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Bradley, Andrade, Pascal, Lontchi shine on busy day for boxing

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MONTREAL - Timothy Bradley unified two titles, Librado Andrade made a crowd stand and cheer, and Jean Pascal scored an impressive knockout, all on a day that threatened to be a washout for boxing in Canada.

Two separate fight cards on the same Saturday in the same city - one in the afternoon and the other that ran into Sunday morning - produced a string of spectacular matches and also may bring world title opportunities for some Canadian fighters in the future.

The feature match saw WBC light welterweight champion Bradley (24-0) lift himself off the canvas in the first round and survive what was ruled another knockdown in the 12th to take fellow American Kendall Holt's WBO belt by unanimous decision in an energetic battle at the Bell Centre.

"I got knocked down and I was a little buzzed - it was my conditioning that got me through it," said Bradley, who attacked the taller Holt (25-3) relentlessly to the body to earn the decision.

Just before that fight, Andrade got a rousing ovation as he took Vitali Tsypko of Ukraine down twice enroute to a unanimous decision in their IBF super-middleweight elimination bout.

That made Andrade, a Mexican-American who trains in Montreal, the mandatory challenger for a second time to IBF champ Lucian Bute of Montreal, a match expected to be held in the fall.

That followed WBC light heavyweight champ Adrian Diaconu's laborious eight-round decision over cruiserweight David Whittom of Quebec City in a non-title tune-up bout. Diaconu was hastily added to the card when his scheduled title defence in Italy on April 10 against Slvio Branco was cancelled by its European promoter.

Hours earlier, another show produced by Groupe Yvon Michel saw local favourite Pascal (22-1), coming off his failed bid for the WBC super-middleweight title against Carl Froch on Dec. 6 in England, take the minor WBO Intercontinental belt with a savage KO of Argentine Pablo Nievas (22-6-1) at the Montreal Casino.

On the same card, Olivier Lontchi (18-0-2) of Montreal suggested he is ready for bigger prey when he felled the experienced Cecilio Santos (23-10-3) of Mexico with a body shot to retain his minor NABA super-bantamweight title.

It was a taxing day for an entire boxing community, including a few fans who took in both cards. Trainers like Howard Grant or cutman Bob Miller had fighters on both, while referees like Marlon Wright, Jean-Guy Brousseau and Gerry Bolen also worked both.

While the Bell Centre card went through a change in promoters from Alex Choko to InterBox and more than once looked about to be cancelled, a late surge in sales produced a respectable crowd of 7,530. It was also shown on the U.S premium cable channel Showtime.

It was far from the sellout of 20,000-plus anticipated when they landed the Bradley-Holt bout, but both fighters' promoters - Bradley's Gary Shaw and Holt's Todd DeBeouf of Top Rank - praised the Bell Centre administration for saving the show even though they likely took a financial bath.

"They made a silk purse from a sow's ear," said Don Majesky, a New York-based agent and matchmaker who considers Montreal one of North America's top boxing centres along with New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. "The reputation of the Bell Centre is now solid."

A side benefit of having top promoters in town, including Andrade's Oscar de la Hoya-owned Golden Boy Promotions and Tsypko's Sauerland, a top European company, was that talks began on having Benoit Gaudet (20-1) of Drummonedville, Que. added to what may be the biggest fight card this year - the May 2 showdown in Las Vegas between British star Ricky Hatton and Filipino Manny Pacquiao.

Gaudet is expected to face Mexican Humberto Soto for the WBC 130-pound title.

And what sparked the Bell Centre's decision to book Holt-Bradley, a wish for big-time fights that will fill the arena, may have caused Michel and InterBox to rethink their shows, which tend to have too many locals against overmatched opponents brought in from Mexico, Guyana or elsewhere.

Now the rivals are in talks to have Pascal move up one weight class - from 168 pounds to 175 - to challenge Diaconu for the WBC belt, likely at the Bell Centre in June. It is the first time the two firms will co-operate on a show and put their fighters against one another, and is bound to be big draw for fans.

"It sounds good - he's a good boxer," said Diaconu, who last week signed a new two-year contract with InterBox after a year on his own in which fights were planned but none materialized.

Some felt Michel should have changed dates for his casino show to help out the Bell Centre card, but it is part of a regular series for which season tickets are sold and has obligations to sponsors and French-language TV network Radio-Canada.

Also, the casino only holds about 600, so it couldn't siphon off many fans

"It's not good to have two shows on the same day, but in this case, it's a small venue and we were on in the afternoon and they were at night," Michel said. "I'd have been upset if they were at the same time."

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