TORONTO - Allan Tremblay has promoted so many professional boxing shows over the years, he has probably lost track of some of them.
But you can bet that the Mississauga resident will never forget the first time he became involved in a mixed martial arts card.
It was July 23, 2011, and Tremblay remembers precisely what went down that day — though not of the actual fight card. In fact, he never made it up to watch the fights at Casino Rama near Orillia, Ont.
What few people knew at the time was that in the hours leading up to the Bellator 47 show, Tremblay was robbed of $45,000 US — bonus money that was supposed to go the fighters.
As a fight promoter, Tremblay has certainly witnessed his share of robberies over the years. But nothing like this.
On the Saturday morning of the card, Tremblay had to drive back down to Mississauga from Rama to pick up the $45,000 from his bank to pay out later to the fighters.
“I went up to Rama (Friday) night to make sure everything was okay, then I had to drive down on Saturday, the day of the event, to get the extra cash,” said Tremblay, during breakfast recently at a Mississauga, Ont., restaurant.
He made arrangements with the bank prior to driving down, withdrew the cash and then drove over to his Mississauga home to retrieve some clothes. And then, before getting on Hwy 407 for the trip back to Rama, Tremblay, who was driving, and an associate (whom he didn’t want to name for legal reasons), pulled into a Shell service centre for some gas. After filling up, the two of them went inside to pay.
“When we came out of the service station, the tires were almost flat, and there was an implement on the ground. And I go ‘Holy $%&^.’ I run over, open the trunk and the case with the money is gone,” he said.
Tremblay, a former Air Canada executive, admitted that leaving the money in the trunk was stupid, but he also believes the robbers’ ability to obtain the cash while they were away from the car might have saved he and his passenger from being assaulted later. He believes the thieves’ original plans were to slightly puncture the tire and then follow the car until the tire went completely flat and then move in for the robbery. The police haven’t solved the case yet, but Tremblay believes it was an inside job.
“It has to be,” he said. “That is not a random thing you do on a Saturday afternoon, that somebody just looks inside your trunk.
“Somebody had to know what’s in there, to take that kind of risk in broad daylight,” added the promoter, who helped guide Sarnia boxer Steve Molitor to a world super bantamweight title in years past. “It comes down to who knew I was going to get the money and how much.”
Tremblay said he was a suspect at first, as was his passenger. But he has other theories as to whom might have been involved. For obvious reasons, he won’t say who on the record, but he did forward his theories to the police.
To say the least, the heist was quite a shock to the system for Tremblay, who at 70, has been battling prostate cancer for the past couple of years while still promoting shows in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. But another shock, he said, was the response of the Bellator people when he called to tell them what had happened.
“I phone up, because they’re waiting for the money, and I get (Bellator CEO) Bjorn Rebney. He says, ‘What the $%^& happened?’ You gotta get up here! These guys have to get paid, what’s going to happen to the show?’ And I said ‘Well, I just want you to know that I’m okay, you #$%^&* asshole.’”
Tremblay said that Rebney apologized for his lack of concern.
After being held by the police for some hours, Tremblay drove up to Rama and paid most of the bonus money in personal cheques.
“It was obligation on my part,” he said. “I’m not going to see the fighters stuck. I apologized to them individually that I didn’t have cash, so I wrote them all cheques.”
Tremblay said Rama later kicked in ⅓ of what he had to pay out of his pocket to the fighters, and he paid the other ⅔, which he realizes he’ll never get back, even if Peel police catch the bad guys.
A Peel police official told the Toronto Sun on Monday that the investigation is on-going.