Names like Sam Langford, Tommy Burns, Jimmy McLarnin and George Chuvalo should instantly ring bells in your head if you consider yourself a Canadian Boxing fan. To think most of the first bouts in Canada were bareknuckle fights until gloves started to be introduced at the turn of the century, that most of those fights scheduled before the 1900’s were to be 40 rounds and fought under Marquis of Queensbury rules. We’ve come a long way since the Sweet Science of Boxing started making waves in this great country. Wednesday evening, despite the threats of rain, close to 16,000 people poured into the Budweiser Stage after 4pm in Toronto, Ontario for the second of four stops on the Mayweather vs McGregor World tour. Despite no Michael Buffer, ring girls, a boxing ring or even a fight, boxing fever was in full effect.
After a long wait, a performance by an OVO artist and a quick hello by Canada’s own Drake, the two icons walked onto the stage closer to 7pm, just 24 hours after doing so in Los Angeles, California. What clearly seemed to be a pro-McGregor crowd had their boos quickly turn into cheers as the two engaged in a fight of words. Floyd and Connor numerous times throughout the event took ‘shots’ at each other up-close and as personal as possible without an actual fight breaking out. It was truly amazing to watch two athletes mesmerize a large audience, who were hanging onto every word spoken making the entire event have the feeling of something you’d tell your grandchildren about one day.
Sam Langford was named “Boxer of the Half-Century” by the Canadian Press, he won heavyweight championships in England, Spain and Mexico. Including a heavyweight championship win in 1923 despite being declared legally blind. He was denied a bout with Jack Johnson, being told by his opposition’s management that Negros would not draw. It would be amazing if Mayweather Promotions and The Money Team purchased a time machine to show the ignorant of times past how a ‘Negro’ has a $340 million net-worth according to Forbes in 2016.
Tommy Burns was the first Canadian to have ever held the world heavyweight championship when he defeated Marvin Hart, he would defend his title 10 times in 33 months before losing to Jack Johnson on Christmas Day in 1908. His $30,000 earned for that bout, was considering the beginning of ‘big’ money for boxers. Mayweather/McGregor is estimated to pull in $77.1 million in just ticket revenue alone, along with a projected $455 million in PPV sales.
Jimmy McLarnin, despite being born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1907, had his family immigrate to Saskatchewan in 1910. On May 29th, 1933 he won the world welterweight championship in Los Angeles by knocking out "Young" Corbett III at 2:37 of the very first round. He would lose the title for good May 28th, 1935 in front of a crowd of 40,000 people at the Polo Grounds in New York City, but not before his fame grew as the ‘Irish Hero’. Very similar to how a certain Irish MMA fighter with a record of 21-3, who’s first 10 MMA fights took place on Irish soil has won the hearts/minds of his fellow countrymen, while stating “we’re not here to take part, we’re here to take over.”
George Chuvalo’s 64 of his 73 wins were by knockout, despite going to wars with George Foreman, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali he was never knocked off his feet. He originally won the Canadian Heavyweight Championship in 1956, and then held the belt for 11 years from 1968 before relinquishing it in 1979. Arguably the biggest boxing event to ever take place in Canada (although George Foreman fighting five men in one hour in 1975 in Toronto has to be up there), Chuvalo fought Muhammad Ali March 29th, 1966 at Maple Leaf’s Gardens in front of 13,540. The two engaged in a 15-round fight in what witnessed recalled as ‘brutality meeting beauty’, in which Ali was declared the winner via unanimous decision. Although it has been said that after the fight while Ali was taken to the hospital with excessive blood in his urine, Chuvalo said he went dancing with his wife. Although this was a mere Press Conference for a World Tour, the attendance alone for Mayweather/McGregor is proof that the country is starving for some big name boxing to come compete on its land once more.
Although it wasn’t the fight itself, people walked away from the Budweiser Stage; happy, cheerful and maybe most importantly as fans of what they witnessed. (Which should make the projected $99.95 PPV buy a little easier pill to swallow) The touring circus of Mayweather/McGregor is only half over, as the World Tour Press Conference will move onto Brooklyn, New York before finalizing in London, England on Friday. A tremendous hype up and build has indeed already been created for a boxing match still debated by most regarding its sincerity, regardless it all culmanates August 26th, 2017 at the T-Mobile Arena in Nevada.