MONTREAL - Mikael Zewski is having a fine career even if he is the one that got away.
Overlooked by Canada's top two boxing promoters, Groupe Yvon Michel and InterBox, Zewski has built a 16-0 record with 12 knockouts fighting mostly in Las Vegas for U.S. promoter Top Rank.
The Trois-Rivieres, Que., native will fight for a fourth time on home soil when he faces Cesar Chavez (20-2) of Mexico on the undercard of former IBF super-middleweight champion Lucian Bute's bounce-back bout against Russian Denis Grachev at the Bell Centre on Saturday night.
Zewski, a light middleweight, signed after the 2009 world championships in Milan with Las Vegas-based manager Cameron Dunkin. Dunkin also handles WBO welterweight champion Tim Bradley and super-bantamweight champ Nonito Donaire, both considered among the world's best pound-for-pound boxers.
"I wouldn't say I escaped," the 23-year-old old Zewski said Thursday. "When (Dunkin) told me I could turn pro I was very interested.
"We submitted my name to all the top promoters in the States and they were all interested. It happened so quick, I don't know if (Yvon Michel or InterBox) didn't have time to propose anything or if they just weren't interested. But at least we can do business now. I think I'm in a good position."
Another who spurned the local promoters to sign in the U.S. in 2005 was Birmane Stiverne (22-1-1) of Montreal, who will fight a WBC heavyweight title eliminator on Dec. 15 against Chris Arreola in Venezuela.
The winner becomes mandatory challenger to 41-year-old WBC champ Vitali Klitschko, who is now leader of the UDAR political party in Ukraine and may not fight again.
One knock against the Canadian promoters is that their boxers rarely fight outside the country, so they are ill-prepared for the pressure of facing an opponent in hostile territory.
The previously unbeaten Bute was a case in point, as he was pounded in five rounds by Carl Froch in England to lose his IBF super-middleweight belt in May. Bute, from Montreal, had rarely fought anywhere but in Quebec or his native Romania.
"A lot of fighters from Quebec, when they get a chance to fight in Las Vegas or wherever, they get stressed," said Zewski. "It's so big, and sometimes they don't perform well.
"I get the chance to fight in Las Vegas most of the time. I feel at home there."
An exception was welterweight Antonin Decarie (27-1) of Montreal, who had fought only once outside Quebec early in his career but went to Mashantucket, Conn., in September and posted a sixth round TKO win over Alex Perez on U.S. television.
Signing with a U.S. promoter didn't mean having to move for Zewski, who is still based in Trois-Riveres and is trained by his father Jean Zewski.
And he still gets to fight in front of home crowds now and then. He has appeared on fight cards presented by both InterBox and Yvon Michel, who each have good relations with Top Rank.
Zewski was originally slated to fight Roberto Ventura (11-7), who couldn't make it due to a visa issue. Light welterweight Pier-Olivier Cote of Quebec City, who pulled out with an injury, was to fight Chavez.
So they put Zewski against Chavez, even though the Canadian is a full weight class heavier.
"He's an up and comer and I think he'll be very tough," said Zewski. "But I think I'm faster and stronger than this guy."
He hopes to fight for a regional belt in 2013 and then see if he can contend for a world title.
Zewski's bout is part of a strong undercard that also has light heavyweight Renan St. Juste (23-2-1) of Repentigny, Que., against American veteran Allan Green (31-4) and super-bantamweight Sebastien Gauthier (22-3) of St. Jerome, Que., against former IBF champ Rodrigo Guerrero (17-4).
InterBox's Romanian connection continues as heavyweight Bogdan Dinu (7-0) faces Eric Martel Bahoeli (7-2) of Quebec City.
Most of the attention will be on Bute (30-1) and how he looks coming off the Froch defeat against the heavy-hitting Grachev (12-0-1).