December 21, 2016
December 21, 2016
Adonis Stevenson

Dave Nadkarni/Premier Boxing Champions

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WHEN it came to a highly anticipated world light-heavyweight championship fight on November 19, the most interested party wasn’t a participant. He wasn’t even in Las Vegas to watch Andre Ward remove a trio of championship belts from the possession of Sergey Kovalev.

But the ‘lineal’ champion of the 175-pound weight class, WBC titleholder Adonis Stevenson, was most certainly watching the most important fight to hit the division in years, one many believe should have been his.

“It was a good fight, a really close fight, and I think Andre Ward won it,” said Stevenson, who quickly posted a video on Instagram of his reaction to the decision and his desire to fight the winner. When Boxing News caught up to “Superman” on November 22, three days after the fight, he was not backing down when it comes to a possible unification bout with Ward.

“I want to unify the title,” Stevenson declared. “If he [Ward] wants to unify the title, and I don’t think Andre Ward is scared about that, then we’re going to do that. But whoever comes, I’m ready.”

For the moment, the expected next in line to face the Haitian-born Canadian is mandatory challenger Eleider Alvarez. There is no date in place for the bout, which should take place in early. For his part, Stevenson is apparently unbothered by the prospect of meeting the unbeaten Colombian, simply saying, “I let [adviser] Al Haymon take care of all of that.”

At this point in his career, the 39-year-old southpaw wants big fights, so mandatory bouts against the likes of Alvarez, or “keep busy” matchups like his most recent against Thomas Williams Jnr are good for the bank account, but not for the competitive soul. Nonetheless, Steventson knows that to get what he wants, he still has to keep winning impressively.

“It’s not tough [to stay focused],” he said. “I’m always focused. I sleep, I wake up, I dance, I do everything and I’m focused.”

Stevenson laughs, knowing that when it’s time for work, there’s not much dancing to be seen. That was never more evident than in July’s bout against the talented, but still raw, Williams. A good action fight, Stevenson was ultimately just too much for the Maryland native, who got knocked out in the fourth round.

“I think it was the Knockout of the Year,” said Stevenson, and if it’s not, it’s close. The victory was a shining example of what the Quebec resident brings to the ring – a sense of menace along with just enough defensive deficiencies to make it interesting.

But that left hand…that’s a game changer.

“When ‘Superman’ is in the ring, I’m not joking,” he said. “I’m here to look for the knockout and I’m always looking for it. I’ve got the best left on the market.”

It’s why the unification bout at 175lbs fans wanted more than anything wasn’t between Ward and Kovalev, but between Stevenson and Kovalev. Yet for at least two years, negotiations between the two camps always came to an icy standstill. Whether it was management, promotional ties, or network tie-ups, the super-fight between two of the biggest punchers in the game just didn’t happen, forcing both to look elsewhere. And while some hoped for Kovalev to get the win against Ward and trigger negotiations for a bout once more, that didn’t happen, and Stevenson doesn’t believe he’ll ever face the Russian.

“I don’t think this fight is going to happen,” Stevenson said. “He don’t have the title. I’m only interested in the titles, and Kovalev doesn’t have them; Andre Ward has the titles.”

That doesn’t mean Stevenson vs. Ward isn’t an intriguing matchup, because it is. In fact, outside of a rematch of Ward and Kovalev, it’s the biggest fight to be made in the division. And while Stevenson will likely be the underdog against the new WBA, IBF and WBO champion, there’s a feeling among fight fans and pundits that if Stevenson landed the kind of punch that Kovalev put Ward on the canvas with in round two, the former Olympic gold medallist might not have gotten up.

“I knock people out with one punch,” Stevenson said. “You don’t have a lot of guys that can knock anybody out with one punch. Look at Kovalev. He has to throw a couple combinations to knock people out. But me, I don’t need 10, 15 punches or five-punch combinations. I only need one punch. So in this market, they don’t have it. I’ve got the same power like Mike Tyson back in the day.”

Stevenson also had Tyson’s checkered past, spending his teenage years on the streets before ending up serving 18 months in prison. It’s not anything he’s proud of, but he’s moved on, become a law-abiding citizen and, ultimately, an example for young people who may be on the same path he was on that there are other options.

“When you’re a kid, you have to look for examples,” he said. “Sometimes these kids have trouble and they think they can’t have success. So I proved that you can do it and be a success if you work real hard and stay out of trouble. I’m a good model for that.”

Stevenson found his salvation in boxing after leaving prison, and while he had a late start, turning pro at the age of 29 in 2006, his talent and power was evident, and he finally had something positive in his life to chase after.

“Boxing did a lot for me,” he said. “It gave me a lot of discipline and it was good for me to keep me out of the streets and out of trouble. If you’re a kid coming into boxing, you have to be disciplined, and that’s very important, because if you’re not disciplined, you can’t box. So boxing did a lot for me and it’s helped a lot of people.”

But it may have been the help from the late Emanuel Steward that truly took Stevenson from prospect to contender to champion. To this day, Stevenson wears his Kronk colours, and while Steward, who passed away in 2012, didn’t get to see his charge knock Chad Dawson out in a single round to win the WBC title in 2013, his teachings were evident on fight night.

“He meant a lot to me,” Stevenson said of Steward. “He helped me a lot and gave me good advice and good training. [At first] he didn’t know me but he still had me in his house and let me sleep in the house. He opened the door for me. He was a mentor to me, a great person.”

In his first fight after Steward’s passing, and with Javan “Sugar” Hill (Steward’s nephew) manning the corner, Stevenson knocked out Darnell Boone in six rounds. The March 2013 bout was a rematch, one the rising star really didn’t need to take, as he was in line to face Dawson for the title. But it showed a lot about Stevenson’s character in that erasing the lone loss of his career against Boone was more than worth the risk.

“It was a great opportunity for me to do the rematch,” Stevenson said. “I knew I could beat this guy. So I did it and I feel undefeated. I avenged my loss and every opponent I fought, I beat.”

Now 28-1 (23), Stevenson is still on top of his game, but at 39 years old, it’s clear that the clock is ticking when it comes to making the big fights. It’s a task he hopes to complete in 2017.

“I want to unify the titles, so if Ward wants it, we’ll unify the titles, and I’m ready for any challenge in 2017. Any challenge. Don’t blink.”

Sounds like a man in control.

“It’s not about being in control,” Stevenson explained. “I beat the man and I’m the man, so people can talk about the pound-for-pound bulls**t like that, but I’m the lineal champion and you can’t be pound-for-pound if you don’t beat the lineal champion. Basically, you have to come through me. You can’t say you’re pound-for-pound but you don’t beat the king. And you already have one king in this division.”

This feature was originally published in Boxing News magazine