By Vincent Morin
The year 2023 was productive in La Belle Province, with 16 galas involving four promoters, seven by Eye of the Tiger (EOTTM), six by Groupe Yvon Michel (GYM), two by New Era Promotions and one by Canada Fighting were presented. As 2023 draws to a close, here is the annual report for Quebec boxers.
FIGHT OF THE YEAR
Christian Mbilli vs Carlos Gongora
The fight of the year pitted Montrealer of Cameroonian origin Christian Mbilli (25-0, 21 KO) against Ecuadorian Carlos Gongora (22-2, 17 KO), on March 23 at the Cabaret du Casino de Montréal . At the end of a real fight between Olympians where Mbilli survived in extremis twice, shaken by vicious uppercuts, Marc Ramsay's protégé won by unanimous decision in what was the most spectacular shock to be presented in Quebec in 2023.
Special mention to the action-packed unified IBF, WBC and WBO light heavyweight (175 lb) world championship fight between Montrealer Artur Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KO) and Briton Anthony Yarde (24-3, 23 KO), on September 23 in London, where the two men exchanged power shots before seeing the champion finish the job in the eighth round.
BOXER OF THE YEAR
Even though he has only competed in one fight in 2023, Artur Beterbiev is the only Fleurdelisé pugilist, man or woman, to have won a world championship clash this year. His triumph over the athletic British Anthony Yarde, on hostile ground at Wembley Stadium in London, was the most meritorious gain for Quebec boxing in 2023 and made him the Boxer of the Year in Quebec.
Honorable mention to Albertan Steve Claggett with four victories this year, where he notably got his hands on the WBO International title in his last outing, in addition to defending his IBF North American super-lightweight title (140 lbs) at three occasions.
BOXER OF THE YEAR
Montreal native of Joliette Kim Clavel has had a tough year, but she is still the professional Quebec boxer who has stood out the most on the international scene. After all, she had two title unification fights where she was more than competitive.
Her first outing of the year against WBA light flyweight champion Yesica Nery Plata (30-2, 3 KOs), on January 13 at Place Bell, was thrilling. Nery Plata's precision nevertheless allowed him to add the WBC belt to his collection thanks to a unanimous decision win.
Clavel returned to the ring on May 12, still at Place Bell, where she defeated the tough Mexican Naomi Arellano Reyes (9-3, 5 KO) by unanimous decision to get her hands on the WBC International crown, question of set up a unification clash of the IBF and WBO championships against the champion, Argentina's Evelin Nazarena Bermudez (19-1-1, 6 KOs), on October 7 at Place Bell. The latter was declared the winner by a split decision of the judges.
Honorable mention to Tokyo Games Olympian Caroline Veyre with her five victories in 2023, including one against French champion Anaelle Angerville and another against fierce WBC Francophone champion Emma Gongora.
KO OF THE YEAR
Alexis Barrière on Michael Marshall
The left-handed heavyweight from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu Alexis Barrière (11-0, 9 KO) achieved the Quebec knockout of the year, on April 20 at the Cabaret du Casino de Montréal, when he knocked the New England champion Michael Marshall (6-5-1, 4 KO) in the first round. The latter fell so heavily after being hit in a counterattack that he suffered a broken knee.
Honorable mention to knockouts to the sixth assault by Laval resident Erik Bazinyan on the American Ronald Ellis, on October 11 at the Montreal Casino. THE KO by Terry Osias on Francy Ntetu, March 18 in Châteauguay, is also worthy of mention.
SURPRISE OF THE YEAR
Defeat of Arslanbek Makhmudov
The surprise of the year is undoubtedly the tough defeat of Montreal heavyweight Arslanbek Makhmudov (18-1, 17 KO) at the hands of the German of Kurdish origin Agit Kabayel (24-0, 16 KO) suffered on the 23 December in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
After easily winning two duels on the road in 2023, one in Ohio and one in Saudi Arabia on the undercard of the clash between Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou, everything seemed to be aligning well for the intimidating giant. He was the clear favorite in this face-to-face between undefeated colossi.
Kabayel, much smaller, took advantage of his speed, his mobility and above all, his brilliant strategy of attacking his rival's body, in order to defeat Makhmudov, who capitulated in the fourth round.
As for international amateur boxing, two Canadian boxers established at the National Sports Institute (INS), based at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, qualified for the Paris Olympic Games.
Wyatt Sanford (63,5 kg, men) and Tammara Thibeault (75 kg, women) both won gold medals at the Pan American Games held October 19-27 in Santiago, Chile, to to earn a pass to the Great Games.
Junior Petanqui (71 kg, men), Cedrick Belony-Duliepre (80 kg, men – Haiti), Bryan Colwell (92 kg, men), Mckenzie Wright (50 kg, women) and Charlie Cavanagh (66 kg, women) also won bronze medals at the Pan-American Games.
Amateur pugilists qualified during the last Boxing Canada qualifications will once again have the chance to try to qualify for Paris during two international tournaments which will be held respectively in Italy and Thailand in 2024.