Stevenson vs Jack: Remembering Canada’s best boxers
By Neel Khagram
18th May 2018
Adonis Stevenson is one of a number of world champions who have represented Canada as a professional.
‘Superman’ avenged his only career loss to Darnell Boone, before destroying Chad Dawson inside one round in 2013 to claim the WBC light-heavyweight crown. He will now be aiming to defend the title for the ninth time against Badou Jack, at the Air Canada Centre, Toronto, this Saturday night, live on Sky Sports.
The 40-year-old southpaw is arguably one of Canada’s finest fighters, and we compare his record against his fellow countrymen who have excelled on the world stage.
George Dixon (69-30-57-KO37)
George Dixon was the first Canadian and black man in boxing history to win a world title.
‘Little Chocolate’ succeeded in an era of profound racism to win the bantamweight world title in 1890, before stepping-up to become a three-time featherweight champion in 1891, 1897 and 1898 respectively.
Dixon was eventually inducted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in 1990.
Tommy Burns (48-5-8-KO39)
Burns reigned as Canada’s first lineal heavyweight champion from 1906 to 1908, beating Marvin Hart for the title and defending his crown 11 times, despite only being a reported 5ft 7 inches tall.
Known for his power, Burns’ legacy is perhaps unfairly defined by his loss to Jack Johnson, who became the first black man to win the heavyweight title.
Jack Delaney (73-11-2-KO43)
Born in Qubec, Delaney won the world light-heavyweight in 1926 against former wrestler Paul Berlenbach in front of a reported 41,000 spectators. The fight, which formed part of a gripping trilogy, was synonymous for the amount of female fans supporting Delaney who were referred to as ‘Delaney’s screaming mammies’.
A year later, Delaney relinquished his title and moved up to heavyweight. However, a shock loss to journeyman Jimmy Maloney meant he was not granted a shot at the then champion, Gene Tunney.
Jimmy McLarnin (55-11-KO21)
Synonymous for his power, aggression and movement in the ring, McLarnin immigrated with his family to Vancouver from Belfast at the age of three.
‘Babyface’ lost his first attempt at a world title in 1928 to Sammy Mandell at lightweight, but claimed the welterweight title five years later after knocking out Young Corbett III in the first round.
Mclarnin’s career is perhaps defined by his epic trilogy with Barney Ross. The Belfast-born Canadian lost his 147lbs title in 1934, before regaining the belt in the rematch four months later. Ross would have the final say though, winning the deciding rubber via unanimous decision at the Polo Ground, New York in 1935.
Matthew Hilton (32-3-2-KO24)
Hilton won the IBF super-welterweight title glory against Buster Drayton in 1987, before losing for the first time in his career to Robert Hines a year later.
A knockout defeat to Doug DeWitt in 1990 for the WBO middleweight title, along with out of the ring drinking problems curtailed further pursuits at world level.
Otis Grant (38-3-1-KO17)
Born in Jamaica, Grant moved to Montreal and represented Canada in several amateur championships before turning professional.
In the paid ranks, ‘Magic Grant’ claimed the vacant WBO middleweight title after a points victory over Britain’s Ryan Rhodes in 1997, before stepping up to light-heavyweight and being stopped by Roy Jones Jr eleven months later.
Seven straight victories followed, but a knockout defeat to Librado Andrade in 2006 sent Grant into retirement.
Arturo Gatti (40-9-KO31)
Arturo Gatti is regarded as one of the most exciting fighters in boxing history, winning world titles in two different weight classes, and partaking in four bouts which were voted fight of the year by The Ring Magazine.
Of Italian birth but Canadian nationality, he claimed the IBF super-featherweight title against Tracy Harris Paterson on points in 1995, before making his first defence against Wilson Rodriguez a year later - an up and down encounter which was voted the 1996 fight of the year after Gatti’s sixth-round stoppage win. His next fight against Gabriel Ruelas the following year was also awarded the best contest in boxing in 1997.
‘Thunder’s’ career is often remembered for his trilogy with Micky Ward, the first and third of which was also named fight of the year. Gatti lost the premier encounter before righting the wrong in the following two contests.
He would eventually become a two-weight king after defeating Gianluca Branco in 2004 for the WBC super-lightweight title, before losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr and Carlos Manuel Baldomir curtailed his extraordinary career.
Lucian Bute (32-5-KO25)
Bute won the IBF super-middleweight title against Sergey Tatevosyan in 2007 and made nine straight defences before suffering a devastating knockout loss to Carl Froch in a gripping encounter at the Nottingham Arena five years ago.
The Romanian-born Canadian was never the same fighter again, losing further bouts to Jean Pascal, James DeGale and Eleider Alvarez respectively.
Steve Molitor (34-3-KO12)
Molitor stopped Ceferino Dario Labarda in 2008 for the IBF super-bantamweight title in his 28th contest, before experiencing defeat for the first time as a professional in a unification bout against Celestino Caballero in his next fight.
‘The Canadian Kid’ regained his former title after a points victory over Takalani Ndlovu in 2010, but succumbed to two further defeats in his career, including a knockout loss to Carl Frampton in 2012.
Jean Pascal (32-5-1-KO19)
Pascal failed in his attempt to win a world title at super-middleweight after being outpointed by Carl Froch in Nottingham for the vacant WBC belt in 2008, but stepped up to light-heavyweight to defeat Pablo Daniel Zamora Nievas and become world champion.
The Haitian-born Canadian then earned himself lineal status at 175lbs after winning a technical decision against Chad Dawson in 2010, but relinquished his crown after first drawing and then losing to Bernard Hopkins in 2011.
Pascal’s last two shots at a world title came against Sergey Kovalev in 2015 and 2016 respectively, but the Quebec-based resident lost both encounters inside the distance.
Adonis Stevenson (29-1-KO24)
Stevenson has defeated a list of world-rated opponents since claiming the WBC light-heavyweight crown in 2013, including Tavoris Cloud, Tony Bellew, Andrzej Fonfara (twice), and Sakio Bika respectively.
The Haitian-born Canadian’s record is impressive, but his legacy on the world stage has arguably been tainted by not fighting outside his country since 2011, and not welcoming a unification bout against Sergey Kovalev when the Russian held the three other recognised belts in the division from 2014 to 2016.
David Lemieux (38-4-KO33)
Lemieux claimed the vacant IBF 160lbs strap against Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam in 2015, but failed in his attempts to unify the middleweight division against Gennady Golovkin in his next fight.
The 29-year-old is arguably one of the hardest punching fighters active in the division today, but this did not prove to be enough against current WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders, who comfortably out-boxed him in front of a partisan Canadian crowd last December.
By Neel Khagram