MONTREAL — The next three months will be a busy time for Canada's top boxers.
Heavyweight Bermane Stiverne, light heavyweight Artur Beterbiev and middleweight David Lemeiux will be gunning for world titles, while a date and site, but as-yet no opponent, have been found for World Boxing Council light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson's ninth title defence.
It starts Saturday night at the Barclays Center in New York when Stiverne (25-2-1) tries to take back the WBC heavyweight belt from American Deontay Wilder (38-0).
Stiverne, who was born in Haiti and grew up in Montreal, took the vacant WBC title with a win over Chris Arreola in 2014 but lost it in his next outing to Wilder. Although he lost nearly every round, he is the only opponent to take Wilder the full distance in a fight.
Stiverne, who tuned 39 on Wednesday, took the rematch on short notice when it was announced on Sept. 29 that Wilder's original opponent, Cuban Luis Ortiz, failed a doping test.
"The stage is set and my destiny is in front of me," Stiverne said this week. "I always said I was going to be the first person to beat him, and that is going to come together on Saturday."
"I thought the first Stiverne fight should have been stopped," answered 32-year-old Wilder. "He had knots all over his face and he was concussed. I'm not trying to leave any doubt this time around."
There was concern the bout would not be broadcast in Canada but it has since been added to the TSN5 schedule for 10 p.m. ET Saturday.
Beterbiev (11-0), a gifted Russian fighting out of Montreal since 2013, will be the favourite to take the vacant International Boxing Federation light heavyweight title when he faces Enrico Koeling (23-1) of Germany in Fresno, Calif., on Nov. 11. It will be Beterbiev's first pro bout outside Quebec.
"He has every quality of a champion," said promoter Yvon Michel. "The speed, the athletic ability, the technical side, the will, the strength. I predict that not only will he win but he will be a huge star."
In a non-title bout, Jean Pascal (31-5-1) may enter the ring for the last time Dec. 8 in Miami against Egyptian Ahmed Elbiali (16-0).
The 35-year-old Pascal held the WBC light heavyweight belt for two years before losing to ring legend Bernard Hopkins in 2012. If he opts to retire he would go out as one Canada's all-time best.
On Dec. 16, Lemieux (38-3) will be on home soil as he tries to wrest the World Boxing Organization middleweight title from Briton Billy Joe Saunders (25-0) at Place Bell, the recently opened 10,000-seat arena in Laval, Que.
Lemieux won the IBF title in 2015 but lost it in his next bout to unified champion Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan. The free-swinging Lemieux has won four times since then.
Saunders, who has never fought outside Britain, will make the third defence of the title he won from Andy Lee in 2015.
There are still important details to be ironed out before Stevenson steps in the ring.
The bout is yet to be confirmed by Stevenson's manager Premier Championship Boxing, but Michel plans to have him fight Jan. 27 at the Videotron Centre in Quebec City, possibly against his stable mate and mandatory challenger Eleider Alvarez.
However, Stevenson may try to put off facing Alvarez if a deal can be made for a title unification bout against newly crowned World Boxing Association champion Badou Jack of Sweden. In that case, Michel said another opponent would be found on the card for Alvarez (23-0), who has been mandatory challenger for two years and appears to be running out of patience.
Stevenson (29-1) always seems to find other opponents. Alvarez, a Colombia native with an nasty jab and uppercut who has fought out of Montreal since 2009, may insist on his right to fight for the title.
Power-punching left-hander Stevenson won the title with a first-round knockout of Chad Dawson in 2013, but has come under criticism for ducking top opponents like Sergey Kovalev in favour of easier competition, including his last opponent Andrzej Fonfara.
The 40-year-old Stevenson would have his hands full against Jack, who held the WBC super-middleweight title for four fights, then gave it up and won the WBA light heavyweight belt on his first try against Welshman Nathan Cleverly on Aug. 26.
Michel said Alvarez has put his waiting time to good use.
"He built up his notoriety and made some money," said Michel. "He fought (Lucian) Bute and (Jean) Pascal. That gave him some leverage that he didn't have in the past."
Michel recently parted ways with another contender, welterweight Custio Clayton of Dartmouth, N.S., who immediately signed with rival Montreal promoter Camille Estephan of Eye Of The Tiger Management. Michel said Clayton's contract expired and the split was by mutual agreement.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press