Baxter leads Ontario explosion
On 18 March, Lee Baxter Promotions present a fight card at the Brampton Powerade Centre, headlined by lightweight Logan McGuinness. Shawn Smith speaks to the promoter about the card, Ontario's booming boxing scene and his hopes for the future...
With four shows scheduled between United Promotions’ 25 February outing headlined by Cody Crowley and Lee Baxter Promotions' upcoming show at the Danforth Music Hall on 20 April, Ontario’s boxing scene appears to be entering a period of incomparable riches.
The most stacked event of the bunch will take place on 18 March, as Lee Baxter Promotions hold a fight card at the Brampton Powerade Centre, headlined by Logan McGuinness (25-0-1). The card will also feature recent world title challenger Samuel Vargas (25-3-1), as well as highly-touted prospect Kane Heron (4-0) and Ontario’s Sandy Tsagouris (15-2) challenging Carla Torres (5-4) for the vacant Women’s International Boxing Association world super featherweight title.
McGuinness, who signed with Baxter in the summer of 2016, is Ontario’s most highly-touted prospect. Baxter believes there’s no rush in pushing the 29-year-old fighter towards the top of the lightweight division and is focused on building the Ontario boxing scene. He believes that with proper promotion, they can draw the big fights to Ontario.
“I believe talent-wise, he's ready now,” Baxter said of whether or not McGuinness was ready for world level. “I'm really trying to bring boxing to Ontario, so I don't want to play the cop-out route by getting him ready for the top level and then shipping him off to the U.S. somewhere. Logan is very marketable, he has a big fan-base and is still very young. What we're doing is taking it slow, [we’d like to] get the big fights to come to Ontario.”
Baxter added that McGuinness will be back in the world rankings after this bout, from which he was removed due to inactivity. He would like to see a summer bout for “possibly a few regional titles or an interim world title.” After that, he said they will target top ten opponents.
“I think we can draw the fights to take place here,” Baxter said. “If we haven't gotten there yet, we're in no rush. We can keep getting him meaningful local fights until we have enough to draw the fight here.”
Vargas is best known to international boxing fans for his losses to Errol Spence Jr. and Danny Garcia, but Baxter is hoping to change that. Now working with a strength and conditioning coach, the welterweight is feeling better than ever. Baxter said that Vargas’ bouts with the elite of the division have shown him where he needs to be to reach that level.
“As soon as he started working with his new strength and conditioning coach he texted me saying he has no idea how he got this far,” Baxter said with a laugh. “Truly he's only lost to two of the best fighters in the world. I don't think he's taking it like a big beat down. Obviously, he wanted to win, but it just gives him that much more experience and shows him where he needs to be."
Heron is one of Canada’s most intriguing welterweight youngsters. Already ranked seventh in the country, Baxter sees him becoming a major star in the near future.
“Heron is an elite athlete, he went 79-6 as an amateur,” Baxter said. “All the other prospects coming up, he's beat them all in the amateurs. I'm not really looking to do local things with him, he's right to international level immediately. I believe he'll be a TV star. In the next two years the world will know who he is.”
Baxter sees himself hosting six to eight shows in Ontario this year, possibly moving to a monthly schedule in the coming years. He sees the Brampton Powerade Centre as being McGuiness’ regular fight home, another similar sized venue being home to Vargas and the Danforth Music Hall being used for prospect shows. He’d also like to hold a yearly gala event featuring a variety of his talent.
But for now he’s focused on 18 March and maybe, just maybe, positioning McGuinness for a world title shot before too long.