With one devastating punch, Adonis Stevenson raised his profile from obscure puncher to the light heavyweight champion of the world with his first-round stoppage of Chad Dawson in June.
The 36-year-old native of Haiti, who fights out of Quebec, got a late start to his career after turning pro at age 29. But he has more than made up for it, having recorded knockouts in each of his past 11 victories, including the avenging of his lone career loss to Darnell Boone in March.
Stevenson (21-1, 18 KOs), in just his second fight at 175 pounds, makes his first title defense Saturday at the Bell Centre in Montreal against former titlist Tavoris Cloud (24-1, 19 KOs).
You couldn't have picked a more perfect way to make a splash than your one-punch knockout of Dawson. Did you surprise yourself at the ease in which you took out the division's reigning champion?
I'm not surprised because power is power. I'm a power puncher. Power is power. Why am I going to be surprised that I knocked Chad Dawson out when I catch him really well? People said I was moving up in weight, but I still have my power. And my power is God's gift to me. And power is power.
You recently turned 36 and didn't have your first pro fight until age 29. How has getting such a late start in boxing either helped or hurt you?
That helped me because I started at 29, and now I'm 36 and I'm a champion. This is not a problem for me.
How young do you feel?
I feel very young. My body is fresh because I don't do smoking, I don't do drinking. I'm training every day, and I get in shape. I sleep very good. So my body is in tremendous shape.
When you see fighters like Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather Jr. staying so sharp at an advanced age, does it give you confidence about where you are in your career?
Every day Mayweather and Hopkins is training. They are not drinking and not smoking. They are staying in shape [like me]. So I know I can stay a long time in the game.
Despite being the champion at 175 pounds, you haven't had more than the one round with Dawson against top-end competition. How much room is there for you to grow and improve as a boxer?
Every day you learn. I am learning. That's why I am training very hard every day so I learn and so I know when I go into the ring I'll be ready. In the ring I'm still going to learn, too.
You have one of the most devastating knockout punches in the sport. Where do you think your power comes from?
I have the power. That's God who gave me the power. Emanuel Steward and [current trainer Javan] "Sugar" Hill complete me for the technique. So you can have a puncher where his power is good, but you need a good trainer to stick with you and teach you the technique.
What is the one lesson you learned from your time with the late Steward that sticks with you the most?
The confidence. He gives you a lot of motivation and confidence. He worked a lot on my footwork, too.
Cloud appeared to be soundly outboxed in his last two fights with Gabriel Campillo and Hopkins. Do you believe you are taking on a fighter who is on the decline?
Tavoris Cloud is a very good matchup. I know he don't look good with Campillo and Hopkins, but he can come in strong on [Saturday] and I know he is going to try and surprise me. But I'm ready. I'm ready for whatever. I'm ready whether it's tonight or tomorrow, I'm ready.
Do you think this fight has the potential to be more of a slugfest or a boxing match?
I know Tavoris Cloud can box and fight with aggression. So I will prepare for this fight, too, because I know he can put pressure. If it's a slugfest, then it's going to be a slugfest, and I don't have a problem with that.
You went from relative obscurity to being the champion of the division with just one punch. How has the Dawson fight changed your life?
Look, I know I can punch. I know that. I know I have good technique, too. This [fight] didn't change my mind. I'm Adonis. I stay Adonis. Did it change my mind? No, I'm still training. So, I'm not going to have a surprise. Nobody is going to try to give me a surprise because I am training and preparing well.
So many people talk about wanting to see you in the ring with fellow titlist and huge puncher Sergey Kovalev. Is that an opponent you want to face in the future?
Now I'm focused on Tavoris Cloud. I don't focus on Kovalev. My mind is Tavoris Cloud. Kovalev is another story.
Are you at least impressed with Kovalev's power and what he has been able to do over a short period of time in the division?
Yeah, he's a good boxer. He throws a lot of punches. He's a good boxer.
Who would you say might be the toughest challenge at 175 pounds besides yourself?
I think it's Bernard Hopkins. He is a smart fighter. He's been around awhile. He's got a lot of experience. I think Bernard is going to be a tough fight. He's always in shape and he never stops. He don't smoke, he don't drink. He sleep very good, very well. He eat very good. He train every day. He's very smart in the ring, too. I think that's why he beat a lot of young prospects.