At times, Adonis Stevenson has had enough trouble taking care of himself, but this weekend, he shoulders the burden of the Canadian boxing scene’s world title hopes.
The 35-year-old Haitian-born Canadian will challenge light heavyweight kingpin Chad Dawson at home in Montreal, an event to be televised by HBO. As much as it appears like a do-or-die scenario for a fighter at an advanced age, it also represents what may be Canada’s last hope for a world title in the immediate future.
“If Adonis Stevenson doesn’t win this fight, it could be a very long time before we see another world championship fight here,” said promoter Yvon Michel at the final press conference earlier this week.
It’s worth noting that Michel is a man who also boasts the contracts of two other top light heavyweights: Jean Pascal and Eleider Alvarez. However, Pascal is tied up with a fight against Lucian Bute (whenever it takes place), and Alvarez is likely too unknown a commodity to bring a title clash to his backyard.
There was a time, three years ago, when the Great White North housed three world titlists simultaneously: Pascal at 175, Bute at 168, and Steve Molitor at 122. Prior to their title triumphs, there was Adrian Diaconu, Joachim Alcine and Eric Lucas, as well as fighters who floated around title contention but came up just short, such as Dale Brown and Jean-Francois Bergeron.
Nobody would dispute that the future of the current Canadian talent is extremely bright. Before year’s end, it’s expected that Bermane Stiverne will face Vitali Klitschko for the WBC heavyweight crown. Aside from him, though, the only fighters who could even conceivably challenge for a world title in 2013 are Alvarez, Dierry Jean and Logan McGuinness. All three are still long shots, though, given that they have yet to have much U.S. television exposure.
The cloudy immediate future, combined with the Canadian crowd’s more discerning pugilistic appetite, can make things tricky for local promoters trying to sell tickets.
“The Canadian boxing fan’s taste is more refined now,” said Adam Harris, head of Hennessy Sports Canada. “It isn’t enough to just have two Canadian guys anymore. Now that they’ve seen Pascal and Bernard Hopkins, you need an international flavor, or you need a world champion.”
That’s what makes a Stevenson victory so important for Michel and the Canadian fighters mentioned. With a world champion to headline shows, it moves the turnstiles and opens up television spots on which the “next generation” can populate the undercard.
Stevenson-Dawson is expected to draw between 6,000 and 7,000 fans; a number that would be a phenomenal success and cause for “Boxing Head” Twitter praise if racked up in other regions of the continent. In Quebec, though, it still pales in comparison to the 18,000 Pascal packed in for his first clash against Hopkins.
The good news is that the numbers do suggest Stevenson (20-1, 17 KOs) is on the cusp of becoming a significant live gate draw by Quebec standards. When Pascal fought Dawson, the paid attendance at the Bell Centre was 8,122. This was after Pascal had been in three world title fights already.
“Superman” hasn’t yet had his market value assessment, so to speak. He has developed a respectable following based on consistently electric performances broadcast mostly on Canadian pay-per-view and WealthTV internationally.
He’ll get an on-the-spot appraisal on Saturday against the best light heavyweight in the world, in his debut as a full-blown 175-pounder.
The consensus in the boxing community is that Stevenson’s dynamite left hand could be the equalizer in combating Dawson’s superior size and technical prowess. Of course, there are some who question whether he’s be able to starch a bigger man the way he’s been disposing of super middleweights to this point.
According to his trainer Javon Hill, though, there is no Kryptonite for his power.
“I can’t name names, but he’s been hurting cruiserweights,” said Hill, before pausing to up the ante. “He’s been hurting heavyweights.”
One of the unnamed names he could have hurt in the gym is heavyweight prospect Jordan Shimmell, who spent time with Stevenson at his backwoods training camp in Traverse City, Michigan. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound youngster told the Grand Rapids Press, “(Stevenson) hits like a heavyweight, and he’s a southpaw, so that’s awkward for meÔÇªit just surprised me that Adonis has the power that he does at his size.”
In less than two years under the Kronk banner, the Canadian import’s left hand has already reached playground legend status alongside Detroit royalty.
“I’ve been in the gym with a lot of great punchers. Some of the best ever have come through the Kronk Gym: Tommy Hearns, Gerald McClellan. Of the guys I’ve seen, he’s up there with all of them,” said Hill.
Stevenson has been his normal affable self during fight week, but hasn’t been aggravating his opponent with the same bombast he typically does. The misspelling of his name on his track jacket has garnered more attention than anything he’s said of Dawson.
These days, he speaks like a man who knows he has the power to do something special.
“He’ll panic once I hit him. I’m not going to chase the knockout,” said Stevenson. “I’m going to let my hands go, and it will come.”
Of course, with great power comes great responsibility.
Photos: Richard Wolowicz-Gettyimages
Corey Erdman is a staff writer for RingTV.com, a host at Fight Network in Canada, and a regular commentator for WealthTV. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @corey_erdman.