Jean Pascal overpowered Adrian Diaconu with speed and style to win the WBC light-heavyweight title in a 12-round unanimous decision Friday night before 13,659 Bell Centre fight fans who seemed split in their support of the two Montreal fighters.
Diaconu (26-1), who was knocked down in the fifth round, lost in his first defence of the title, while Pascal won in his first fight since moving up to the light-heavyweight division.
Judge Maximo de Luca scored it 115-112, while John Keane had it 116-112 and Jack Woodburn scored it 116-111 for Pascal.
Their contrasting styles were in evidence from the outset, as Diaconu came straight forward looking to brawl while the quicker, taller Pascal stayed on the outside, moving in to land pot-shots on his stocky opponent.
The crowd roared through a thrilling fifth, as Pascal knocked Diaconu down with a left and, after he got up, tried to finish him with a wild flurry of blows, but the Romanian-born Diaconu rebounded late with a flurry of his own against the ropes.
But while Pascal looked to be dominating the exchanges, the threat hung over the entire bout that Diaconu could turn it completely around at any moment with a well-placed power punch.
It nearly happened in the 11th when Diaconu landed a right to the jaw and the pair went toe-to-toe for a long moment that had the crowd on its feet.
The 12th featured another long furious exchange, but the swollen and bloody Diaconu failed to take Pascal down.
Won title in 2008
Diaconu, 31, won the interim WBC title in April 2008 when he eked out a win over American Chris Henry in Bucharest and was given the full title when champion Chad Dawson gave it up to fight fellow American Antonio Tarver for the IBF belt.
Two scheduled defences against Silvio Blanco of Italy were cancelled, so Diaconu's only bout in the past 14 months was an eight-round decision in a tuneup against modest David Whittom of Quebec City on April 4.
Pascal was in his second title fight in just over six months, having lost a bid for the WBC super-middleweight (168-pound) belt to Carl Froch on Dec. 6 in England.
It was the first time rival promoters InterBox, which handles Diaconu, and Groupe Yvon Michel, which has Pascal, had their fighters face one another in the ring.
In the co-feature, "The Contender" champion Troy Ross left the ring with a nasty welt under his right eye, but the Toronto cruiserweight also came away with a tough 10-round decision over American Michael Simms.
Ross (22-1) won 98-91 on one judge's card and 99-90 on the two others, although it appeared a much closer fight. The Canadian Press had it 96-94 for Ross after an uneventful bout, fought mostly from in close.
Ross fought from the third round on with swelling under his right eye, but the left-hander still got the better of most exchanges against the cautious Simms (20-11-1).
The 33-year-old Ross, angling to get into position for a world title fight, gained fame on Feb. 25 when he beat Ehinomen Ehikhamenor in four rounds to win "The Contender, Season 4."
Simms, 34, a former world amateur champion, has lost seven of his last eight, and nine of last 13, pro fights. He also served as a sparring partner for Diaconu during training for his bout with Pascal.
The undercard produced a surprise when 23-year-old Mario Macias (13-5) of Mexico knocked out Sebastien Gauthier (17-2) of St-Jerome, Que., with a stiff left hook only 1:20 into the second round of their scheduled eight-round bantamweight bout.
Promising middleweight David Lemieux (16-0) of Montreal set what organizers called a Canadian record by stopping his opponents before the limit in his first 16 pro bouts when he knocked out Martin Avila (10-6) of Mexico with a right-hand shot 1:17 into the second round of their six-rounder.
Former Canadian national team fighter Kevin Bizier (5-0) of St-Emile, Que., won all four rounds of a physical welterweight battle with Cesar Soriano (19-24) of Mexico.
Pier-Olivier Cote (7-0) of Quebec City used Jean Charlemagne (1-10-2) of Montreal as a punching bag until their lightweight bout was stopped at 45 seconds into the sixth.