- Steve Bunce
The Man of Steel risesSteve Bunce May 20, 2014
Adonis Stevenson was not a pimp, honest.
He is known as Superman and right now that is not a bad nickname for a fighter that only started to box when he had left prison.
Stevenson defends his WBC light-heavyweight title on Saturday in Quebec for the third time and in the opposite corner will be Poland's Andrzej Fonfara.
Just over a year ago Stevenson was the number one contender for Carl Froch's IBF super-middleweight title. He had won two eliminators, was knocking out people for fun and was not part of any of Froch's future plans. Stevenson went and found his own future.
- In Cuba in November 1996 at the World Junior championships an English referee called Mick Budden was given an envelope by one of his Russian colleagues.
- The Russian held up two fingers, Budden was judging the second final which featured a Russian. "However, Budden only opened the envelope after the fight and immediately reported the incident." Budden gave the envelope containing one thousand US dollars back.
- The ABA's chairman, Commander Rod Robertson, wanted answers: "'This is a very disturbing incident. I want a full and open investigation.'" The world of amateur boxing was an intriguing place back then and also violent: a Russian official, who had been at the Cuban event, was killed a few months later in his Moscow flat. The Daily Telegraph refused to let me go and investigate the connection.
- At the same championships Richard Hatton won three times and lost a "quite dumbfounding" decision to a Russian in the semi-final. "'I won clearly,' said Hatton." It was my own contact with the Cold War warriors of the Soviet bloc.
- As reported in the Daily Telegraph, December 3, 1996.
In June 2013 he stepped up in weight and class and fought Chad Dawson for the WBC light-heavyweight title. Dawson was unbeatable at light-heavyweight, the best in the world at the weight; Stevenson won with a one-punch knockout in round one. Bang, he had arrived and people realised where the Superman label came from.
"In boxing you can lose 11 rounds and then in the 12th round it takes just one punch - I have that punch, I have always had that punch and it makes the difference," said Stevenson.
There was a quick and concussive win over former world champion Tavoris Cloud in a fight where Stevenson actually moved and proved that he could box if he wanted to. In November, in Quebec City, he walked through Liverpool's Tony Bellew in six one-sided rounds of a bad-tempered brawl. The fight took on an extra edge when Scouser Bellew started to talk about Stevenson's past life as a member of a vicious street gang. Bellew accused Stevenson of being a pimp.
"I was never a pimp," Stevenson said. "I was a bodyguard, involved in a gang and that is why I went to prison. I had bad friends, now I have good friends. It was 15 or 16 years ago."
He was behind bars for four years and started to box when he was released in 2002. In 2006 he lost to Jarrod Fletcher in the middleweight final to win a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. "Everyday I do the best I can to be a better person," added Stevenson.
After Bellew there was just a slim chance that Stevenson would meet the WBO champion Sergei Kovalev, who is equally destructive, in the type of fight that so rarely happens; it was just a slim chance and that fight has now vanished for a variety of promotional and legal reasons. It would have been two world champions, both on a run of savage knockouts fighting each other at their peaks - it was a fight boxing needed.
Stevenson is not unbeatable and was stopped after just 17 seconds of round two by Darnell Boone in 2010. Boone at the time had a record of 16 wins and 15 defeats; Stevenson met Boone in a rematch a couple of months before the Dawson fight last year and this time he won in six rounds and Boone, one of the toughest survivors in the business, moved to 19 wins and 21 defeats. In many ways it was a risky fight to take with talk of a Dawson fight circulating.
It is a bit too early to start talking about Superman as a great fighter but he is certainly entertaining to watch with 20 of his 23 wins ending early. A fight with Kovalev would have proved something and a fight with Bernard Hopkins, the sport's greatest veteran, will, if it ever happens, make him some money.
On Saturday in Montreal the Chicago-based Polish fighter Fonfara, who at 26 is ten years younger than Stevenson, will get a beating if he tries to stand and fight. Fonfara secured the fight because he whupped a couple of veterans and stopped a former champion and a challenger; he is tough and that suits Stevenson.