SUMMERSIDE – Richard Arsenault of Wellington is stepping from the cage to the ring.
An accomplished mixed martial arts (MMA) competitor, Arsenault will make his pro boxing debut at the Moncton Lions Centre on Saturday night. His opponent in the four-round cruiserweight bout will be Guy Desforges of Moncton, N.B.
“Right now Moncton is the hub of MMA fighting, and New Brunswick is one of the provinces that is bringing back boxing in a big way,” said Joe Borden, who is Arsenault’s boxing coach and standup coach in MMA. “Every off week or every second off week they will have an MMA card, and then two weeks later they will have a boxing card. A lot of the guys are switching back and forth.
“Richard has a ton of fans over there, and a lot of people said to me, ‘Do you think he would ever take a boxing match?’
“I said, ‘Well, he has mentioned to me before that he would like to try a boxing match.’
“We talked and the promoters got in touch with me and then got in touch with Richard and lined this fight up.”
Arsenault feels he is ready.
“I feel excellent,” said Arsenault. “Joe has been pushing me extremely hard, and my cardio and endurance have been very high.
“I’ve been pushing my cardio a lot more than I have for any of my MMA fights.”
The 34-year-old Arsenault is 8-2 (won-lost) in MMA fights, but he knows boxing is a totally different sport.
“I just hope I don’t end up kicking him, kneeing him or trying to take him down,” offered Arsenault during a break in a training session at Credit Union Place in Summerside on Thursday afternoon. “I’ve been working my hands a lot.
“Joe has been trying to keep me tame with just my hands. MMA is a lot of different. In MMA, you have to watch out for everything. In boxing, you have to watch out for speed and punch power. I’m going to enjoy it, I think.”
Borden, a member of the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame, added: “People think because it’s fighting it’s the same, but it’s definitely not the same. I will give you an example – the other day I was holding the pads for him, and he came in and threw a six-punch combination and bang, he threw his elbow right at me. Then he caught himself and said, ‘Gee, I can’t be doing that.’”
Other differences, says Borden, is how boxers stand compared to MMA fighters.
“When they are standing in MMA they are getting prepared to get kicked, whereas in boxing you are standing back on your right foot and you want to get the power off in your power punches,” explained Borden, who will be in Arsenault’s corner. “That’s a lot of stuff he has to deal with.
“The guy he is fighting has had about 15 pro fights, so he’s going to be fighting a guy who is experienced. He’s known as a heavy banger and physically very strong. We got a game plan and are going to use our speed.
“Richard has good footwork, he is fast on his feet, has nice hands and punches hard.”