“My life changed when I found boxing because I found purpose, focus and self-esteem.” Lalonde told RingTV.com.
Lalonde had a brief amateur career, going 11-4 before turning professional in 1980. He won his first four fights before dropping a decision to Wilbert Johnson but got revenge, knocking Johnson out in two rounds, seven months later.
During the early years, he promoted himself with help from his brother and lived a modest lifestyle. All the while Lalonde learned from sparring with then-light heavyweight champion Marvin Johnson.
He won the Canadian title in July of 1983, stopping Roddy MacDonald, before stepping up to face Willie Edwards, six fights later, for the NABF title in 1985. In that bout, Lalonde was stopped in front of his home fans in the ninth round.
Unperturbed, he bounced back with 10 straight wins, including one over teak-tough Mustafa Hamsho to set up a shot at the vacant WBC light heavyweight title. He made the most of his opportunity, stopping Eddie Davis in two rounds in the exotic surroundings of Trinidad and Tobago six months later.
“Winning the world title was such a payoff for me,” said Lalonde, “because, as the years went by, the sacrifice I made to continue boxing, both physically – with the numerous serious injuries – and the loss of opportunity I put aside to focus on boxing, put me in a position that if I didn’t fulfill my goal of winning a world title, then making some money from it, I would have felt I, in a sense, wasted those valuable earning years, as well as compromised my health in such a way as to minimize my future earning potential.”
Lalonde stopped Leslie Stewart in five rounds in the same location before being offered a super-fight with the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard. The two met in November of 1988, for both the newly-created WBC super middleweight title and Lalonde’s WBC light heavyweight belt, agreeing to a contracted 168-pounds, so both titles could be on the line.
“The fight itself was a huge disappointment for me,” he said, explaining, “because I had prepared myself and my life for such a big event and, on a skill level, I showed I was able to compete with the greatest – at least in my mind – and I think I showed that the first four rounds.
“What was disappointing is the end result. After the knockdown in the fourth round, I stopped fighting my fight plan. I, instead of setting up the counter right hand knockout punch – which is what set up the knockdown and would have been how I would have ended the fight with a KO victory – started waiting to land the punch thinking, ‘This is going to be easy. One more punch, a little cleaner, and this is over.’
“I got off my fight plan, gave Ray space to get back in the fight, and what happened happened. He took a lot of punishment but, had I been even near my natural weight, he would not have been able to. I over-trained, under-performed. It was very disappointing.”
Although he was stopped in the ninth round, Lalonde earned a career-high $6 million.
He was due to return the following June against Dennis Andries for the now-vacant WBC 175-pound crown; however, he decided to step away from the sport.
Nearly three years after the Leonard loss, Lalonde found the lure too much and returned, winning four fights – all by knockout – earning a shot at Bobby Czyz’s WBA cruiserweight strap. Lalonde fought valiantly but lost a unanimous decision.
“Bobby Czyz had a great jab or at least he used his to control our WBA championship fight very effectively,” he said of their May 1992 meeting. “I couldn’t avoid it, though, after the first round knockdown I suffered, I didn’t even know I was in a boxing ring until the fifth round when I recognized Bobby and the thoughts that came to me were, ‘Wow, that’s Bobby Czyz,’ then I realized I was in a ring with people watching and thought, ‘I guess I am fighting Bobby Czyz; there are people here.’
“Bobby fought a very smart fight behind his jab. Our camp was wrong. Our thoughts were that we could outbox him. I think a better strategy would have been to go toe-to-toe. Bobby’s jab was very underrated.”
Again Lalonde stepped away from boxing, this time for four-and-a-half years. When he returned, he went 6-0-1 at a lower level before facing Virgil Hill in the summer of 2003, dropping a unanimous decision.
After the Hill loss, Lalonde retired from boxing with a record of 41-5-1 (33 knockouts).
Lalonde, 56, has been married to Christi for 25 years. The couple have two children, Dylan, 24, and Bailey, 22. He currently lives in Malta and is still involved in boxing, working with a young pro light heavyweight Malik Zinad (5-0, 4 KOs). He is also writing his autobiography.