For a while, it seemed a discussion on the current state of boxing in Canada couldn’t be held without two names constantly being brought up. One is that of Romanian-born super middleweight, Lucian Bute, and the other is Haitian-born light heavyweight, Jean Pascal. Both fighters were to Canada what the Klitschkos were to Germany. Selling out arenas against middling to club-level competition doesn’t seem like the worst gig in the world, but over time people began to grow skeptical of the two fighters seemingly superstar status. Add in the fact that neither fighter seemed willing to fight outside of their adopted home-town, and many fans, especially in the states, denounced their celebrity status to nothing more than a blatant money grab.
“You know what, I think in the case of Bute and Pascal it came down to money really. They were both star attractions in Montreal, and they knew that they could fill the Bell Centre when they headline shows. In some cases, like when Pascal fought Chad Dawson and Bernard Hopkins, both times, those were situations where there was more money to be made for the whole promotion itself if had it as a local Pascal show rather than if it was in Dawson’s hometown, or in Philly, where Hopkins is from. Pascal just drew more tickets than both of those guys. I think that’s what it really came down to, money. Same with Bute. Bute fills the Bell Centre every time he fights, so there’s money to be made there. We did see though with Bute vs. Froch that Froch filled up that stadium down in the U.K. since they won that bidding war, so when Bute had to travel overseas I think you can say, possibly, that maybe that Bute’s performance was partially due to him having to be on the road for the first time, possibly in his career. It was the first time he was really put outside of his comfort zone, so it might have played a part.
With both Bute and Pascal suffering recent losses, some of their luster undoubtedly faded. Now more than ever it seems Canadian’s are looking for a fighter to fill that void, while also being a fighter who can be acknowledged as one of the best throughout the world. This is where Tony Luis comes into the picture.
The 25-year old junior welterweight is quietly climbing the sports ranks, while making a name for himself in his hometown of Ontario, Canada. With a record of 15-0, 7 knockouts, Luis seems poised to make himself the next big thing coming out of the country as long as he can continue his winning ways.
“Definitely. There are a handful of guys that are on the rise in the Canadian boxing scene that are looking to fill that void. Most notable and recent example is Arash Usmanee, the opener to ESPN’s first Friday Night Fights telecast this year, and he got robbed against Rances Barthelemy when they both fought. So myself, along with a few others, are all looking to……you know, I don’t see it as filling a void like being the next Jean Pascal or Lucian Bute, I want to be the first Tony Luis and I’m ready for that.”
Before any talk of his future standing in the sport continues, Luis’ main focus is his opponent on the January 25th edition of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights series, Miguel Gonzalez. Gonzalez comes into this fight boasting a record of 20-3, with 15 knockouts to his name. Where Gonzalez may not be the most recognizable name in the sport, he offers a stylistic challenge as well as being a significant step up in competition for the young Luis.
“ He’s a rangy, slick southpaw. The typical kind of southpaw that nobody wants to fight. He’s got a dangerous left hand, along with twenty wins, three losses, and fifteen KO’s. He’s got a good resume of opposition he’s been up against, possibly better than some of the opposition I’ve been up against, so he’s definitely a big step-up for me, and I’m ready for it. I’m looking forward to showing the world what I could do January 25th.”
With this fight being televised on ESPN, Luis will have to put on a dominant performance against the more experienced Gonzalez in order to set himself apart in a division full of some of the sports’ best all-action style fighters.
“I’m looking to box him early, and break him down late. That’s the game plan. I want to dictate the pace. I think that’s going to be the key to this fight, dictating the pace, box him when I want to box, and making him fight when I want to fight.”
Luis’ need for a dominant or stoppage victory is made even more important when one realizes that he fighting in his opponents home country. In a sport that has been built on fighters’ ever growing superstitions, many fighters often opt out of fighting in an opponents home country. Sure, jet-lag and differences in food could affect a fighter, but as we’ have seen recently, nothing effects the outcome of a fight more than a judges bad scorecard. Issues with score cards have become so rampant in the sport, that many negotiations between fighters fall through when discussing where the fight takes place. With Luis taking a fight in the U.S., one wouldn’t be wrong to wonder if he’s ever worried of some kind of home-country type bias for his opponent on the scorecards.
“You know what, I don’t want to think about that. I don’t let that get into my head because it’s not what I want to be thinking about when I’m in the dressing room warming up for the biggest fight of my life. I just want think about the game plan and the man in front of me. As far as the judging and other type of circumstances go, these are all things that I can’t control, and if I can’t control it why am I going to worry about it? I want to worry about the man in the ring, and I’ll let fate take care of the rest. I’ll deal with anything else after the fact, but whatever happens, happens. That’s the only way I look at it.”
With an aura of confidence and absolute fearlessness, one can’t help but respect a fighter like Luis. Even in his 25-years of age, he has come to understand that everything in boxing is a fine balance between competition and business. It’s this kind of mentality, along with a good group behind him, that will take Luis far in a sport that has proven to be as financially prosperous, as it is physically and emotionally brutal.
“Like, we’ve had some offers before to fight in guys’ backyards, but it was for low pay, no exposure, and there was no gain from it. It’s not because I’m afraid, but what it comes down to is that sometimes in this sport when you reach a certain level it starts to become a business as much as it is a sport. So you have to look out for yourself, and look out for the people around you. We’ve turned down a couple fights in which the risk didn’t match the reward, and we needed something to gain from it too. In this case, with Miguel Gonzalez, yes, he’s the American and I’m the Canadian, I’m fighting on American soil, and on American television, I get that, but as long as there’s exposure to gain from it, it’ll be great for my ranking, and we know we can beat this guy.”
If Luis manages to get past Gonzalez on the 25th, it will be interesting to see just how far he shoots up the rankings. Whether he sees himself fighting a top-10 opponent sooner rather than later seems to be a different story, however.
“I don’t really put a time-line on it, to be honest. I just take it one fight at a time. I don’t like to get caught up in numbers or get caught looking too far ahead because when fighters start doing that that’s when they get beat, so I just take it one fight at a time. My main focus right now is Miguel Gonzalez, and that’s it. We’ll worry about all that after January 25th.”
With his mix of business savvy, a fearless attitude, and and old-school fighter’s mentality, it is easy to see why many feel Tony Luis will be the next torch-bearer of Canadian boxing, along with being the next great threat in an already dangerous junior welterweight division. No one can tell when or how this kind of recognition will finally fall upon the young fighter, but one thing is for sure, it all starts against Miguel Gonzalez on Jan. 25th.
– For any news, radio, or general boxing talk, be sure to follow Tha’ Boxing Voice on Twitter ( @ThaBoxingVoice) along with myself ( @dfgonzalez305) . Also, be sure to tune in to ESPN’s Friday Night Fights as Tony Luis (15-0, 7 knockouts) takes on Miguel Gonzalez (23-3, 15 knockouts).