Eye of the Tiger reflects on an incredibly positive year in 2023, highlighted by its athletes’ international prominence and the significant rise of some among them in the world rankings. The Montreal-based organization, awarded the Promoter of the Year title for the second consecutive year, is also thrilled to have successfully hosted all its events to sold-out audiences, featuring thrilling matchups that have left a lasting impact on Quebec boxing history.

Occupying the top of the super-middleweight division just behind Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Christian Mbilli (25-0, 21 KOs) and Erik Bazinyan (31-0, 22 KOs) delivered remarkable performances in 2023, further solidifying their positions in global rankings. Presently ranked 1st in the WBC and WBA, 3rd in the IBF, and 5th in the WBO, Mbilli continued his ascent by engaging in a relentless battle against Ecuadorian power puncher Carlos Góngora on March 23 at the Montreal Casino. This bout, already rated 5 stars by Boxrec, is now hailed as an iconic fight by several experts. Images from this match, especially those from the 8th round, circulated worldwide, elevating Mbilli’s name across the globe. It was just the beginning, as the adopted Quebecois once again enthralled the crowd in October, this time at the Casino Lac-Leamy, securing another devastating KO victory against American Demond Nicholson in the 4th round. This performance reaffirmed that no matter who stands in the path of the one nicknamed “Solide,” none are strong enough to prevent him from reaching his ultimate goal of a world championship.

In a similar vein, Erik Bazinyan, ranked #2 in the WBA, #3 in the WBC and WBO, and #4 in the IBF, electrified the audience in his last fight of the year in October. After a press conference and weigh-in where Ronald Ellis did everything to provoke him, Bazinyan let his fists do the talking in the ring by stopping the American in the 6th round. Dubbed “Bzo,” he sent a clear message to the super-middleweight division, becoming the first to stop Ellis so early in a fight, easily surpassing David Benavidez, the current WBC interim champion, who took 11 rounds to get the job done.

Reaching the ranks of #3 in the WBC, #4 in the WBA, and #7 in the IBF, Arslanbek Makhmudov (18-1, 17 KOs) experienced a year of significant milestones in 2023. He marked his debut on the American stage with a stunning second-round victory over boxer Raphael Akpejiori, previously undefeated in 15 fights. He subsequently had the opportunity to fight on two of the most significant boxing cards in recent years, in Saudi Arabia, against Junior Wright and then Agit Kabayel in October and December. Although the latter fight resulted in his first defeat, it was against the elite, on the grandest stage. Displaying immense courage despite two significant hand injuries, the “Lion” promises a strong comeback in 2024.

During the first of these events held in Riyadh in October, Simon Kean also bravely fought against former champion Joseph Parker, who would defeat Deontay Wilder less than two months later. Beyond the results, Eye of the Tiger’s participation in these two immense events, featuring Tyson Fury against Francis Ngannou and Anthony Joshua versus Otto Wallin, represents a significant turning point in the history of the Montreal-based enterprise. It’s somewhat the culmination of over 10 years of relentless work, not only revitalizing Quebec boxing but also making an international turn.

To make this possible – to continue offering quality events, spectacular fights, and maintain a strong presence on the international stage – Eye of the Tiger places particular emphasis on recruiting and developing its athletes. Thanks to the team’s efforts and especially that of its Director of Development, Marc Ramsay, the Montreal promoter had the opportunity to sign talented athletes like Jhon Orobio (5-0, 5 KOs) in the lightweight división, Moreno Fendero (2-0,1 KO) in the middleweight division and Imam Khataev (5-0, 5 KOs) perceived as the successor to the current world champion in the light heavyweight, Artur Beterbiev. A third super-middleweight, the IBO world champion, Cuban boxer Osleys Iglesias (9-0, 8 KOs), joined the already formidable duo in the Montreal stable. Currently ranked 16th in the WBC, it won’t take long for him to join Mbilli and Bazinyan in the top 10.

The light heavyweight Albert Ramirez (17-0, 15 KOs), who also joined EOTTM this year, has a bright future. With two wins in two fights, the Venezuelan-born southpaw boxer is currently ranked 9th worldwide according to BoxRec. He made it into the top 10 rankings in the WBA at 4th place, 6th in the WBC, and 7th in the WBO.

Meanwhile, Albertan Steve Claggett (37-7-2, 25 KOs) seems unstoppable since teaming up with coach Mike Moffa. This remarkable duo secured spectacular victories against formidable opponents, including a former world champion, Alberto Machado. The reputation of the “Dragon” speaks for itself; he’s a warrior in the ring, and his exceptional performances led him to become the NABF champion at 140 lbs, claim the WBO International title, and rise to 8th in the WBC and 12th in the WBO rankings.

Several other hopefuls from EOTTM continued their development brilliantly. One of the most active was Mehmet Nadir Unal (7-0, 6 KOs) with five victories. Christopher Guerrero (9-0, 5 KOs) also stood out, securing four KOs in as many fights, despite facing increasingly tougher opponents. The pride of Buckingham, Alexandre Gaumont (9-0, 6 KOs), collected three victories, while Luis Santana (10-0, 4 KOs) managed two wins despite injuries and adversity. Speaking of perseverance, 2023 was also marked by the inspiring comeback of Vanessa Lepage-Joanisse (6-1, 2 KOs), who, after over 5 years of absence, returned with force this year. Like several others in the Montreal stable, her incredible 2023 will set her sights on the highest peaks in 2024.

The 2024 calendar is already packed and will kick off with a historic boxing night featuring championship duels. Artur Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs), the current unified WBC, IBF, and WBO light heavyweight champion, will face British contender Callum Smith (29-1, 21 KOs). Additionally, there will be a duel for the defense of the WBC Continental Americas and WBA International titles held by Christian Mbilli (25-0, 21 KOs), who will fight Rohan Murdock (27-2, 19 KOs). Also on the card is the bantamweight championship between Jason Moloney (26-2, 19 KOs) defending his WBO title against Saul Sanchez (20-2, 12 KOs), as well as Imam Khataev (5-0, 5 KOs) in his first championship fight against Rodolfo Gomez Jr (14-7-3, 10 KOs) for the NABF 175 lb title.

Ticket sales for the #BeterbievSmith gala on January 13, 2024, at the Centre Vidéotron are ongoing through the network www.ticketmaster.ca. To stay updated on the latest news from EOTTM and its athletes, you can join the EOTTM WhatsApp community by clicking here. Follow EOTTM on Facebook and Instagram @eottm_boxing, on Twitter @eottm11, or subscribe to the #EOTTMARMY newsletter by filling out the online form.