Opportunities haven’t exactly fallen into Antonin Decarie’s lap throughout his career.
The scrappy welterweight has been an afterthought in the talent-laden Quebec scene for many years, despite a sparkling record and a crowd-pleasing style.
So when the chance to face Alex Perez on this weekend’s HBO Boxing After Dark telecast came down the line three weeks ago, he wasted no time in jumping on it.
“I was leaving the gym and my coach was like ‘oh, wait one second, I got a call from (promoter) Yvon Michel. We called him back and he said there’s an opportunity for you to fight on HBO on September 29.’ Before I even knew who it was, I said ‘okay, perfect,’” said Decarie (26-1, 7 knockouts).
Decarie’s brazen attitude toward taking the fight can be explained by looking at the list of cancellations on his proposed 2012 schedule.
First, the 29-year old was set to face Lanardo Tyner in April, before a minor rib injury forced him to withdraw. Once healthy, he was hoping to be a part of a June card in Pointe-Claire, Quebec, however that didn’t materialize. Finally, he thought he had hit the jackpot with a spot on the ill-fated Jean Pascal-Tavoris Cloud undercard and a possible Sho Extreme appearance.
As a result of the setbacks happening so close to one another, Decarie never left training camp, always assuming the next fight was just around the corner.
As it turns out, that jackpot was just a flip of the calendar page away.
“I was a little disappointed at one point when the fights kept falling through. But, everything happens for a reason, and the fact that I stayed motivated gave me the opportunity to say yes to a fight three weeks before,” Decarie told RingTV.com. “It’s one thing to fight on HBO, but it’s another to win on HBO. I wanted to make sure I was in a great physical state to be able to perform, and that’s exactly where I’m at.”
That Decarie was already in fight shape doesn’t come as a shock to anyone who has been around the Canadian fight game for long. In order to sustain his hard-charging attack, he routinely pounds out 13-mile runs throughout the week, farther than the typical boxer.
Many insiders have suggested that he may be the best conditioned fighter in the country, including Vincent Morin of Le Journal De Montreal, who recalled Decarie outlasting UFC superstar Georges St. Pierre in conditioning drills back in 2003.
“I’m not saying I never party. I will celebrate the win on Saturday for sure,” said Decarie, noting that even he takes one day off a week.
But while St. Pierre has millions of dollars and a workout box-set sold in Canadian department stores, his alleged fitness superiority has been engulfed by the shadows of the combat sports stars in his home province.
Decarie left Jean Bedard’s Interbox outfit in 2007 after feeling overlooked among box office giants Lucian Bute and Adrian Diaconu. Now with Groupe Yvon Michel, he has at times been fourth-fiddle to stable mates Jean Pascal, Adonis Stevenson and David Lemieux.
“It’s awesome, the fact that there’s so many great fighters in Quebec. That’s how everybody gets better, by being surrounded by good fighters. But at the same time, it’s true, I haven’t been in the limelight once. So the fact that finally I’m live on HBO, it’s important to step to that level,” said Decarie, who would earn a three-fight co-promotional deal with Lou DiBella contingent upon a victory Saturday.
While Stevenson and Lemieux have surpassed him in popularity and notoriety, only he has fought for a world title. Unfortunately, he had to travel to France to face Soulemayne M’Baye in his homeland, dropping a bloody, hard-fought decision in 2010.
At times, he strayed from his “solid technical base” and allowed M’Baye to land the more eye-catching blows as he grew anxious to land his own.
In that fight, Decarie says he learned not to try to impress the judges while fighting on the road, a lesson he’ll have to draw from at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., this weekend.
“You can’t get disappointed whenever you hit your opponent and there’s no reaction from the crowd. That’s normal. It’s not because you didn’t land your punches, it’s because the people are cheering for the other guy, so they’re obviously not going to speak for you,” said Decarie.
A win, or even an exciting fight on an HBO broadcast could give him the boost he’s needed throughout his career. Coming out of a boxing hotbed like Montreal, a fighter like Decarie should be able to have the leverage to bring fighters to his hometown.
Decarie has the big picture in mind heading into Saturday.
“I want to be recognized by everybody, not just boxing connoisseurs,” he said.
Defeating Alex Perez would certainly sell tickets to the bandwagon, and maybe to the Bell Centre with his name on the marquee down the road.
Photos / Alain Decarie
Follow Corey Erdman on Twitter @corey_erdman