SAN DIEGO, June 2, 2017 – Three years ago, Adonis Stevenson was expected to make short work of Andrzej Fonfara of Poland in their light heavyweight contest in Montreal.
Stevenson blasted Fonfara halfway through the first round with a powerful left hand and it seemed the predictions would come true, showing the form that made Stevenson 2013 Fighter of the Year.
Fonfara hadn’t read the script. He took some serious punishment, but returned the favor and knocked a shocked Stevenson down in the ninth round for only the second time in his career. Stevenson came back to life in the tenth, but he couldn’t overcome the desire and the heart of Fonfara. The fight went the distance and Stevenson won on the scorecards, a moral victory for Fonfara. At the time, Fonfara waved off polite congratulations, saying, “I don’t have congratulations, I’ll work hard and train hard and I will be back.”
Stevenson (28-1, 23 KOs) and Fonfara (29-4, 17 KOs) are back as promised Saturday night at Montreal’s Bell Centre. Showtime Boxing will carry the bout and the undercard between Eleider Alvarez and Jean Pascal starting at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT.
In the three years since they met, the longed for bout between Stevenson and light heavyweight powerhouse Sergey Kovalev never got made. Instead, Stevenson had just four fights, none against the elite of the strong light heavyweight division. Fonfara faced five opponents, including Julio Caesar Chavez Jr. in a strong TKO performance, Nathan Cleverly by decision, and a faded Chad Dawson by TKO. The single loss was a shocking first round knockout by Long Island union worker Joe Smith Jr., who’s now set to face Sullivan Barrera in July.
Time is not on Stevenson’s side at age 39. Fonfara is ten years younger with two more professional fights and 50 more rounds under his belt than Stevenson. Age doesn’t have to be a defining factor; Wladimir Klitschko put on his best performance in ten years at age 41 against Anthony Joshua. But a seasoned boxer can suddenly look old overnight, we’ve seen this as well.
Fonfara is now training with Virgil Hunter, trainer to light heavyweight Andre Ward. Hunter likes to work with smart fighters, and Fonfara fits the mold. He’ll need to be smart and not expose himself to Stevenson’s most powerful weapon, the overhand left hook which is the Mother of All Bombs when it’s working. Fonfara is at his best when he can wear an opponent out and take him into deep water, particularly an opponent like Stevenson who’s been criticized for a lack of stamina in later rounds.
Stevenson says he’s in superb condition and ready to roll. “I’m ready because I know Fonfara is dangerous,” said Stevenson in this week’s final news conference. “We’re not underestimating him. I’ve prepared for everything, everything he brings in the ring I’ll be ready for it.”
Stevenson says he’s training for the knockout, because “Emanuel Steward always told me ‘knockouts sell.’ When I get in the ring I’m going for a knockout. It’s not an option for me to go 12 rounds.” In the next breath, Stevenson declared he can go the full 12 rounds. “I train for 12 rounds, and if it goes 12 rounds he’s going to get punishment the whole time, but I definitely am going for the knockout.”
Stevenson said he knows Fonfara is training hard to take his WBC light heavyweight title. “I know he’s a tough fighter, and I know it’s not going to be easy for me.” Stevenson saiid despite training with Hunter, Fonfara “can’t change his style right now … after a couple of rounds it will be the same old Fonfara.”
Fonfara says he’s a smarter, stronger fighter now and he’s learned more from Virgil Hunter since their first fight together against Chad Dawson last year. He says he likes fighting southpaws, and he’s ready for “the best” Stevenson.
“I can’t make the same mistakes I did in our first fight. I must fight much smarter,” said Fonfara. Fonfara says he must start strong and avoid Stevenson’s sole weapon, the left hand. “He’s the champ and he’s a good fighter, but his boxing isn’t amazing. He’s not easy, but he only has basic boxing skills. We must cut his left hand and be ready to throw my right. We need to control him,” said Fonfara.
Fonfara is motivated by the possibility of winning his first world title. “A world title is the only thing I’ve never had. I’ve imagined raising my hand after the fight and becoming the new WBC champion.”
Everything has to go according to plan for Fonfara. He cannot make any mistakes against Stevenson, or he’ll pay the price. Stevenson can get lucky with the left hand and change a fight in an instant. But it’s not a gimme for Stevenson despite the oddsmakers who heavily favor him.
The deeper the fight goes, the better for Fonfara. He will want to work Stevenson to the body and tire him out, then go for the late round stoppage. Stevenson will want the exact opposite. Whoever can impose his game plan has the advantage. If it goes to the cards, there are two Mexican judges and one Canadian judge, which helps Fonfara but might not overcome the hometown advantage.
Stevenson weighed in at 173.6 pounds; Fonfara weighed in at 174.2 pounds on Friday.
If Stevenson wins, he claims he’d like to unify titles with the winner of the Sergey Kovalev – Andre Ward rematch. Before this happens, he’ll likely face the winner of the co-main event. Eleider Alvarez (22-0, 11 KOs) of Colombia is undefeated and currently the WBC’s mandatory challenger for Stevenson. He’ll need a win against former champion Jean Pascal (31-4-1, 18 KOs), his toughest opponent to date. Alvarez is coming off a fifth round knockout of Lucien Bute in February. His most impressive win might be his decision in 2015 against the tough Isaac Chilemba.
“I didn’t wait 18 months to become a world champion for nothing,” said Alvarez. “I won’t give a victory to Pascal … I’m probably in the toughest division in boxing right now, but once Stevenson comes I’ll be ready.”
Pascal of Montreal via Haiti has never ducked a tough fight and had several noteworthy victories against Bute, Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson, but he took two beatings from Kovalev, the most recent in January 2016. His only fight since then was a lay-up fight in December at a small Quebec venue. Pascal knows winning is his only option.
“I’ve been in some battles, but my tank is still full,” said Pascal. “I’ve faced way better opposition than him. I’ve been there, done that on the big stage. This is a big, big fight, and I’ve been here before. That’s the thing with experience – you can’t buy experience. You have to live it, and I’ve lived it many times.”
Pascal’s best days are behind him. Alvarez knows he has a chance to prove himself with a signature win. He should get it. Both fighters weighed in Friday at 174.5 pounds.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on [email protected]
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