MONTREAL - Joachim Alcine remembers the punch that changed his boxing career and still can't get his head around what happened.
It was July 11 before more than 11,000 at an outdoor ring at Uniprix Stadium in Montreal, where Alcine was making the second defence of the World Boxing Association light middleweight title he had gone to Bridgeport, Conn., to win from Travis Simms one year earlier.
After a shaky start, Alcine looked to be finding a groove in the ring, but suddenly Puerto Rican challenger Daniel Santos shot out a left hand that sent the champion to the floor where, with his home crowd in shock, he was counted out by referee Marlon B. Wright.
"I just couldn't believe it-how did it happen?" Alcine recalled Tuesday at the Groupe Yvon Michel gym. "I wasn't careless. I was going forward.
"I saw this guy couldn't do anything when I was in front of him, but he just threw a punch. I think even he was surprised when I went down."
After a six-month break to reflect on his career, Alcine (30-1) feels losing that bout was probably good for him as a person and as a boxer. He said he never considered retirement and now is ready to begin the tough climb back to regain his title.
"It was better for me because it brought me back to earth," he said. "Sometimes, you need to lose and get up to be champ again.
"I took time to think and clear up my mind. I feel even stronger now. It even makes me more hungry, because I know that in this game, you can't win everything. Muhammad Ali went down. Lennox Lewis went down. All the great boxers went down, so why not me?"
Promoter Yvon Michel said he expects Alcine to be back in the ring in late March or early April against a top-15 contender and to fight an elimination bout in the summer that could put him in a WBA title fight by the end of the year.
The 32-year-old's only condition is that he not be asked to fight on a Friday, which is prohibited by the Adventist church to which he belongs.
"That's not a big problem," said Michel. "I prefer that kind of problem to the problems I've had with other fighters in the past."
Alcine, whose family moved to Montreal when he was nine, was the first Haitian-born fighter ever to win a world title. He dropped to sixth in WBA rankings after the loss, but has climbed to fourth through attrition even though he hasn't been in the ring.
Since there is currently no mandatory challenger in the WBA, there are only two contenders ranked ahead of him - No. 2 James Kirkland and No. 3 Yuri Foreman. Kirkland is set to face Cory Spinks for the IBF title, while the champion Santos is to fight Sergio Martinez, with the winner advancing to a unification bout with WBC champ Vernon Forrest.
The rematch Alcine desperately wants with Santos, who he considers the best in the weight class, could end up being for unified titles if it ever takes place.
There was a feeling after he first won his title that Alcine had become distracted and had lacked the fire that got him the WBA belt. Now, trainer Howard Grant hopes he has it back.
"In this brutal sport, psychology has a lot to do with it,"said Grant. "If Jo's mind is in the right place, I don't think there's anyone in the division that can beat him.
'It's unfortunate that night that he got caught with a beautiful left hand and got knocked out. It's all up to Jo now. I wouldn't say he lost the hunger, but sometimes fighters get to a certain place in life and maybe the drive they had before starts to diminish a bit."
Grant, meanwhile, is set to appeal a suspension handed down last week by the Quebec combat sports commission for shoving Wright at the end of Librado Andrade's controversial loss to Montreal's Lucian Bute in an IBF super-middleweight title bout on Oct. 24.
Grant is prohibited from working in the corner for any fights until his licence comes up for renewal on March 31. By entering an appeal, Grant hopes to buy time to work at Herman Ngoudjo's bout against Juan Urango for the vacant IBF light welterweight title on Jan. 30 at the Bell Centre.
An enraged Grant charged into the ring to protest Wright's handing of the final round of Bute's win by unanimous decision over Andrade, a Mexican-American who trains under Grant in Montreal.
Grant felt Wright gave the champion Bute a long count after he was flattened by Andrade in the dying seconds of the 12th round. The IBF backed Wright.
Notes: - Former Canadian Olympian Antonin Decarie (20-0) will fight in the co-feature against Michael Clark (37-5-1) on the Ngoudjo-Urango card. Decarie had three impressive wins in 2008, capped by a 12th-round stoppage of Hector Munoz for the minor NABO welterweight title on Oct. 4. Ngoudjo (17-2), who lost a close IBF title bout last January to Paul Malignaggi in Atlantic City, gets a second crack at the same belt against Urango (20-1-1). The Cameroon-born Ngoudjo has been training at altitude in Colombia to prepare for the bout. . . . Montreal-based light heavyweight Adrian Diaconu (25-0) is awaiting word on a date and a site to defend his WBC title against 42-year-old Italian Silvio Branco. Branco's German handlers won a recent purse bid to promote the fight but have yet to announce the details.