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Top Canada boxers Pascal, Stevenson, Stiverne, Jean have Haitian connection

01/14/2014 05:36 EST | Updated 03/16/2014 05:59 EDT
MONTREAL - Four fighters who represent the elite of Canadian pro boxing have one thing in common — all of them were born in Haiti.

With the top rank of the Canadian fight game now centred almost entirely in Quebec, it is that province's largest source of immigrants that has produced most of its recent boxing champions.

Adonis Stevenson is the reigning WBC light heavyweight champion, a title previously held by Jean Pascal, who will face Romanian-born Lucian Bute before an expected crowd of 20,000 in a non-title bout Saturday at the Bell Centre.

Dierry Jean is to face Lamont Peterson for the IBF light welterweight title on Jan. 25 in Washington, D.C., while Birmane Stiverne is waiting for a date and site to be announced for his clash with Chris Arreola for the WBC heavyweight title recently vacated by Vitali Klitschko.

All four were born in Haiti and moved with their families as young children to Montreal, where they took up boxing and were developed into world class fighters.

"Maybe their community was not high on hockey and other sports and was more focused on boxing," fight promoter Yvon Michel said Tuesday. "So we were privileged to get the people with the best genes for fighting.

"But the most important thing is we were able to develop them. It's not like they learned everything in Haiti and came here for their careers. It shows we have good resources."

The 31-year-old Pascal, who calls the group the ''Haitian all-stars," hopes the fighters' success will be an inspiration.

"It's good for our community," he said. "We had big problems in the past with the (2010) earthquake and things like that, so if we can bring hope to them, it's a great thing for us."

The wave started with Joachim Alcine (33-7-1) of Montreal, who became the first Haitian-born boxer to win a title from one of the four big sanctioning bodies when he took the WBA light middleweight belt with a victory over Travis Simms in 2007. He defended it once before he was knocked out by Daniel Santos a year later.

While they have the same origins, they are very different in the ring.

Stevenson is a slugger and knockout artist. Pascal is all flash and athleticism. Jean is speed and hustle. Stiverne is a heavy mauler.

"They're all different according to their personality," said Michel. "Adonis is seek-and-destroy. Pascal is more elusive. He has a more outgoing personality so he likes to put on a show. Alcine was very technical.

"They don't have a cultural style, like Mexican fighters or Ghanian fighters or Russian fighters. They each have their own personality in their fighting."

The 37-year-old Alcine is still active, but has lost his last five bouts.

Next up was Pascal (28-2-1), who took the light heavyweight belt in 2009. He defended it four times before losing a decision to then 46-year-old Bernard Hopkins in May, 2011.

The flashy Pascal has won twice since then, but needs a win over Bute to get back in the mix for another title bout.

Even without a title on the line, the Pascal-Bute clash will one of the biggest fights ever held in Canada. It not only pits the city's two former world champions against one another, but also its two fight promotion companies — Groupe Yvon Michel for Pascal and InterBox for Bute.

They expect the Bell Centre to be sold out, and the HBO specialty channel will air the bout.

Bute, the former IBF super-middleweight champion, has Canadian citizenship and is at least as popular locally as Pascal. He learned to fight in his home country before moving to Montreal in 2003 as part of a Romanian wave that included former world lightweight champ Leonard Dorin.

Bruny Surin, the former world indoor 60-metre sprint champion and relay gold medallist at the 1996 Olympics, is Pascal's business manager. Pascal in turn supports Surin's foundation, which provides funding for needy athletes fro all sports and communities.

The 46-year-old Surin was also born in Haiti. He has known Pascal for more than a decade.

"I remember this guy (Pascal) in 2002 told me he wants to be world champion, and he was training like crazy," he said. "It's not all the people who are willing to do the work."

He laments that more Haitian-Canadian youngsters didn't take up his sport, athletics, but he's proud of the mark they have made in boxing.

"I love to see that because unfortunately, when people talk about my community it's most often negative," he said. "It's about drugs and gang members.

"But when we see those guys shine, it shines on all the community. And I hope there will be more of the younger generation coming up to raise the community."

Stevenson (23-1-0) got a lot of votes for fighter of the year in 2013, when he posted four knockout victories. That included winning the WBC belt by flooring veteran Chad Dawson in only 76 seconds, followed by convincing wins over Tavoris Cloud and Tony Bellew.

He took his championship belt on a three-day trip in December to Haiti, which he left when he was five. He was feted at the presidential palace and presented the gloves used in the Dawson fight to president Michel Martelly.

The 31-year-old Jean (25-0-0) will be the underdog against Peterson (31-2-1), although the American is coming off a loss in a non-title out to Argentina's Lucas Matthysse.

The 35-year-old Stiverne (23-1-1), who is based in Las Vegas, waited months for Klitschko's decision to retire from the ring to get his title shot. He beat Arreola in their first meeting last April and will be the favourite for the title.

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