MONTREAL — Francis Lafreniere won a blood spattered slugfest over veteran Renan St-Juste to win the minor IBF International middleweight title on Saturday night.
The bout was on the undercard of the light heavyweight rematch between Jean Pascal of Laval, Que., and three-belt champion Sergey Kovalev later Saturday night.
It had the Bell Centre crowd roaring as the two Montreal fighters traded blows from close range through all 10-rounds, with the 43-year-old St-Juste (26-5-1) barely hanging on to the final bell against 27-year-old Lafreniere (11-5-2).
Two ringside judges had it 97-92 and other 99-90 even though it looked to be a much closer match until the last three rounds.
"He doesn't hit hard but he throws a lot of punches," said St-Juste, once a world ranked middleweight. "I'm not used to fighting like that.
"He had his hands up and he was coming in all the time. I gave it everything I had, but he deserved the win."
Lafreniere, his face streaked with blood from cuts over his eyes, kept constant pressure on St-Juste and scored repeatedly from the inside with shots to the body and the head. St-Juste answered with several sharp shots of his own, and looked to win at least the second and fourth rounds.
Afterwards St-Juste would not commit to a rematch or say whether it was his last bout. He said he will rest up, go back to work at the boxing gym he runs, and consider any fight offers that come in.
Light middleweight Steven Butler (14-0-1) of Montreal absorbed some big punches in the middle rounds but knocked down Angola native Antonio Hoffman (13-1-0) in the eighth to post a unanimous decision.
Another light-middleweight, Virgilijus Stapulionis (17-3-1) of Lithuania knocked down Laszlo Fazekas (27-24-1) of Hungary four times before their scheduled eight-rounder was stopped in the second.
David Theroux (9-1-0) of Sorel, Que., ended his welterweight bout with Mexico's Juan Armando Garcia (12-3-2) with a left to the body in the third round.
Joel Diaz (21-0), a light welterweight co-promoted by Pascal, stopped Abraham Gomez (13-21-3) of Mexico in the second round of a scheduled six-round bout.
And super-bantamweight Vislan Dalkaev (3-0), a Russian based in Montreal, was all over Alan Salazar (5-2) of Mexico for the unanimous decision in a four-rounder.
A heavyweight battle saw American Cassius Chaney (6-0-0) batter Zoltan Csala (9-5-0) until it was stopped at 2:52 of the third with the Hungarian barely staying upright.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press