Setting up a big punch-fest

MURRAY GREIG, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:15 AM ET

Promoter Sheldon Hinton is hoping tonight's 10-bout Follow the Trail pro-am card at The Palace banquet hall will set the stage for a summer show featuring multiple Canadian title fights.

"It's wide open," Hinton said at last night's weigh-in at the Beverly Bronx Gym. "In the May ratings from the Canadian Boxing Federation, the championship is vacant in seven of the 13 weight divisions.

"And with a lot of the best fighters in the country right here in Edmonton, it only makes sense to think about putting three or even four title fights on the same card. That's what we're hoping to do."

Hinton is due for a mandatory defence of his CAM (Canada-America-Mexico) heavyweight title no later than mid-July, and with Edmonton being home to nationally ranked contenders James Cermak (cruiserweight), Jason De Laronde (super middleweight), Kris Andrews (super welterweight) and Omar Valdez (super featherweight), a mega-card with multiple title fights is definitely doable.

Cermak, who's headlining tonight against Winnipeg's Kareem Chartrand, is rated the No. 3 contender for Frank White's cruiserweight crown - even though at 13-2 (9 KOs), the hard-punching Edmontonian's record is better than both No. 1-ranked Kevin Reynolds (9-1) and No. 2-ranked Ryan Henney (12-3).

Meanwhile, De Laronde, Andrews and Valdez are all in divisions with vacant titles. In fact, in Andrews (No. 3), Anthony Lessard (No. 5) and Trevor Moyah (No. 6), Edmonton has half of the top-six super welterweights in the nation.

Valdez, who's facing Winnipeg's Tim Watts in tonight's semi-main event, battled to a draw with Halifax's Steve Cannell in their showdown for the Canadian super bantamweight belt in November. Valdez has since moved up to super featherweight, where he's ranked No. 2 behind Quebec's unbeaten Pierre Cote for the vacant title.

"Edmonton has the best boxing fans in Canada and more nationally ranked fighters than any city in the country, so it's a no-brainer to bring title bouts here," said Hinton, who holds down the No. 7 rating at heavyweight.

"The thing I want to get out there is that there's plenty of pie to go around for everyone. Promoters and matchmakers have to stop playing these little games with each other and concentrate on what's best for the sport and what's best for the folks who are buying the tickets to watch it.

"This pro-am card is just the start of what we want to do to take boxing to another level in Edmonton. It's a chance to showcase some up-and-coming amateur talent while at the same time putting the pros on notice that we're heading in a new direction. We're not called the City of Champions for nothing. We want to make sure that includes boxing, too."

BIG SKY AT SCHOOL

Who says there's no accountability in sports journalism?

Earlier this week I reported that heavyweight Tye (Big Sky) Fields would be visiting with students at Guthrie elementary school before meeting the troops and touring the base at CFB Edmonton. Unfortunately, I wrote that the visit was scheduled for yesterday, when in fact it's set for this morning, starting a 10:45. Sorry, guys.

As penance for the blunder, my heartless boss has assigned me to cover tomorrow night's mixed martial arts card at the Shaw Conference Centre - even though he knows I'd rather have root canal surgery. I'll take my punishment; but there's no way in hell I'm going to credit anybody with a "rear naked choke hold."


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