Fri, September 20, 2013

Canadian Kean edges French fighter in Olympic debut

Ex-champ Lennox Lewis impressed with new Canuck heavyweight

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency


Canada's Simon Kean (left) and France's Tony Yoka fight during their men's +91-kilogram Round of 16 match at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Aug., 1, 2012. (MURAD SEZER/Reuters)

LONDON - The greatest Olympic boxer Canada has ever produced smiled upon seeing a familiar face bound down the steps at the ExCel Arena, site of the Games boxing tournament.

Who is this Canadian heavyweight? asked Lennox Lewis, the U.K. born ex-heavyweight champion of the world, who was raised and honed his boxing skills in Kitchener, Ont. Is he good?

He was referring to Simon Kean, Canadas super-heavyweight, who is good, but it was Keans grit and toughness that earned him a decision over Tony Yoka of France on Wednesday night.

What about Mary? Lewis continued, in reference to three-time world champion Mary Spencer from Windsor, Ont., who fights next week.

When told about her recent trials and tribulations at the world championships, and the fact that there are only three boxers on the entire Canadian team here, Lewis expressed regret that the national program had regressed in recent years (though its on a definite upswing again under high performance director Daniel Trepanier).

Its too bad, he said. I know the club I started for Arnie (former coach Boehm) is doing very well. But maybe interest back in Canada is going down.

Lewis boxed on Canadian teams that consistently won medals at Olympics, though, to be fair, it is much more difficult for Canadian boxers to qualify for Games now than it was years ago. Lewis fought at both the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, where he lost in the quarter-finals to American Tyrell Biggs, and 1988 Seoul Games ,where he won the super-heavyweight gold medal by beat Riddick Bowe of the U.S., before turning pro in his native Great Britain and later winning the heavyweight title of the world.

He maintains a keen interest in Canadian boxing and was pulling for Kean on Wednesday night.

Perhaps, Kean picked up Lewis positive vibes on the night. The Quebec boxer took the fight to Yoka for three rounds. He suffered a bloodied nose in the first round, the result of Yokas quick left jab, and had his mouth piece pop out, but he nailed the Frenchman with a vicious left hook while absorbing the same later in the round. After one round, Yoka led 6-3. The Canadian brought the crowd to its feet early in the second when he charged out and nailed Yoka with a combination. He threw the bigger punches and took the round, 7-3. Leading 10-9 heading into the final round, Kean again took the fight to his French opponent, delighting the crowd. The Frenchman seemed to run out of steam and complained a lot, and continued to his jab, his only real weapon. When the round ended, Kean threw his arms in the air. The bout was scored 16-16 and Kean won via a count back when the judges go by the number of punches.

I think Im more tired than him, but I dont show that, said Kean, with a laugh, when asked if wore the Frenchman down. But Im very happy, for a long time I wanted to fight at the Olympics and the first fight went okay.

At 23, Kean is not young by Olympic boxing standards, but hasnt had a lot of international experience in recent years, the result of a serious all-terrain accident in 2007, when he almost lost his leg, and shoulder surgery last year.

Meanwhile, Lewis caused a mild sensation at the ExCel Arena when he suggested that he would take the head gear away from amateur boxing and change the judging system.

What I am concerned about is probably the judging, he said. You never know who is going to win until the end of the fight. Get some judges that score all year round.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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