly dominate.
Left. Left. Right.
The boxing ring is a built extension to the usual stage where the play-by-play commentators for TVA watch and narrate the battle on canvas to half a million viewers in Quebec. Around 800 people gathered in the theatre to watch the fight card yesterday. Emerging from the fluorescently lit back corridors, the boxers are met by backstage dimness. A soft, cascading light falls from a small spotlight in the ceiling. The vaseline on Chilean Juan Carlos Alderete's face glistens, the pronounced cheek bones. He will enter first. The fog machine hums and Alderete's manager coughs. Antonio Bajas twirls a towel and complains about the smoke in Spanish.
Alderete, Mundo Hispanio WBC champion, enters the ring through a side doorway that leads between rows of tables, each with a number tag attached to a thin stick standing upright. Tin tubs with Bud beer bottles sit in the middle of the majority of tables peopled by mostly men, some women. There are a few who have been here since early afternoon; it is now early evening and bottles find the floor more frequently.
On the first table, the one next to the doorway, there is no beer. Here sits boxing legend Gaetan Hart, 52. A man once died as a result of a Hart punch.
Boxing has changed, he said.
"Too much technical, not enough fight, blood," said Hart, who lives in Hull. "In my time, I liked boxing so much I wanted to give people what they paid for."
Hart believes Canadian super-middleweight champ Jean Pascal, a 23-year-old boxer from Laval, Que., has the stuff.
"He is going to be a real world champion," said Hart, whose nose bears contours fashioned by leather bound fists. "He likes to put on a spectacle and that is what people want, a spectacle."
Pascal fought a 32-year-old from Tennessee nicknamed "Hurricane" whose manager was turned back at the border. Eric Howard made the trip to fight Pascal on a day's notice. He asked former world champ Otis Grant, the top contender for the WBC super-middleweight belt, to help out with the managerial duties.
Midway through the first round, a promoter with GYM pulled Grant out of the corner. Pascal and Grant fight for the same team. Grant could not help the enemy.
The fight ended on a technical knockout in the second round. It was a hollow victory for Pascal who was training to face former WBA light-middleweight champ Carl Daniels.
Fear kept Daniels at home, said Pascal.
"Last minute he pulled out, maybe he was scared," said Pascal. "Why not, I'm Jean Pascal."
Grant, 38, no longer fears death. Shortly after losing to boxing great Roy Jones Jr. in the 10th round, Grant was in a car accident that put him into a coma. Grant will get a title shot if he wins an upcoming April fight.
"I am doing it differently this time," said Grant, who started fighting at
11. "I got more aggressive, I think I am a lot smarter. I train a bit
different. I train a lot more scientifically."
But today, Grant is helping Ngoudjo prepare for his title defence and in the backroom he is fiddling with water bottles in a tin tub of ice. CCR is playing softly.
"Being too nervous is not good," said Ngoudjo, 26. "You lose control."
In the 12th round, Ngoudjo nails Alderete with a right hook. The fight ends in a TKO win for Ngoudjo. In the dressing room, Alderete is told by a boxing official he is suspended from boxing for a month based on the ring-side doctor's assessment and the likelihood of concussion.
Alderete, who holds the Chilean championship, walks into Ngoudjo's dressing and, after handing the champ a flag of his home town of Castro, says in Spanish he only trains a couple of hours a day. But Ngoudjo and his handlers don't understand Spanish. They think it could be an insult and turn to me asking anxiously, "what did he say? what did he say?"
I translate.
"I don't believe him," said Ngoudjo, after Alderete leaves.

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