Adonis Stevenson: ‘Superman’ or ‘The Forgotten Man’?
By Adam Godfrey: Like many, I was slightly baffled by the announcement that Adonis Stevenson would be granting Andrzej Fonfara a light-heavyweight re-match, which took place on the 4th June 2017 in Montreal, Canada. The clamor for the two to lock horns for a second time was non-existent, not helped by the vicious beating dished out to the Pole by Joe Smith Jr. last June.
Fonfara was soundly beaten in that fight, finding himself obliterated as the first round approached its climax. Fonfara has decent wins against the likes of Nathan Cleverley, Julio César Chávez Jr and Chad Dawson, but has hardly set the world alight as his career has progressed.
That Stevenson has already beaten Fonfara should have put paid to this nonsense fight as soon it was considered. The first fight was entertaining in patches, Fonfara even managed to score a flash knockdown (although he’d already hit the canvas twice himself by that point), but Stevenson was the clear winner and he took a decision that was nigh on impossible to dispute.
So why the re-match? Stevenson has endured countless accusations that he has milked the WBC belt that he relieved Chad Dawson of in 2013 for all that it is worth. Stevenson left the Bell Centre that night in June with the WBC strap, the Ring Magazine title and the lineal title that Dawson had taken from Bernard Hopkins the year before, and he has held all three since. However, careful, some might say questionable, matchmaking since has seen Stevenson’s stock fall amongst Boxing’s notoriously demanding fan base. Victories over the likes of Tavoris Cloud, Tony Bellew, Fonfara, Tommy Karpency and Dimity Sukhotsky all failed to galvanize the Boxing community into a fervor of expectation. Many wondered why Stevenson was not actively pursuing more dangerous and popular fighters such as Sergei Kovalev, Andre Ward (who was always likely to move up to Light-Heavyweight) and, more recently, the up-and-coming, Bernard Hopkins retirement-party-pooper Joe Smith Jr. Whether those fighters would have taken up the chance to take on the lineal champion is essentially irrelevant while Stevenson has been so reluctant to convincingly call them out in the first place.
Events may have transpired against Stevenson. Kovalev and Ward will fight again in a re-match that, unlike last night’s debacle, is fully justified and sought after, removing both from the equation for the short-term future. But even then, Stevenson could and should have salvaged some pride by at least showing an interest in fighting the winner once the dust has settled. However, neither’s name was mentioned following the inevitable Fonfara KO, and the reader would be justified in suspecting that Stevenson will not be going out of his way to entice either man into a fight in the near future. As usual, I’d be delighted to eat my words.
Kovalev, on the other hand, showed how it should be done following his own (questionable, it has to be said) decision to re-match Jean Pascal in January 2016. He goaded Stevenson into the ring, memorably referred to him as ‘Adonis Chickenson’ before proceeding to underline his contempt my mimicking a duck’s quack. There are many things Stevenson does not share in common with Marty McFly of Back to the Future fame, an inability to control oneself after being called ‘chicken’ seemingly one of them. Kovalev should have been actively pursued by Stevenson follow the embarrassing burn laid out on him. Instead? Silence. Well, not silence exactly. There have been half-hearted utterance over the years from the Canadian suggesting an interest in that particular fight, but nothing like the cacophony of noise required to let a more popular opponent know that you are next in-line and you are not going to move down the queue for anybody.
None of this is to suggest that Stevenson is not a good fighter. His ‘Superman’ moniker is apt. With a knockout ratio at a highly impressive 80%, and despite being nearly 40 years of age, he has a physique and stamina reserve that would make a 30-year-old envious. The owner of a particularly nasty left cross (ask Chad Dawson, who referred to his impending bout with his soon to be conqueror as a ‘tune up fight’), Stevenson would cause real problems for either of his more illustrious rivals, and a win over whichever he fought would not come as a surprise. He is also a difficult fighter to tag, described by Tony Bellew as ‘very hard to hit himself, he’s awkward’. But at 39, Stevenson does not have long left in the sport, and cannot afford to continue to milk his belt; Ward and Kovalev have to be a priority, and cashing out against either would be a welcome addition to the top end of his CV as his career draws to a close.
Instead, we’ll likely see Stevenson fight his mandatory challenger Eleider Alvarez next, a fight which again will not set the collective pulse of the Boxing community racing. Stevenson, of course, must fight his mandatory if a more lucrative challenge is not available and he wants to keep his belt. A more lucrative fight is not currently available with Ward and Kovalev focused on each other, and most fans will forgive him in this instance. But he must put his name and face out there and let both the men themselves and the powers that be know without a shadow of a doubt that he will be the next to take on whoever should win and that no-one will be able to get in his way.
With Al Haymon, one of the most powerful and enigmatic men in the industry in his proverbial corner, it is difficult to imagine that, should Stevenson really want the winner of Kovalev and Ward, he won’t be able to get it. Kovalev and Ward currently have the momentum behind them and will retain it whatever the outcome of their re-match, so it is on the shoulders of Stevenson to force a fight to happen.
Boxing fans will not allow a belt to be held hostage, and in a year where already the best have shown a rare willingness to fight the best following years of collective marinating and ducking, will be even more impatient to see the WBC strap join its spiritual brothers around the waist of the same man, whoever that man may be. Otherwise Stevenson is in danger of seeing his fan-base dwindle and his nickname changed from ‘Superman’ to ‘The Forgotten Man’.
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