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Stevenson outpoints Fonfara to retain title

Brian Campbell
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Adonis Stevenson overcame a late knockdown in Round 9 to outlast Andrzej Fonfara © AP
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For how thoroughly light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson dominated challenger Andrzej Fonfara over the first eight rounds on Saturday night, he left more than a few questions over the final third of the fight.

Stevenson overcame questionable cardio and a late knockdown in round nine to outlast a determined Fonfara by unanimous decision (115-110 twice, 116-109) in a rousing finish at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

"I come back strong so I showed the world that I go down, but I still come back strong because I'm a true champion," Stevenson said. "I was off-balance, and he caught me."

Fonfara came to win despite being physically outmatched for most of the fight. The 26-year-old exercised tremendous heart to survive a pair of early knockdowns and turned the fight around in round nine by flooring Stevenson with a straight right hand.

But Stevenson, 36, responded well to the late scare and dug deep behind a relentless body attack to prevent further trouble, even as Fonfara went for broke in the final round. The champion revealed after the fight that he was forced to overcome an injury to his left hand early in the bout.

"I hurt my hand in the second round so I used my head and my boxing," Stevenson said. "It was a good fight. [Fonfara] is tough. I know he's a tough fighter. He's a good fighter. He came to be a world champion."

The bout was expected to be a showcase opportunity for Stevenson after signing with adviser Al Haymon and taking his business to American network Showtime. The move angered some boxing fans because it ended hopes of a showdown with unbeaten titleholder, and fellow power puncher, Sergey Kovalev.

Stevenson wasted little time in jumping all over Fonfara in the opening round with quick and clean counter shots, including an overhand left that split Fonfara's gloves and sent him to the canvas.

Fonfara, who was lucky to make it out of round one, began to find marginal success with his right hand and fought a credible game plan despite suffering a cut above his right eye in round three. Stevenson, however, was simply too quick and athletic, and began to land at will with hard left hands to the body.

Stevenson, who defended his lineal title for the third time since knocking out Chad Dawson in June 2013, continued the assault in round five when he sent Fonfara to the canvas a second time on a straight left downstairs.

"I survived because I have heart to fight," Fonfara said. "Every time he hit me, I feel his punch. He is a great fighter. He is a true champion and is the champ tonight. But I will train more and one day I want to be a world champion like him."

With a fight against Kovalev unlikely despite a pending lawsuit from his promoter, Main Events, Stevenson's focus turns to a possible autumn unification bout with 49-year-old Bernard Hopkins.

"I accept any challenge," Stevenson said. "Bernard can be next. I'll let Al Haymon negotiate with that.

"And I have no problem with Kovalev. I don't have problem - if I fight him, I fight him. Al Haymon is going to negotiate with that with Kovalev and [Stevenson's promoter] Yvon Michel. I don't have a problem."

This article originally appeared on ESPN.com

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