Adonis Stevenson scored his fourth stoppage of the year last night, short-circuiting Tony Bellew via sixth-round TKO before a raucous crowd at the Colisee de Quebec, in Quebec City, Canada.
Whatever one may think of his past—his well-documented immersion in a flesh trade far more heinous than the one he now embraces—Stevenson, Longueuil, Quebec, Canada, has made every effort to keep that shadow cast behind him. However ironic his relationship with violence may be, Stevenson has found his salvation in hurting people, and he is enjoying a career year. In March, Stevenson knocked out Darnell Boone, avenging his only professional loss. A fight with light heavyweight Chad Dawson followed. Dawson, who had made a living off the seniors circuit, was blown out by the older Stevenson in just over a minute. Snarling Tavoris Cloud was next, but he could barely muster a whimper against Stevenson, who beat the bully out of Cloud for seven merciless rounds. Bellew, Liverpool, Merseyside, United Kingdom, swore to be different. And for the first few rounds, he made good on his promise.
Stevenson is a concussive banger, one of the best, but he is largely a one-handed puncher. His left hand is an educated weapon, one that the southpaw Stevenson throws from different distances, from different angles, and with the accuracy and oomph of an AIM-9 Sidewinder. No light heavyweight can endure twelve rounds of Stevenson lighting them up with his left. But when throwing his right, Stevenson often looks like a guy whose arm is asleep. This pronounced disparity was not lost on Bellew, who started the fight moving to his left, figuring, quite rightly, that it was better to suffer Stevenson’s right hand than risk the left. Bellew also refused to lead, forcing Stevenson, a natural counterpuncher, to make his own success (of which he had little in the early going). Moreover, with Bellew moving away from his left, Stevenson was dependent on his right hand to initiate the action. When he jabbed or hooked with this inferior weapon, Bellew, 175, would exchange with him, launching left hooks that were intended to dissuade if not damage. Perhaps it was not a winning strategy so much as a blueprint for survival, but Bellew, who bloodied Stevenson’s nose early, was presenting “Superman” with his sternest test of the year.
After a few frustrating rounds, however, Stevenson, 174 1/2, started to dial in his left hand. Despite moving like a calf, he began trapping Bellew in the corners. No Baryshnikov himself, Bellew often froze when forced to go to his right, and in these moments of hesitation, Stevenson banged away. Bellew simply did not have the skill set to effectively execute what was, really, a well-devised strategy for twelve rounds. With trainer Javon “Sugar” Hill exhorting him to let his hands go, Stevenson took the fight to Bellew in the sixth round, dropping him with a left hand. Up at the count of eight, but badly hurt, Bellew, 20-2-1 (12), was staggered by another Stevenson left, and referee Michael Griffin jumped in to save the defenseless fighter at 1:50 of the sixth round.
With the win, Stevenson, 23-2 (20), positioned himself for a fight with fellow human guillotine Sergey Kovalev, who blew away Ismayl Sillakh on the undercard. Unlike so many intriguing fights, Stevenson-Kovalev is hindered neither by promotional acrimony nor network politics. It is the best fight possible in the light heavyweight division, one that would sell out the Bell Centre in Montreal, and a fight HBO is surely on board with, considering the winner could provide Andre Ward with a compelling foil.
But when pressed about Kovalev, Stevenson said that the people of Quebec wanted him to fight Carl Froch or Bernard Hopkins; an assertion that left the arena—an arena rammed with the same people he claimed wanted him to fight Froch or Hopkins—stunned. Even Kellerman was momentarily confused. It was like watching a groom decline his vows at the altar. The more Kellerman pressed Stevenson for an explanation, the more Stevenson, already disadvantaged by a language barrier, unraveled. The interview devolved into an embarrassing spectacle.
From Stevenson’s perspective, a Froch fight is hardly a ridiculous proposition: Froch draws well, and is an aging super middleweight who looked vulnerable in his last outing. Hopkins however, is a Showtime fighter, which takes him immediately out of the running—even if the people of Quebec actually wanted that fight, it isn’t happening. If Stevenson had mentioned the winner of January’s fight between Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal, that would have been easier to swallow. Bute-Pascal is a huge event in Quebec, and Stevenson versus the winner would be as well. But Froch? Hopkins? Boxing fans are used to being lied to, and used to settling for less, but the lie has to be better. Stevenson should have said he intended to ruin Kovalev for the glory of French Canada…and then put it off as long as he wanted.
Refreshingly active, refreshingly destructive, Stevenson is also 36 years old—time is not on his side. He may wish to line his pockets a few more times before risking an encounter with Kovalev, which is completely understandable. He may not care in the slightest what people want or think of him. That too, makes a lot of sense. He could be posturing for more money, which he absolutely should do. But if it is space between who he was and who he is that Stevenson wants, fighting Kovalev would help—as would a better lie in the meantime.