(Shawinigan) Behind the glass doors that cut off strong winds, Camille Estephan greeted boxers and guests at the entrance to building 3B of the Espace Shawinigan, a large room housed in the former aluminum smelter in the Cité de l’énergie that once housed Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s museum.
Impeccably dressed as usual, the organizer chatted with Clint Butler, father of Steven Butler (31-3-1, 26 K.-O.), one of the main names at the gala this Friday night at the Center Gervais Auto.
Estephan hoped to attract up to 4,500 spectators to the card, which will feature heavyweight Arslanbek Makhmudov and super welterweight Mary Spencer, who will try to push a first world belt, the vacant IBO, to her size in just her eighth professional fight.
However, the Eye of the Tiger boss fears the withdrawal of injured local heavyweight Simon Kean, news of a blizzard and perhaps concerns about mingling with a large crowd at this infection-prone time may have chilled some.
“I think we’ll be around 3,500, 4,000 if we’re lucky,” Estephan calculated a few minutes after the end of the weigh-in, where the 14 pugilists fulfilled this part of the contract.
“The first contest is the scale, it’s the first opponent,” said Spencer, who admitted to some excitement before coming up to it, though respecting the 154lb limit gave him no qualms.
People may think that it is just a consideration, but it is a very important step today. It’s too early to get aggressive and ready to go, but it’s a first step to say, “Now I’m ready.”
Minutes later, the 38-year-old Montrealer stopped the pin at 152.6 lbs, the exact same weight as her rival, Belgian Femke Hermans (13-4, 5 KOs). His husky Ellie barked approval under Marie-Christine, wife of Spencer, who is originally from the place.
“A piece of Mary!” »
With 36 hours to go, Spencer and Hermans stared at each other with a stoic, vaguely menacing air for the traditional face-to-face.
The Belgian concedes three centimeters to his Canadian opponent, who expects to box with his knees slightly more bent.
Few observers give chances to Hermans, who lost by KO. in the third round against British Savannah Marshall in the spring. She also went the distance against American star Claressa Shields in December 2018, a decision loss after 10 bouts.
Spencer (7-0, 5 KOs) considers her his most formidable opponent: “Maybe some people don’t look at it that way, but that’s certainly not the case for me or my team. I fought from 146 to 154 lbs in the pros. And even though she now weighs 154 lbs, she fought between 168 and 184 lbs. It’s his easiest fight and I’m his smallest opponent. It’s my toughest fight and she’s my toughest opponent. It must be considered.”
Hermans’ experience against Marshall and Shields, the two protagonists of a memorable clash seen by two million spectators in October, is an asset Spencer does not take lightly.
“By the way she walks around here and the way she looks at me during face to face, I can tell you she’s a cool girl who doesn’t want to know anything, you know?” Which basically says, “Yes, I want a piece of Mary Spencer, let’s go!” I’ll focus more on that part when I get out of here after the weigh-ins. »
“It could easily end there”
Spencer paused the interview for a few seconds to greet a group from the Kashechewan community in northern Ontario, where she lived and is still very involved. The popularity and magnetism of the representative of the Ojibwe Nation is obvious.
On Friday, it is Herman’s face that makes her want to jump. Is a knockout a goal, a way to make yourself even more visible on the international stage?
“I just have to fight, assured the former three-time amateur world champion. But when I find the trick, it could easily end there. And I don’t think it will take 10 rounds to find the shot. Maybe a few rounds, but it really depends on how she can take it. If she can, we’ll fight 10 rounds.”
Not only would a win give Spencer a first world crown, it would “open doors” for him on the international stage. Shields already spotted him in a notable Twitter post earlier this week.
“There are eyes on the fight, she summed up. She is a common rival of Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall. People will compare the results. And when you start comparing, people start talking about it and doors open. »
For now, with the wind blowing beneath Shawinigan’s gray skies, it was better to keep them closed.
Speaking of gates, Michael Wallisch (23-5, 16 KOs) would be the “real business gatekeeper” for Arslanbek Makhmudov (15-0, 14 KOs), according to trainer Marc Ramsay. The Montreal heavyweight will defend his NABA and NABF belts on Friday night.
” [Wallisch] is an international level guy, assured Ramsay. When he faces the real prospects, the guys heading straight for the World Cup, people like Joe Joyce, he tends to drift away from the games. All the others, he beats them. »
that coach compares Wallisch’s challenge to Poland’s Mariusz Wach, who Makhmudov stopped in the sixth round in February. In the next match, the Dagestan lion had reached the limit for the first time in his career against Frenchman Carlos Takam.
“We cannot say whether this opponent is the most dangerous or not,” Makhmudov said after stroking his beard. Every battle is dangerous and difficult. In heavyweight, every punch can be the last of your life. That is why you must be ready for all contradictions. »
Makhmudov stopped the weight at 265.4 lbs, exactly 31 lbs heavier than Munich Wallisch. “I’m preparing for 10 rounds,” Makhmudov said. Of course if I have a chance to finish it I will, if not I’ll wait. It’s business, it’s my job. I don’t go there to shoot sweet. My job is to destroy people. “Uncomfortable work.
The event will be broadcast live on PunchingGrace internationally and on the ESPN+ network for the United States.