SAN DIEGO, July 29, 2016 – if you asked boxing fans which fight they most wanted to see a year ago, a showdown between light heavyweights Adonis “Superman” Stevenson of Canada via Haiti and Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev of Russia would have been near the top of the list to unify the division championship.
Today, this bout is not any closer to being made. Perhaps the opposite. Kovalev moved on and is set to fight undefeated American Andre Ward in November. Stevenson’s last fight was ten months ago, a three round TKO of Tommy Karpency, and his last significant opponent was Andrzej Fonfara two and a half years ago. Once the lineal light heavyweight champion, Ring Magazine stripped him of that distinction.
Instead, fans will have to settle for watching WBC champion Stevenson (27-1, 22 KOs) take on American challenger Thomas Williams Jr. of Maryland (20-1-0, 14 KOs) in a Friday night bout from the Centre Videotron in Quebec City, airing in the U.S. on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.
Therein lies a cautionary career tale for any professional boxer. Stevenson won Fighter of the Year honors after four spectacular knockouts in four bouts in 2013 including a one round destruction of Chad Dawson that gave him the WBC title. He’s only had four fights since 2013, mainly due to contract issues when Stevenson abruptly changed promoters and networks, putting significant roadblocks in front of making the fight with Kovalev. Despite calling out Kovalev on social media and ringside at his bouts, Stevenson has taken heat for ducking the Russian. He’s been taunted with the nickname “Adonis Chickenson” by Kovalev, and fair or not it’s stuck.
Stevenson seems not to be bothered by it, or his relative lack of ring activity. “Sometimes it’s good to take a break and come back stronger,” said Stevenson, who is 7-0 with five knockouts in title fights. “My layoff will be good for me. I needed to recover, but everything is good now and I don’t have any injuries.”
Williams Jr. earned his opportunity to challenge Stevenson for the WBC belt with a stunning knockout win in two rounds over Edwin Rodriguez in April. The win came after the first loss of Williams Jr.’s career to Gabriel Campillo in a fight stopped due to injury. After the stoppage, Williams Jr. personally apologized to ringside analyst and trainer Teddy Atlas for his poor performance. Atlas encouraged the disappointed Williams, and ever since then, Atlas has taken it upon himself to encourage and motivate Williams Jr.
“I believe in karma, destiny and fate. Everything happens for a reason, including the loss to Campillo,” Atlas says. “I believe the Campillo fight had to happen for Thomas to be the fighter he’s become. Thomas has done what’s necessary to achieve that destiny and determine his fate. He’s doing the work, connecting the dots, and he’s on that journey.”
Both men are southpaws. Williams has the height advantage but Stevenson has the reach advantage. Stevenson has tremendous power; Williams Jr. is also a power puncher but he can throw wide and wildly when swinging for the fences in a fight. It often leaves him vulnerable; he’s got a good chin but he won’t be able to let a power punches like Stevenson get in many shots without suffered the consequences.
Stevenson said at Thursday’s weigh-in, ”I know Williams hits hard and that he has a name now in the United States, but I keep the same Kronk Gym mentality Emmanuel Steward taught me: we go for the KO. It is also the birthday of my daughter and I want to offer her a KO, I am motivated. This will be exciting. Don’t blink!” Stevenson says he’s prepared to box or go toe to toe, whatever is required.
Williams said at the weigh-in, ”You don’t know what I have been through to be here. Tweets, talks and predictions won’t mean nothing Friday night: facts will. There will be a new champion.”
If Stevenson shows a little ring rust, Williams Jr. would be wise to jump right on him and try to catch Stevenson unprepared. As Teddy Atlas said of Williams Jr., “Catch Stevenson before he catches you.” Williams Jr. is ten years younger than Stevenson, who will turn 39 on September 22. If Stevenson shows his age, Williams Jr. may have an advantage in the later rounds.
There will be little finesse in this fight. It’s going to be a southpaw slugfest. Williams Jr. has a puncher’s chance and he certainly possesses the motivation. Nevertheless, most observers expect Stevenson to win another stoppage before the middle rounds.
Then what? With Kovalev and Ward set to fight November 19, Stevenson will likely fight the winner of the bout between undefeated Eleider Alvarez of Colombia and Robert Berridge of New Zealand. Alvarez now fights out of Montreal and is ranked number four in the division behind Kovalev, Stevenson, and Ward. Berridge took the bout on 10 days notice when Chad Dawson bowed out due to injury. The fight takes place at a 180 pound catchweight and should be little more than a sparring session for Alvarez.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Fellow PRSA, is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. She is owner of the Falcon Valley Group based in San Diego, California. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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