With more than an hour between bouts required to disinfect the ring, the fans — had there been any at Centre Gervais Auto — would have undoubtedly become restless.
And, considering the three bouts staged lasted a total of seven rounds, the matchmaking skills might require an upgrade. Of course, due to the coronavirus, promoter Camille Estephan was limited in his opponent options, given the boxers all had to be Canadian.
Otherwise, the first boxing card he staged since Feb. 21, Saturday night in a bubble environment, without spectators, in Shawinigan, was deemed successful by Estephan.
And it didn’t hurt that his main attraction, former International Boxing Federation middleweight champion David Lemieux, stopped Francy Ntetu at 1:58 of the fifth round in their super-middleweight finale.
“It was a success. I’m relieved to have a show without being a danger to spreading COVID. We proved we can definitely do these events while protecting our athletes, ourselves and our committees,” Estephan said.
The promoter said valuable lessons were learned from the maiden voyage, and adjustments will be made when he returns with his next card, scheduled for Nov. 14, either in New Hampshire or somewhere in Quebec — perhaps Chicoutimi or Rimouski — not deemed to be in either a red or orange zone under the province’s colour-coded COVID alert system.
Not only did the ring have to be disinfected between fights Saturday — the cleaning crew wearing hazmat suits — so, too did the rooms used by the boxers, ringside physician and other officials.
“We’ll have to adjust. We can learn how to do it a bit faster. I see a lot of areas we can improve, but it took the first one,” Estephan said. “We went above and beyond to remain safe rather than have issues. We maybe went overboard, but I’d rather err on the right side.”
The show was presented on the Punching Grace website as well as via pay-per-view. There were interviews and previous bouts shown between the three fights.
Lemieux, fighting for the first time in 10 months — and for only the second time at 168 pounds — dropped Ntetu twice in the fifth before the bout was stopped.
Lemieux was in total control, having won every round. Indeed, the only intrigue was whether he would stop Ntetu within five rounds. During an interview last week on TVA Sports, Lemieux vowed to give Ntetu his purse if he lasted until the sixth round.
“I think it was a good comeback fight,” said the 31-year-old Lemieux, who improved to 42-4 with 35 knockouts. “He showed a lot of heart. He was very courageous. I didn’t think he was going to last that long. Hats off to him. He showed a lot of courage.
“I felt okay. I’m ready to get in there with some big names. The ring’s my office. I did what I had to do in terms of being dominant, beating him every round.”
While Lemieux moved up in weight because he can no longer make 160 pounds, the 5-foot-9 Laval native looked small in the ring and must rely on his punching power to succeed. Ntetu, 38, is now 17-4. He has lost three straight, four of five and has been stopped on each occasion.