It was an unseasonably warm May night when Donovan “Razor” Ruddock claimed the Canadian Heavyweight Championship title in 1988 at Saskatoon Place, now the SaskTel Centre. This was not Ruddock’s last championship title, but it was the last match he fought in the City of Bridges.
Twenty-nine years later, Saskatoon boxer Gary “Hocus Pocus” Kopas will fight in his hometown for the first time. This will be the first professional boxing fight to take place at what is now the SaskTel Centre since 1988. Dubbed “Thunder on the Prairies,” the event’s feature fight will be Kopas against Saidou Sall of France in a 10-round international championship fight.
Late in 2000, the city council of Saskatoon repealed the boxing commission, which put professional boxing events on hiatus in the city until February 2016. Boxing events in Saskatoon have been at Prairieland Park ever since 1988.
Kopas started his boxing career in 2000, when he was 21 years old. He currently holds the Canada Professional Boxing Council cruiserweight champion title and is fighting for the international cruiserweight title against Sall later this month. Kopas has had a total of 21 fights in his career so far and has been on a winning streak for his last four fights.
This is the third time that he has been scheduled to fight in his hometown. The first time, in 2000, he was meant to debut his boxing career, but his opponent never showed up for the match. Similarly, in 2016, he was scheduled to fight Frank White for the CPBC interim cruiserweight title, but White failed his medical exam and could not fight.
Now 38 years old, Kopas hopes that the fight against Sall later this month will go forward without any problems and that he will finally fight his first hometown match.
Thunder on the Prairies will feature eight bouts with two Saskatoon-based boxers on the ballot. The organizers of the event made sure that there will be a mix of local and international fighters, as well as female fighters to provide the audience with variety.
Also featured at this event will be Saskatoon-based boxer Wayne Smith matched against Jorge Castro and Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation boxer Ian Abbott matched against Cesar Cardenas. Winnipeg’s Rawleigh Clements-Willis, Montana’s Shawna Anderson and Winnipeg’s Julio Escoria are also on the bill.
Smith, a 28-year-old Saskatoon-based boxer, debuted his career in late 2013. He will be fighting Jorge Castro, a Mexican-born boxer who started his career in 2015 and sits at a 3-1-1 record going into the fight.
Twenty – four- year- old Ian Abbott is based out of Prince Albert and lives in Debden, Sask. In Abbott’s fourth professional fight, he will be facing off against Cesar Cardenas of Mexico. This is only Abbott’s second year as a professional boxer, and his skills have yet to be demonstrated fully.
Thunder on the Prairies will take place at 7 p.m. on Nov. 25, and tickets are now available at all Ticketmaster outlets. Ticket prices range from $31.50 to $52.50 before service charges.
The organizers of the event hope that having boxing matches in Saskatoon will increase the fan base for Saskatoon fighters. Having a bigger venue will make the fights more exciting and will hopefully engage the audience in a way that will put Saskatoon on the map for more professional boxing matches in the future.
Lyndsay Afseth / Staff Writer
Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor