MONTREAL - Promoter Yvon Michel says Custio Clayton was the best Canadian amateur boxer of his era and now wants to see how far he can go as a pro.
The 27-year-old from Dartmouth, N.S., who came within a whisker of a medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, is to make his pro debut Dec. 19 in Quebec City on the undercard of Adonis Stevenson's defence of his World Boxing Council light heavyweight title against Russian Dmitry Sukhotsky.
An opponent has yet to be named for Clayton, an amateur welterweight who will likely start his pro career up one division at light middleweight (154 pounds).
"We always felt it was important to give an opportunity to the best amateur fighter of his era," Michel said Friday as Clayton was introduced to the local media. "It fit good because it's our mission to sign the best Canadian prospects.
"We had huge success with Jean Pascal and Adonis Stevenson, who were the leaders of their era. We had a little less with Troy Ross, but he fought in world championships twice so it was not that bad. And we really failed with Andrew Kooner. Just because Clayton has a great amateur background doesn't mean he'll be an automatic success, but the chances are very good."
Clayton signed a three-year deal with Groupe Yvon Michel this week and will be fast-tracked to try to reach the top 10 in the world rankings within 18 months with a goal of fighting for a world title before he's 30.
The father of two is a six-time national amateur champion who decided to turn pro after reaching the quarter-finals of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where he lost a close decision to Steven Donnelly of Northern Ireland.
His amateur highlight came at the 2012 Olympics, where he became the first Canadian since 1996 silver medallist David Defiagbon to win his first two bouts.
In the quarter-finals, he fought Briton Freddie Evans to a 14-14 draw before a partisan crowd of 10,000. He lost on the recount, which is when all five judges' scores are counted instead of only the middle three (after rejecting the highest and lowest scores).
Canada filed a protest, saying the referee let Evans off when points deductions should have been called, but it was turned down.
"There's nothing much I can say," said Clayton. "I know what I did and other people know what I did, but there's nothing I can do with the judging."
Now, he's focused on pro boxing.
Under Quebec commission rules, his first four bouts can be no longer than six rounds and his first one has to be a four-rounder. Michel wants to get them out of the way as quickly as possible so Clayton can start facing better opposition in longer bouts.
"It's always good to have something new in your life," Clayton said. "I'm just happy that I got the opportunity to come to Montreal and start a new life.
"I know I'll be a little nervous, but I'm always nervous. It'll be nothing new to me. I've been in the Olympics and fought in front of a lot of people, so it's about being comfortable and going in and performing."
The surroundings are not unfamiliar. Clayton has been brought in before by GYM head trainer Marc Ramsay to spar with pros in the middle weight categories, including David Lemieux and Antonin Decarie.
He will continue to work with Canadian national team head coach Daniel Trepanier at the Club de Boxe de l'Est in the city's east end, although Trepanier cannot work in his corner during bouts.
Trepanier compared Clayton's style to former welterweight world champion Timothy Bradley for his all-around talent and "boxing IQ."
"He's a strong fighter with a good knowledge of the ring," said Trepanier. "Good footwork. He's similar to Bradley because he's really smart and strong, physically."
Clayton's manager, Douggy Berneche, said the fighter could have stayed in Halifax and had a decent pro career, but made a wise choice to come to the city where the sport gets front-page attention and has most of the country's top fighters.
"For TV, the connections, to have good sparring partners, you have to come to Montreal," he said.
Clayton's second bout should be on a fight card Berneche is promoting at the Lac Leamy Casino in Gatineau, Que., on Jan. 31.