The Montreal promotional company Interbox was forced to rebuild its reputation as a major player in professional boxing in the province of Quebec after being rescued from bankruptcy by former WBC super middleweight champion Eric Lucas in 2004. Many questioned where or not Lucas had what it took to make the switch from puncher to promoter, but over the last two years, Interbox has firmly established itself as home to a new generation of future world champions. This is in no small part due to veteran trainer Stephan Larouche, who also serves as Director of Operations for the company.
Currently there are two Interbox promoted fighters a breath away from title shots in 2007, light heavyweight Adrian Diaconu and super middleweight Lucien Bute. Both are trained by Larouche.
Diaconu’s record is an impressive 23-0, with 14 knockouts. He was busy in 2006 with three solid fights, adding the NABA, Trans American and WBC International light heavyweight belts to the Canadian title on his prize shelf. His next fight will be March 23 in Montreal against Rico Hoye in a WBC eliminator bout. The winner will face Chad Dawson who outboxed Tomasz Adamek this weekend in Florida to win the WBC title.
Lucien Bute is arguably Canada’s most talented fighter and probably the most popular. Bute’s record of 19-0 with a remarkable 16 knockouts has been well earned, as his last three fights have been against top ten contenders. There was some concern whether or not Bute would be able to handle his first formidable southpaw, delivered in the form of Russian Sergey Tatevoysan on January 19 in Montreal, but Bute made it look easy and is now at the front of the super middleweight line, patiently waiting. He is ranked in the top ten of all the major sanctioning bodies and a title shot is almost assured in 2007.
In addition to Bute and Diaconu, Interbox also has a strong next generation in the pugilistic pipeline. Sebastien Gauthier, Jean-Francois Bergeron, Benoit Gaudet, Antonin Decarie and Jo Jo Dan are all up and comers who are building their records fight by fight at Interbox’s regular sell-out shows at the Bell Centre.
The Fight Network talked with Stephan Larouche by phone from the Interbox gym in Montreal.
Why do you think boxing is so popular in Montreal?
There is an old tradition of boxing here and I think that what has happened lately, if we talk more about my time, I really think that the fact that Eric Lucas became a world champion when nobody was expecting it, and he also was a role model in the community. It helped to create that fan base of eight or ten thousand people. They kind of declined a little bit when Eric lost the belt, but suddenly they have adopted Lucien. They are supporting him.
Is Lucien Bute the most popular boxer in the province?
He is by far the most popular. He is fighting guys from outside. When it was most popular in Quebec was the local bouts. Eric Lucas, the Hiltons. Always two Montrealers. With the good buildup, it was easy to draw between ten and twenty thousand people. I mean easy. Lucien is the first guy fighting guys from outside and selling that many tickets. There is something special around him.
He has star quality?
Probably yes. He has what it takes in the ring and also that charisma. You may be a good fighter but if you don’t attract people, there’s nothing you can do.
How important is it that Lucien starts fighting outside of Montreal?
This year 2007 is going to be a big year. There’s going to be American exposure. He could also be in Europe in the near future. We’re also looking to fight in the States in the near future.
Since Lucien will be fighting on your next card on March 23 at the Bell Centre, he won’t be at the Mikkel Kessler- Librado Andrade fight for the WBC and WBA super middleweight titles in Denmark on March 24?
No. We were requested to be on the card of that fight as a co-main event but with Adrian Diaconu being involved here in an eliminator with Rico Hoye, we want to be here and be beside him. It’s going to be an important fight in his life and we all want to be part of that show so we won’t be able to make the Denmark trip.
The IBF title has been vacated by Joe Calzaghe, and Robert Steiglitz is fighting Alejandro Berrio for that belt on March 3 and we’re behind not far. I think Lucien will see something shortly because there is lot of activity. Kessler-Andrade, Calzaghe- Manfredo. The super middleweight division really changed over the last couple of years. It became an interesting division.
Do you have a dream fight?
To be honest, so far, no not really. We’re working our way up and will get there. Of course when you have the belt and the TV beside you, you can request more guys then when you’re not in that spot. I would like to see him with Peter Manfredo for sure.
You have many talented Quebecois born and raised fighters at Interbox. How do you account for the talent pool in Quebec?
t comes from the amateur trainers, and by the fact that Interbox was there. It helped to create a lot of enthusiasm in the gyms so more trainers were involved. When you’ve got kids that have been developed, sometimes not by us, but by amateur trainers, and when you pick them, the base is good. Ontario and Quebec over the last 20-30 years have been the two provinces that have had the highest number of spots on the national team over the years. A few from Nova Scotia, a few from the West but if we think about the West, since Dale Brown we haven’t seen someone dominating as he did in the past.
Montreal is the place to be for boxing in Canada. Ontario doesn’t seem to have much going on professionally.
It has changed a lot over the years. It’s too sad to see a world champion there now (Steve Molitor) and he is hardly even being promoted there.
In Montreal there are two big promotional companies, GYM and Interbox. Do you see yourself as competitors, or do you in a sense exist together and cooperate in bringing Montreal and its fighters to the world stage?
We’re not competing really because we don’t actually do the same thing as what they are doing. They’re doing lots of shows, developing lots of fighters at the same time, in smaller places. And we’re doing less shows, but bigger shows with less fighters. We wouldn’t be able to do what they’re doing, and they wouldn’t be able to do the bigger shows. Our success does not come from their success, and theirs does not come from ours.
The market is there for both of you
Exactly and you know a good competition is always good for business. A good quality competition
What are the qualities that you look for when you decide to sign a fighter?
It’s a lot of investment signing a fighter. You’re going to be spending between $150,000 and $300,000 before collecting quality money, before being able to get your money back. So this is what I look for first. I always say if it were my own money, would I spend money on this guy? If I say yes, I would go for it. Of course we try to get the same. All the fighters we have are good people. They’ve got education, they’ve got the quality of life and they don’t abuse drugs or alcohol. They are really clean, clean people and we are not afraid to go everywhere with them. We try to get those guys that people would like to identify with. And they also need to be able to speak on television. This is like show business. If you can’t express yourself, how are you going to sell tickets? And of course the French language is very important.
Do you think attitudes have changed towards fighters from Quebec? Is the international boxing community looking at Montreal more seriously now?
I really believe that, only if one of our guys is performing, not competing, not appearing, but performing internationally, we’re going to start getting noticed and recognized by not only promoters but American television. It’s not appearing or competing. It’s performing. So far we haven’t got any guy in Canada who is performing worldwide yet. Eric Lucas was a good world champion. He defended here but we never really made the States. We never went outside too much. Nobody in Canada lately besides Lennox Lewis has been performing. I think no matter what we do here we will always be a good provider of quality fighters and if we want to go a step further we need to perform.