Gardiner and Villeneuve give card local flavour
By Dave Spencer
It’s been a long time since Ottawa boxing fans have had one of their own to cheer. Not since the days of Canadian champions Conroy Nelson and Gaetan Hart ruled the day in the 80’s have Capital Region followers had one of their own to hang their hat on.
This Saturday’s card at the Lac-Leamy Casino in Gatineau, the first in what hopes to be an ongoing concern, should be the first step in a return to glory for the Nation’s Capital, an area that boasted the only world title fight held in Canada in the 90’s when Otis Grant defended his WBO belt in 1998.
Winnipeg transplant Andy Gardiner (6-0 3KO) and debuting light-heavyweight Pascal Villeneuve lead the local contingent that was originally scheduled to have included Tyler Asselstine who used to train in Ottawa before the now Toronto based fighter got bumped to an ESPN co-feature broadcast from Montreal last week.
“This is something that didn’t exist until recently,” said Eric Belanger who trained Asselstine for his first eight fights and currently is the man behind Gardiner and Villeneuve. “We’re hoping to do a series in Gatineau and I’ve got a list of all about four more fighters waiting to make their pro debut. We have a tentative date for the next one, we’ll see how this one goes first but three more this year is the goal. I think what was missing in the past was there was never a local base for shows here, There was never an Ottawa base, there never was a local fighter that fought here since God knows when. I think that’s what we’re adding to it.”
The trainer of the Final Round boxing club is working with both Eye of the Tiger and Hennessy Sports in presenting the shows and will have to rely on the likes of fighters likes of Gardiner and Villeneuve moving forward. “Pascal is a very good fighter,” said Belanger of the local making his debut, “If you know Colin Fish, he’s a very similar style, a very talented fighter. We’ve been talking about turning pro for years, he’s a good ticket seller it’s a good chance to turn pro without a promoter and not be thrown to the wolves. I think the timing is right to at least get started as a pro.”
Undefeated Gardiner is coming from what was a traditional market in Winnipeg to an equally desolate one in Ottawa when he turned pro last spring. “I’m happy the way things are going,” the fighter told FightNews. “I think all the promoters retired and nobody’s putting on shows anymore,” said the fighter. “I decided if I was going to continue, I had to make a move. I had known Eric as a National Team coach so I decided to contact him and make the move out to Ottawa. It was close enough to Montreal and Toronto is right there too. Boxing is not huge there, not yet anyway, but we’re hoping it’s going to start picking up.”
Joining Gardiner and Villeneuve on Saturday’s show will be number one WBC ranked Dierry Jean who will now headline against Juan Jesus Rivera. Ahmad Cheikho, Brandon Cook, Schiller Hypolite, Mian Hussain and Francis Lafreniere are also all set to go.