Asselstine, Gardiner, Daley, McGuinness all facing pivotal fights
By Dave Spencer
Photo Heby Whyne
While it has been Quebec that has traditionally fuelled the Canadian boxing engine, a handful of the province’s cross-border rivals from Ontario are facing pivotal showcase fights in the very near future. Starting tonight with super-lightweight Tony Luis who will be featured on ESPN's Friday Night Fights, Ontario pugilists are stepping up both profile wise and competition wise in what will be huge contests for a number of fighters.
Luis of Cornwall Ontario along with Tyler Asselstine, Logan McGuinness, Denton Daley, and Ottawa based Andrew Gardiner all face pivotal battles in the next month that will go a long way in telling just where they stand moving forward.
When 25 year-old Tony Luis (15-0 7KO) signed with American promoter Greg Cohen last year, it was exactly for fights like tonight's contest with Jose Hernandez that the undefeated fighter needed to jump-start his nearly five year old career; a national television appearance in a co-starring role against a formidable opponent in Jose Hernandez.
While the 13-6-1 Hernandez who has been brought in on short notice as a late substitute may not have the most stellar of records, the Texas fighter has thrown a spanner into the spokes of more than one fighter over the years. The nine-year veteran has only been stopped once has certainly held his own against more than a fair share of undefeated and quality opponents. His last three losses have come by either split or majority decisions along with handing an undefeated Mickey Bey the first blemish on an undefeated record with an eight round draw with the only judge to take a side seeing it six rounds to two for Hernandez. He also spoiled the party for 14-1 Juan Garcia and 19-1 Noe Bolanos.
Luis knows he will have his work cut out for him, "I know Jose Hernandez has a reputation for upsetting many prospects before and I don’t want to fall into that category," the fighter said in pre-fight press conference. Luis has had a relatively time against some lesser opposition of late, his last four fights have been early blowouts a big change for a fighter who had to wait until his sixth contest for his first early work day.
Two things that should be working in Luis's favour tonight will be that the Ontario fighter has always been a hard worker inside the ring with a volume attack that rarely lets up. With only five knockouts for Hernandez, Luis should be able to stand in there and deliver. Hernandez also has been steadily moving up in weight, beginning at bantamweight in 2004 and scraped in just under welterweight in a fight one year ago. For the past three years he has actively campaigned as a lightweight and has been 3-5-1 in that time and tipped the scales at 139 pounds yesterday.
In a position almost identical to that of Luis is Tyler Asselstine (12-0 7KO) who currently trains out of Toronto with Chris Johnson. The young Kingston fighter will also occupy the Friday Night Fight co-feature spot when ESPN rolls into Montreal in two weeks time as he takes on undefeated Joel Diaz (11-0 10KO). It’s a huge step for a fighter who has been growing by leaps and bounds in just over two years since turning pro.
“When the opportunity showed up, we jumped all over it,” said Asselstine’s promoter Adam Harris of Hennessy Sports. “He’s a world level guy, Tyler is not only strong and not only quick, but he has the experience and capacity to make bigger steps than most Canadian fighters at his level. The guy that he’s fighting even though he’s a tough kid (10 knockouts in 11 fights) I’m not sure he’s going to be able to deal with how organized Tyler is, how technical Tyler is, and just how accurate he punches. I think the winner will be able to move on to some really big fights in the foreseeable future because I know a lot of people have their eye on this one.”
It’s an opponent that Harris has been keeping his eye on for a while and now a fight that is happening sooner rather than later. With David Lemieux being injured and a spot available on the televised card, the promoter jumped on the opportunity. “ESPN needed a strong co-feature and I’ve had my eye on this (Diaz) kid for a while, I’m not going to say it’s the boxer versus the brawler because I’ll give him more credit than that, but anytime it’s a battle of undefeated fighters it’s of interest.”
Also making the jump up to a possible television appearance is Winnipeg transplant Andrew Gardiner (6-0) who has made Ottawa his new home. Gardiner will be fighting in the Capital region for the first time on February 16th across the river in Gatineau Quebec a bout that is destined land on Wealth TV against Konstantin Piternov (13-2) of Russia. Gardiner showed what he was made of in his last appearance in Montreal when he was more than willing to step in at the last minute against blue chip prospect Elieder Alvarez. Gardiner was told in the morning of fight that he would be facing his original opponent instead but the line was already drawn in the sand as to what the light-heavyweight is all about. Little is known about Gardiner’s opponent except his record and the fact he lost out on a Russian title via split decision. But going against a 13-2 opponent in your adopted hometown speaks volumes for a fighter who has only been pro for less than a year.
Cruiserweight Denton Daley (8-0) is also finding himself on a sharp learning curve. Still in single digits in wins, the Kitchener fighter has mowed through Canadian opposition and is due to meet former WBA belt-holder Richard Hall. Hall has had multiple title fights in a career that is definitely on the back-nine right now but has the experience that would pose a threat to anybody as new to the pro game as Daley. Hall has surprised before and it will quickly be known in the March 4th bout whether the talented Kitchener fighter has bitten off more than can chew.
Finally is NABA super-featherweight champion Logan McGuinness (19-0-1) who was originally scheduled to appear on Sho-Box in February against undefeated Art Hovhannisyam but it seems that fight is not going to happen. “That fight has been off for a couple of weeks now,” said his promoter Adam Harris, “Logan suffered a few cuts along with some bumps and bruises in his last fight in the Bell Centre. I think he needed to step away from things over the holidays. I’m looking for him to come back in March probably on a US TV date of his own. I’m not sure if that Hoyhannisyam bout will be available at the time, but if it is, I know it’s a bout he wants. Logan wants to break into the US market and this will certainly get him there.”