MONTREAL – It’s Kevin Bizier’s time to step into boxing’s spotlight but he’ll have a tough, veteran opponent waiting for him the ring.
The unbeaten St-Emile, Que., native (19-0) will defend his minor North American Boxing Association welterweight title against 40-year-old former world lightweight champion Nate Campbell (36-9-1) on Friday night at the Bell Centre.
It will be Bizier’s first time in a main event. The 12-round bout will be televised in the U.S. on ESPN2 (pay-per-view in Canada).
“I’m a battler and ESPN likes fighters like that,” said Bizier. “It’s a big challenge for me to face a guy who has fought all the best in the world.
“I had to make sure I trained for 12 rounds and that I was in shape. The strategy is there. If I take it round by round, I can win a fight like that.”
The contrast between the two fighters could not be greater, and not just the 12-year age difference.
Bizier, a lean five foot nine who is a natural 147-pound fighter, is two inches taller than the stocky Campbell, who had most of his success as a lightweight (135 pounds).
Campbell has travelled the world for bouts. He once held three world championship belts at once and has fought most of the top names in his division.
Bizier has never fought outside his home province.
And if there was a competition for keeping the media entertained, Campbell would win in a knockout.
“For what you all know, (Bizier’s) a killer,” Campbell said. “You’d say he’s really good.
“He’s got 19 wins. I look at who he’s fought. I’ve sparred with better guys than he’s fought. I sparred with Shane Mosley, Angel Manfredy, Arturo Gatti, Randall Bailey. But I respect him for being a fighter.”
Campbell has retired once from the ring, and the time off allowed a nagging back injury to heal. Now he mixes fights with his regular activities of attending college and running aerobic boxing classes five days a week.
But he remains a dangerous opponent.
In March, he travelled to the Dominican Republic and took out contender Victor Cayo (27-2) in nine rounds. In September, he won an eight-round decision in Poland over Krzysztof Szot.
The year before, he lost a close decision to Danny Garcia, who went on to win two world titles.
“I can’t care if people say I’m 40,” he said. “This is what I love doing.
“I have five daughters. I’ve got to keep fighting. One of them just got married. I have a granddaughter. Four of the five are in college and the other one’s going back to college. I fight because I’m a father, a man and an athlete.”
Bizier was originally to fight Briton John O’Donnell, who pulled out with an injury. That was when promoter Yvon Michel turned to Campbell, who had been contacted earlier about his availability.
Campbell said he has fought many times on short notice and it won’t affect his performance.
“He has pressure, I have none,” he said of Bizier. “You don’t expect me to win.
“You don’t even care if I win. I just have to show up and fight. He has to play to the crowd. All the people who came to see me fight came with me. I have no pressure.”
The fight card, which originally was to feature middleweight David Lemieux, has been plagued by injuries but Campbell gives it credibility.
The co-feature was to have Toronto-based lightweight Tyler Asselstine (12-0) against a tough opponent in Joel Diaz, who pulled out. Asselstine, a native of Kingston, Ont., who is moving up to lightweight, will now fight 10 rounds with Baha Laham (10-0-1) of Montreal.
They also planned to bring in former WBA light middleweight champ Joachim Alcine (33-3-1) of Laval, Que., but his eight-rounder was rejected by the Quebec boxing commission Thursday when David Toribio (19-14-0) came in overweight.
“We were under scrutiny by ESPN,” said Michel. “They didn’t want a second-grade show. So they’re happy.”
Michel concedes that Bizier will be in tight against a more experienced opponent who is also a strong puncher. But he believes his fighter is ready for the challenge.
“Although it’s his first main event, he’s 28 and he’s been around the world with the national team,” he said. “He paid his dues on undercards.
“He’s ready for this kind of pressure. He’s ready to explode on the international scene. You can see the quality of a fighter when the pressure is high and I’m sure Kevin will react properly.”
Michel announced this week that super-middleweight Adonis Stevenson (19-1) of Longueuil, Que., will get a chance to avenge his only defeat when he faces Darnell Boone (19-20-3) on March 22 at the Bell Centre. Boone TKO’d Stevenson in the second round in 2010.
Bermane Stiverne (22-1-1) of Montreal has an elimination bout with Chris Arreola on March 9 in Costa Mesa, Calif., to determine the top heavyweight contender in the WBC.
And Jean Pascal (27-2) of Laval, Que., will try to regain the WBC light heavyweight belt from Chad Dawson on May 25 in Montreal.