Before Renan St. Juste’s first appearance on American premium cable – his Showtime-televised super middleweight bout against undefeated prospect Anthony Dirrell on Friday – he had another debut to make.
“Sorry, I’m a little nervous, this is my first press conference,” St. Juste sheepishly announced at a gathering of media in Montreal on Monday.
In arguably the hottest boxing market in North America, Quebec, St. Juste (23-2-1, 15 knockouts) has always been an afterthought. After all, he’s not even the best super middleweight in the province—that honor belongs to undefeated IBF titleholder Lucian Bute. With a supportive batch of fans in the large Haitian community in Quebec, he has always been a nice addition to bigger events, headlined by Bute, Eric Lucas, Jean Pascal and others.
But before two weeks ago, press releases never hit the boxing media’s inboxes acclaiming St. Juste, let alone offering up the chance to talk to him.
Call him Quebec’s best kept secret.
Fittingly though, it was secrecy that brought St. Juste to the sweet science to begin with.
“During my teen years, I was personally a big fan of all martial arts movies and was inspired by Bruce Lee, the first international Asian superstar who inspired the practitioners of mixed martial arts,” St. Juste told RingTV.com. “Unfortunately, my mom thought it was too dangerous so I decided to learn Muay Thai, also called Thai Boxing or Thai Kickboxing, techniques in secret.”
After a successful career in Muay Thai and a brief foray into the obscure world of Chinese boxing that took him all over the world, St. Juste, then 27, was approached by trainer Mike Moffa about trying amateur boxing.
It didn’t take long for him to realize that his hands alone were his greatest asset. He’ll tell you that he “has the power to stop anybody.” But he didn’t leave his martial arts training behind as he embarked on his pro career.
“My experience in the martial arts was beneficial in many ways. Most martial arts techniques imply posture, guard, balance, weight transfer, discipline and so on,” said St. Juste. “Furthermore, I had experienced high-level competitions.”
Perhaps most importantly though, martial arts taught him patience, something the 39-year-old southpaw has needed during his eight year career. St. Juste suffered early setbacks (a draw in his first fight, and an early loss to journeyman Sammy Sparkman) as well as recent ones (a 2010 loss to lightly-regarded Marcus Upshaw), but has remained poised, and ensured that his bounce-backs have been emphatic. None moreso than a thunderous second-round knockout of Sebastien Demers last year, which vaulted him into the rankings of every major sanctioning body.
The destruction of Demers didn’t get him his own press conference, but bouts against Mikkel Kessler (proposed for Showtime), Robert Steiglitz and Kelly Pavlik were all strongly rumored in the five months following the fight.
True to their previous intentions, Showtime did find a slot for St. Juste, once again as the “B-side,” against Dirrell (23-0, 20 KO).
“I know how hard Interbox and my manager, Hugh Jean-Claude, are working to arrange a big fight for me. I always believed that my time would come, and this is it,” said St. Juste.
While St. Juste considers this to be his big break, Dirrell is already talking about a potential showdown with the winner of the Super Six World Boxing Classic.
Now that he has the hosts and columnists’ attention, maybe he can get Dirrell’s too.
“I’ve fought better guys than Dirrell,” proclaimed St. Juste. “He remains undefeated so far, so he thinks he’s unbeatable. But if he is considering me a walk in the park, he’s making a big mistake.”
Photo / Ex-Rue Frontenac
Corey Erdman is also the host of RingTV Radio, RingTV.com’s weekly podcast. Follow him on Twitter @corey_erdman.