Adonis Stevenson takes out Dmitry Sukhotsky, eyes Sergey Kovalev
Adonis Stevenson didn’t have a great 2014 but he certainly ended it on a high note.
Stevenson, the RING light heavyweight champ, squandered the momentum he established in 2013 by failing to make fights against fellow 175-pound stars Bernard Hopkins and Sergey Kovalev this year. Instead, they fought each other.
And Stevenson received a stiffer test than expected against Andrzej Fonfara in May, his only other fight in 2014.
All that gave Stevenson’s title defense against Dmitry Sukhotsky on Saturday in Quebec City a fairly high degree of urgency: It was his last chance to make a strong statement before the end of the year.
He made it.
Stevenson put Sukhotsky down four times, once in the second and three times in a brutal fifth from which Sukhotsky never emerged.
The official end came at 2:42 of the round but it started about a minute earlier, when Stevenson, a southpaw, landed a straight left that put Sukhotsky on his butt and hurt him. The Russian went down again, got up and seemed to recover to some degree but then ate another vicious straight left that finished him off.
Referee Michael Griffin waved off the fight with Sukhotsky on his back and helpless, giving Stevenson the fourth successful defense of his RING and WBC titles. Sukhotsky (22-3, 16 KOs) had never been knocked out.
Stevenson aptly described it afterward: “A beautiful knockout.”
The question now: Where will it lead?
Stevenson was named THE RING Fighter of the Year after 2013, when he knocked out in succession Darnell Boone, Chad Dawson, Tavoris Cloud and Tony Bellew. And it appeared that the likes of Kovalev or Hopkins – or at least Jean Pascal in a big Canadian fight – were awaiting him in 2014.
Didn’t happen. Stevenson backed out on a deal to fight Kovalev, moved from HBO to Showtime to fight Hopkins but couldn’t make it happen and ended up with Fonfara and Sukhotsky instead.
Stevenson wouldn’t say much about his future immediately after the fight, indicating only that he would defer to promoter Yvon Michel and advisor Al Haymon, with whom he signed in February.
However, in the days leading up to the fight, he had plenty to say about a possible showdown with Kovalev if the Russian beats Pascal in March.
“Nothing is easy but I know that I’m the only guy that can beat Sergey Kovalev. I will fight him in 2015,” Stevenson said. He went on: “Look, Pascal and Hopkins got to fight Kovalev; so what? I know Kovalev still has to prove that he’s the best in the division and the only way that he can do that is by fighting me.”
Stevenson blamed his inability to fight his rivals on money, saying they demanded too much of it during negotiations. He expects more of the same from Kovalev if they enter talks.
What other choice does Stevenson have, though? Hopkins isn’t as viable an opponent after being shut out by Kovalev in November. And Pascal, who lost to Hopkins, is given little chance of beating Kovalev on March 13.
There are no other marquee 175-pounders and it’s doubtful a big-name super middleweight would step up and face a fighter with so much punching power.
Stevenson is 37 and more or less wasted everything he built in 2013. Common sense says he should pull out all stops to make the Kovalev fight happen, even if that means accepting a smaller share of the profits than he would like.
Otherwise, he might be forced to fight more opponents like Fonfara and Sukhotsky and further lose relevance. The clock is ticking.
And who knows? Maybe he really is the only one who can beat Kovalev.