Canadian title has lost its lustre

MURRAY GREIG, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:29 AM ET

There's a simple reason the Canadian heavyweight title has lost the cachet it commanded a generation ago: not enough Canadians.

Since Vancouver's George Paris won the first recognized championship by knocking out Winnipeg's Wat Adams in Victoria on April 7, 1908, almost as many foreigners as homegrown fighters have worn our national heavyweight crown.

The latest is current Canadian Boxing Federation champ Grzegorz Kielsa, who was born in Bilaystok, Poland, and represented his homeland at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Billed as "The Steel Pole," he won the title in just his eighth pro fight by knocking out Kenya-born pretender Raymond Olubwale 13 months ago.

In the 17 years prior to Olubwale's brief reign, the title was passed around like a girlie magazine between a series of nondescript homegrown campaigners -- with the notable exception of two Jamaicans: Trevor Berbick and Donovan (Razor) Ruddock.

Indeed, you have to go all the way back to the heydays of Willie de Wit and two-time champ Ken Lakusta in the late 1980s to find native-born champions who were recognizable to anyone outside of their immediate families.

That's a sad thing for a title that's been held by such revered world-ranked contenders as George Chuvalo, Robert Cleroux, Earl Walls and Larry Gains. The list also includes Al Delaney (a.k.a. Alex Boychuk), the only Canadian to fight Joe Louis, and Eddie Winstob, Alberta's "Viking Flash," who dropped two close decisions to the great Tommy Farr back in 1935.

"I was always very proud to be introduced as the Canadian heavyweight champion ... especially at Madison Square Garden," says Chuvalo, who headlined at the Mecca of Fistiana a dozen times between 1958-70. "There was something special about being a national champ in my day, but, unfortunately, that no longer seems to be the case. Nowadays there are so few Canadian heavyweights and none of them are cracking the world's Top 10, so the title has lost a lot of its lustre."

Which only makes the latest communique from Kielsa's camp tougher to swallow.

New trainer Egerton Marcus says the six-foot-four, 240-pounder (11-0, 5 KOs) possesses knockout power that's "on the verge of exploding" -- but in order to showcase it, he'll have to look beyond Canada's borders

"Greg has a lot of natural power, but we haven't seen it yet in the ring," says Marcus. "Give him a couple of fights with me, and he'll be stopping guys on a regular basis. If he really wants to advance himself in this game, though, he has to set his sights on some real opposition, not the minnows here in Canada."

Minnows? Marcus's label apparently includes Edmonton's Sheldon Hinton (11-6-1) and Tye Fields (43-2), as well as Montreal's J.F. Bergeron (27-2). But all three have defeated opponents far superior to anyone on Kielsa's hit list.

MURRAY.GREIG@SUNMEDIA.CA


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