Canada, Quebec City big winners in Pascal-Hopkins fight

BRIAN DALY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:31 PM ET

QUEBEC CITY -- WBC president Jose Sulaiman says Pascal-Hopkins was arguably "the fight of the year" and dismissed suggestions that Saturday's contested draw in any way sullied Canada's reputation as a world boxing power.

"The most important thing is that this was a great fight," the wheelchair-bound president told reporters Sunday. "The whole world is talking about the fight. Why destroy it with negative comments?

"(Canada) should be an outstanding (boxing locale) for the future."

At least 16,000 fans packed the Pepsi Colisee, former home of the Quebec Nordiques, for a fight that some boxing observers said would only have drawn 5,000 in Las Vegas.

Aside from a wonky scoreboard, the show was a first-class production with throbbing dance music, strobe lights and fireworks as well as an army of helpful ushers and servers at every turn.

The showpiece was Jean Pascal's pyrotechnic main event introduction. As the crowd roared, the champ rose into view on a platform as strobe lights flashed and a row of fireworks blasted behind him. A second round of fireworks exploded around the arena ceiling as the Quebecer entered the ring, making for a dizzying spectacle.

Though the final result left both camps unsatisfied, Quebec City's economy was a big winner. Hotels and restaurants were packed, pre-fight events had the town buzzing for days and ample coverage by national and international media provided plenty of free publicity.

The city's colourful mayor, Regis Labeaume, was all smiles after the bout.

"Thursday evening I gave an interview to Sports Illustrated and the New York Times is in town," said Labeaume, who has waged open warfare with Montreal for tourist dollars. "We no longer have a reputation as a city of bureaucrats."

The New Year could bring more spinoffs for the capital. The city has set its sights on hosting possible Pascal rematches against Bernard Hopkins, Chad Dawson, or both.

Pascal, who lives in the Montreal area, said the warm welcome might prove irresistible.

"I'm even thinking about moving here," he joked.

NOTES: Several notable boxers and other athletes were at ringside Saturday. IBF super-middleweight champion Lucian Bute of Montreal was in the house and a huge cheer went up when his face was flashed on the scoreboard during the undercards ... Longtime Canadian heavyweight champion George Chuvalo watched the fight from a VIP table, and former Montreal Canadiens enforcer and current mixed martial artist Georges Laraque was also in attendance ... Several members of the Grey-Cup-winning Montreal Alouettes were spotted in the Colisee's VIP section, as was New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin, a Montreal native ... Pascal's day-after news conference was interrupted by a power failure, prompting the champ to crack "Oh-oh, it's Golden Boy," a reference to Hopkins' promoter.


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