When the final bell tolled on the night, Junior Moar leaped up the ropes and raised both black gloves towards the convention centre lights.
This was the main event of Peg City Massacre, the first pro boxing card in Winnipeg in three years, and it ended the way most fans would have scripted their Saturday night: with the Winnipeg-raised Moar triumphant. At 34, he is once again the Canadian light-heavyweight champ, taking the belt with his victory over Kitchener, Ont., fighter Mike Walchuk in 10 withering rounds. Their arms flew ferocious all the way.
'I hit like a truck, which she knows now'
It was the first time Moar fought in Winnipeg since 2007, and a rematch of a blistering 2011 bout against Walchuk. It did not disappoint.
"Yessir, this is how it's done everybody," the MC raved, as the crowd leaped to their feet at the end of the tilt. "What an awesome fight."
So that is the story of how the Peg City Massacre ended with a reunion -- of Moar and Walchuk, of Moar and his fans -- where it began with a retirement. The undercard opened with Lee Laquette pounding fellow Winnipegger Roland Vandal into the canvas: he slammed Vandal with a right, then did it twice, and the crowd issued a tittering moan. Minutes later, Vandal's arms flailed open, he crashed to the ropes and then, a mercy: the ref called it a TKO.
That is how one small pro boxing career passed: Vandal is 42, a coach and a community guy, that was his last fight. But other boxing careers were on the rise during the night, and some looking to rise again. Here is how it played out: just over three solid hours of bodies heaving in the ring, and hefting beer cups in the seats. About 1,800 pairs of eyes, hungry for a strike that would drive a fighter to his or her knees.
In the second bout, they didn't get it: that one went to Saskatoon fighter Paul Bzdel, in a tight battle over Brad Elsliger, by split decision. The third fight too was a jam, as Winnipegger and former world champion Olivia Gerula drove former Canadian national team boxer Jaime Ward into the ropes with a steady beat of rat-tat-tat hooks and jabs. Ward rallied for the second half, and the two went into the sixth round still bouncing on their feet. The judges called it for Gerula. It wasn't a tough call to make, she pushed her will on the fight.
"She fought hard, I give her credit... I hit like a truck, which she knows now," Gerula said after the fight, noting it is one step back to a world championship title. "It's a stepping stone. Every fighter is just somebody in the way to get to the next one. Hopefully those girls who are dodging me, who don't want to fight me for a title, will do it now."
On that note, look out Junior Moar. Even on the night he reclaimed his light-heavyweight belt, another Winnipeg kid was looking at it with hungry eyes. Rising boxer Andrew Gardiner, 25, wanted to fight Moar on the Peg City Massacre card, but faced Hungarian Daniel Regi instead. It was Gardiner's 10th pro bout, but his first at home -- he decamped to Ottawa last year to push deeper into his pro career -- and so he wanted to give fans a show.
And oh, that he did. The penultimate fight was a rout. Regi struggled to push back against Gardiner's relentless attack: the best Regi could do, for over two rounds, was raise his gloves and force Gardiner's fists to the body instead. But near the end of the third, Regi fell to his knees, face twisted in agony. He couldn't rise again.
After it was all over, Gardiner said the thrill of a win in front of family and friends lived up to his expectations, though he thought his performance could have been better. Lucky for Regi that it wasn't. "I wasn't as on as I would have liked to be," Gardiner said. "I'm still happy with the result... it felt great."
Gardiner now boasts a perfect 10-0-0 record. And he's keeping his eyes on the prize: a Canadian title, soon. Then hopefully, one for the world. "I'd love a fight with Junior Moar, provided he wins this one," Gardiner said before Moar's win. "Any time for me."