Andrews vs. Lessard history in making

MURRAY GREIG, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

In the 115 years since Eddie Connolly beat George Addison for the Dominion featherweight crown on April 3, 1894, Canadian boxing has seen 616 officially sanctioned national title bouts.

In all that time, however, Edmonton has never once hosted a championship tussle between two home-grown contenders.

In fact, the city's first national title fight didn't take place until Sept. 2, 1918, when Edmonton-born Clonie Tait made the fifth defence of his lightweight belt, knocking out Regina's K.O. Chaliff at the old Empire Theatre.

It's taken more than a century, but the long drought will end next month -- albeit with a unique twist.

On Aug. 28, when cross-town rivals Kris Andrews and Anthony Lessard square off for the Canadian Boxing Federation's vacant junior middleweight crown in the headliner on KO Boxing's Armed & Dangerous card at the Shaw Conference Centre, local bragging rights and national acclaim won't be the only things up for grabs.

"Besides being the city's first Canadian title bout between two Edmontonians, it's probably going to be the first one anywhere in which both fighters are sponsored by the same union," said Ken Franczek, who manages Andrews.

"It's something really unique. Both Kris and Anthony are members of Construction and General Workers' Union Local 92, which is one of the most progressive and fastest-growing unions for labourers and construction workers in North America.

"When (Local 92 business manager) Mike Reid found out about the fight, he immediately wanted to get involved," Franczek said yesterday.

"The idea has taken off like wildfire. Local 92 stepped up with nice sponsorship deals for both fighters, and ticket sales among the membership have been phenomenal. They're calling it 'The Brawl for the Hall.' Both guys have their own built-in cheering sections within the union, so it promises to be a very noisy night on Aug. 28."

For Andrews (14-8-2, 5 KOs), who knocked out Christopher Henry of Barbados to claim the World Boxing Association's FedeCaribe title last year, beating Lessard (7-4-2, 5 KOs) means much more than union hall plaudits or adding another belt to his collection.

"I respect everybody who has the guts to step into the ring and I would never demean any of my opponents, but I'm looking at this fight as an opportunity to close one chapter in my career and open up a new one," said the stylish six-foot-two southpaw.

"I know Anthony has been chirping a bit, but I'm not going to get into that. I respect him as a fighter, but to be honest, he doesn't belong in the ring with me.

"We've sparred a few rounds in the past, so I know what he's got. If I don't knock him out or at least win every round, I'll really be disappointed.

"Winning a title is always nice, especially since this will be a first for Edmonton, but like I said, I want to close the book on fighting at this level and step up against better international competition.

"I had a good offer to fight in Germany a few months ago against a guy who's ranked in the world's Top 15, but the timing wasn't right. Once I have the Canadian title, I can start taking fights like that."

Andrews, who's training out of the Cougar Boxing Club, said he's more focused than at any time in his career.

"I'm training for this fight like it's for the world title; that's how important it is to me," he said.

"Next week I start working out with (MMA fighter) Ryan Ford, so my conditioning and intensity level is right where we want it. I know what's on the line on Aug. 28, so we're not leaving anything to chance. This will be the win that takes me to a new level."

QUICK JABS: Andrews and Lessard are ranked No. 2 and No. 3 respectively among Canadian junior middleweights. No. 1-ranked Paul Clavette (15-2-1) of Quebec has only fought once since being KO'd by unbeaten Ronald Hearns last fall ... Lessard is coming off a very impressive KO of Trevor Moyah on June 20 at the River Cree Resort and Casino ... Undercard details for Armed & Dangerous are still being worked out, but promoter Glen Carriere yesterday confirmed that former Canadian cruiserweight champ Ryan Henney of Saskatoon will fight a featured prelim, as will popular Edmonton lightweight Ayana Pelletier.


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