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Sports Montreal boxing promoter Régis Lévesque revolutionized the sport here

04:06  29 october  2020
04:06  29 october  2020 Source:   montrealgazette.com

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85 years old, had a tongue cancer. Started organizing fights in 1962. Promoted many fights for Cleroux, Marcotte and Melo in the 70's. Was a big actor in the

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Before there were cellular phones, at a time when the waft of cigarette smoke hung over the boxing ring in dingy arenas, there was a Montreal promoter named Régis Lévesque who was a maverick for his sport.

a person standing in front of a group of people posing for the camera: Régis Lévesque, left, with Yvon Michel at Lévesque's 85th birthday celebration in Montreal in July. © Provided by The Gazette Régis Lévesque, left, with Yvon Michel at Lévesque's 85th birthday celebration in Montreal in July.

With his raspy voice — the result of a lifelong addiction to smoking — bombastic mannerisms and eccentric ways, Lévesque was the man who provided boxing with its Montreal foundation throughout the 1970s and ’80s.

He popularized the sport and made it intriguing. His press conferences became events talked about for days by the media, or in the east-end streets of the city where his weekly column in Le Journal de Montréal became a must-read for boxing fans.

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And his formula, albeit rudimentary, revolutionized the sport — have two local guys, not particularly fond of each other, get into the ring and slug it out. All the better if one was an anglophone and the other a francophone.

Lévesque, 85, died Tuesday night at his daughter’s home in Montreal following a lengthy battle with cancer.

At his most recent birthday in July, and in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, one of his children organized a party in his honour, attended by family, friends and colleagues. Lévesque, in weak health at the time, didn’t understand the implications of COVID-19, but was enthusiastic to see everyone, even delivering one of his legendary and colourful speeches.

“We all knew then it was going to be the last time we were going to see him. The Régis I saw last summer was the same one I’ve known for 30 years,” said Montreal boxing promoter Yvon Michel .

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When Michel left amateur boxing to begin promoting professional bouts with InterBox in the 1990s, he made sure to find a position for Lévesque — one that lasted three years until he was eligible to collect his pension.

“I believe what Régis did in his era to educate and plant the love for boxing in Quebecers meant something,” Michel said. “He was able to convince people his shows were the best other than a Canadiens game. He planted some roots.

“He was close to being a crazy person, but he was a genius. He was the best storyteller, a great storyteller.”

Originally from Trois-Rivières, Lévesque fought as an amateur and had two pro bouts before launching his promotional career in his hometown. He eventually filled the void created in Montreal following the death in 1965 of wrestling and boxing promoter Eddie Quinn.

The list of boxers who fought regularly on Lévesque-promoted cards — it wasn’t unusual for him to stage a show every two or three months — was lengthy and legendary, including Davey Hilton Jr.; Eddie Melo and Mario Cusson, both deceased; Fernand Marcotte; Gaétan Hart; Gérald Bouchard; Jean-Claude Leclair, even Stéphane Ouellet and Joachim Alcine.

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Dave Hilton Jr. et al. looking at each other:  Promoter Régis Levesque checks to make sure boxers Davey Hilton (middle) and opponent Adam Green are posed correctly for a photo at a press conference in 2007 announcing Hilton’s return to the ring. © John Mahoney Promoter Régis Levesque checks to make sure boxers Davey Hilton (middle) and opponent Adam Green are posed correctly for a photo at a press conference in 2007 announcing Hilton’s return to the ring.

Most of Lévesque’s cards were held at the Verdun Auditorium or Paul Sauvé Arena, usually either filling or exceeding capacity. He saved the Montreal Forum for the big fights and did such a good job of promoting those events, it wasn’t unusual for them to become a hot ticket.

“Everybody in Quebec boxing today owes part of their livelihood to what Régis Lévesque did. More people cared about who was the champion of Quebec and whether they would possibly fight for a Canadian title. They cared more about that than world champions. He was the reason for that,” said Montreal trainer and cutman Russ Anber .

“He was a personality in the game. He was bigger, sometimes, than the event itself. And he made you feel important, even when you were just a local guy. You felt important on the card and it was important for you to be there. I don’t want to say he gave me my start, but he recognized me at a young age, when I was 18.”

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If Lévesque was the brains behind the show, the publicist and hawker, he often relied on the financial help of others. What money he made was often squandered quickly betting the horses at Blue Bonnets. But he cared for his fighters, never taking advantage of them in this cutthroat business.

“Régis was good at getting the attention of the public. As a promoter, he couldn’t be better. His imagination was fantastic,” said Guy Jutras , a former boxing judge and referee. “He had a personality that could develop the interest in whatever fight there was.”

Georges Cherry, the owner of Club de Boxe Champion, attended Lévesque’s party and considered him a lifelong friend. “He could take anything small and make it a big event,” Cherry said.

“He was a very good promoter who knew how to talk … a good guy, a nice guy who never hurt anyone. He gave a chance to everybody to fight.”

Lévesque is survived by his three children — Annie, Josée and Daniel, himself a former boxer.

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