Antonin Decarie: Montreal Exponent

By Robert Ecksel on October 25, 2012
Antonin Decarie: Montreal Exponent
“When you have big balls and a good head on your shoulder, you can go very far.”

“HBO told me, ‘We don’t want fighters that just will win by percentage. We want to make sure that the fighters we put on TV are spectacular…’”

“It’s impossible for you to be a stupid guy and be a smart fighter.”—Jose Torres

HBO Boxing After Dark recently broadcast a three-fight card from Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut. Headlined by Edwin Rodriguez and Vic Darchinyan against Jason Escalera and Luis Orlando Del Valle respectively, both men did what they were supposed to do, which was to win and win decisively against overmatched opposition.

But it was the opening bout between Antonin Decarie and Alex Perez which was the fight of the night.

Decarie is still relatively unknown. During the brief intro preceding the fight he seemed agreeably down-to-earth. He also had something to say and the chops with which to say it and I wanted to hear more. But I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions. I first wanted to see if he could fight.

His dazzling sixth round destruction of Perez took care of that.

I spoke with Decarie in Montreal last week and he did not disappoint. He is, not surprisingly, as smart as he fights. He is also articulate and analytical.

Every boxer has a story, and as often as not it’s a hard luck story redeemed, if that’s not too strong a word, a least in part by boxing. But Decarie is different. He was born and raised in Montreal. His father is a photographer, his mother is a sales rep, and he is an only child. Although his parents divorced, his mother remarried and he “grew up in Saint Michel, a part of town that was a little rough.” Antonin told me he “got into a few street fights and stuff,” but he was not to the manner born.

Like most Canadians, Decarie is crazy about his country’s national sport.

“I was a big hockey fan as a kid here in Canada. I used to play hockey, but I was too small for hockey. I was kind of looking for another sport to do.”

His stepfather, who was a fighter when he was young, brought Antonin to a local boxing gym. He was 14 years old at the time.

The gym is a remnant of the 1976 Montreal Olympics. A large training facility was built for the athletes. It had a swimming pool and indoor track. It also had, in the basement, a small boxing gym.

“I went to the gym without any expectation,” said Decarie. “I just wanted to have fun, but once I really started getting into it, I was really passionate. It didn’t take me long, only a couple of months, and I was already making my first amateur fight. I really enjoyed all the technique, the training, and everything that was around boxing. I fell in love pretty much right from the beginning. It was a good confidence booster. It helps every teenager. Right now there’s a lot of bullying in Canada and it’s a pretty big issue. There are even kids that are suicides in the past few months because of excessive bullying. So boxing gives you confidence, it reflects on all aspects of your life.”

Decarie had an extensive amateur background and it shows. But since there are major differences between the amateurs and pros, I wondered if he struggled with the transition.

“What I thought was very different actually was the two-minute round compared to the three-minute round. For all these years we trained in the gym, and I had 99 amateur fights, all were two minutes. So at the beginning I remember thinking the way to manage my energy—I wasn’t doing it right. I would explode too much. I would be wasting too much energy in the first minute, the first minute and a half, and then I would have another minute and a half to deal with before I got my break. I remember it took me three, four, five fights till I felt good about that.”

When I saw Decarie fight, he struck me as a thinking man’s fighter, someone whose mind is as busy as his fists.

“I think you’re right,” he said. “A lot of my boxing is tactical, or technical. I come in with a game plan I established with my coach and I really stick to it. I try to find openings, to be able to execute what we prepared before the fight, and during the fight I try to be really, really aware of all the mistakes that my opponent does, that I do. I want to make sure that if I get caught with a counterpunch it’s not going to happen again. And if he gives me an opening I have to make sure I capitalize on these openings. If I miss him I’ll really get mad at myself and I make sure it doesn’t happen again. So I do think a lot. Sometimes it goes so fast, for sure, there’s stuff that has to come by instinct. But I think it’s a correct thing to say I’m very, very focused and I think a lot.

“There are times when we do pads before a fight and my coach actually gets mad at me because I don’t always react to what he gives me. I kind of try to figure it out. Like when I practice defense moves, I know when I throw the right hand that he’s going to throw the jab back in the pads. So I weave it before he throws it and sometimes it’s not the jab, it’s the left hook or something and he catches me. He doesn’t want me to try to know what he’s going to throw. He wants me to react to what I see and not be a step ahead.”

When Decarie is first introduced, be it on the air or in an article, he is inevitably described as the “light-hitting Antonin Decarie.” Granted, he has only eight stoppages in 28 fights. But having watched him crush Perez, Decarie is anything but light-hitting.

“I think it’s a lot of factors together,” explained Decarie. “From the beginning of my career I always said I am not a light puncher. It’s maybe what you were saying about me thinking a lot in a fight. I come up with a game plan. I have a strategy I want to establish. I don’t usually—and sometimes it’s a mistake—I don’t quit the strategy. But in almost all my fights I either drop the guy or hurt him at one point. I just don’t necessarily finish them. We have a plan. I knock them down, but then I use the jab, I control. I know I won the round, a 10-8 round, and I kind of take it for granted.

“But before the fight with Alex Perez we had a boxer meeting and HBO told me, ‘We want an interesting fight. We don’t want fighters that just will win by percentage. We want to make sure that the fighters we put on TV are spectacular.’ So I had that in mind. I was not going to leave my game plan. I had a job to do. I had to be able to win the fight more than anything. But at the same time, when the opportunity came, when I hurt him, I wanted to make sure I followed through. I knew he was in danger, I knew I could finish him, so I jumped on it. If it wasn’t for HBO—I don’t know, maybe I would have controlled the action with the jab and I would have kept my energy to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes. But it worked out well and I’m sure I’m going to keep practicing that.”

That was a fine explanation. Yet Decarie had more to say.

“That’s one thing. The other thing is, for sure, I’m practicing to stay low, to turn my punches. My coach always gets on my back for that because I throw without turning my hips. I don’t transfer my weight properly, just to gain a little speed, which is not always a good thing. And the third thing is I’m 29 years old and I feel like I’m getting a lot stronger, in a lot better shape. Everybody is different. You see that a lot more now, fighters like Floyd Mayweather and Sergio Martinez that are in their late 30s and they’re still doing amazing. So I think you could say I’m a late bloomer. I’m feeling a lot better now that I did five years ago. So I think that also could have an effect.”

Decarie now holds the NABF welterweight title. It’s only a matter of time until he fights for the WBC crown. I asked Antonin if he could, in light of his accomplishments, describe himself to those who had not seen him fight.

“I think I’m a pretty good boxer. I’m a good technical fighter. I have decent speed and decent power. I have a good head on my shoulder and big balls. When you have big balls and a good head on your shoulder, you can go very far.”

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EC3D Antonin Decarie.wmv

Antonin Décarie

Souleymane M'baye vs Antonin Decarie 1/5

Souleymane M'baye vs Antonin Decarie 2/5

Souleymane M'baye vs Antonin Decarie 3/5

Souleymane M'baye vs Antonin Decarie 4/5

Souleymane M'baye vs Antonin Decarie 5/5

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  1. the thresher 08:33am, 10/26/2012

    Antonin has the goods.

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