Adonis Stevenson doesn’t know (Badou) Jack
You will not find Adonis “Superman” Stevenson, 29-1 (24), on top of many people’s lists of favorite boxers. In fact, Stevenson takes more shots from fans on Twitter and Facebook than in fights in which he takes part, since winning the lineal 175-pound title. This is odd since Stevenson is a brash, power-punching southpaw who produces highlight reel knockouts. Forget that Stevenson is the longest reigning light heavyweight champion, since June of 2013; the problem is this champion does not fight often. Also when the WBC titleholder does grace fans with his presence, it has been against questionable or weak opposition. All that changes tonight in Toronto (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/PT), when Stevenson squares up to former two-division champion Badou Jack, 22-1-3 (13), in what should be an explosive encounter between two men who enjoy a good brawl.
The Haitian-born Stevenson, based out of Quebec, just celebrated his his 40th birthday but still considers himself the best light heavyweight on the planet. Given his ego (not a bad thing and I am not criticizing it), it is surprising that Stevenson limited it to this planet, dismissing fellow titleholders Sergey Kovalev, Dmitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev as second-rate. He rightly claims to be the longest reigning 175-pound titleholder, and has made eight consecutive defenses (seven via knockout), which is more than the other current titleholders combined. However the facts behind the numbers are not as flattering. Stevenson had extended layoffs to lengthen his reign and faced vulnerable opposition in those title defenses. Case in point: Stevenson was last seen 11 months ago against pedestrian Andrzej Fonfara in a rematch no one wanted to see or thought necessary.
Stevenson recognizes a win over Badou Jack will go a long way toward silencing critics and erasing doubts in the mind of fans, which Stevenson made sure to address at press gathering, ”People might still talk trash but I’ll still be the champ. I’m going to put on a show for them. I’m going to give them something to remember. Badou Jack is an excellent opponent. He’s smart; he’s been a world champion and he’s shown he’s a true competitor. But I am the best light heavyweight in the world. I’ve got the best left hook in boxing. I’ve got 12 rounds and I just need to touch you once to end it. It’s not complicated. I don’t need three or four shots. I just need one shot and you’re not going to recover. I’m going to finish you.”
The boxing adage that “Power is the last thing to go on a fighter” is a truism Stevenson believes in, “You have to step into the ring with me to understand my power. I’m looking forward to winning this fight by knockout. I’m from the Kronk Gym and we always look for the knockout.” Stevenson did stop short of dismissing Jack completely, “Jack is a good, technical boxer. He was a world champion and he has done very well. He’s tough and I won’t underestimate him. I’ll be prepared for anything he brings in the ring.” Preparations for Jack’s particular set of skills are key, according to Stevenson, “We can’t underestimate this guy – he’s a two-time world champion. He’s not coming to Canada to lose. I know he’s coming to win, so we need to train like we’ve never trained before.”
That same high-intensity training was evident at a press conference held by former Olympian Jack, at the Mayweather Gym in Las Vegas, where Jack voiced similar dedication preparing for Stevenson, “This is the first camp that I haven’t had any injuries or felt sick at all during. This is definitely one of the best – if not the best camp of my career. We’ve watched film, kept a strict diet and really focused this camp on gearing up toward fight night. I think I’m getting better and better, and I’m ready to become a world champion again on May 19 and give Toronto a show.”
According to Jack, he has been targeting Stevenson since moving up from super middleweight, which is why he had no reservation vacating his WBA 175-pound belt for a shot at Stevenson’s green WBC belt, “I asked for the Adonis Stevenson fight a long time ago and the (Nathan) Cleverly fight got me there. We’ve been talking to (promoter) Floyd (Mayweaher Jr.) a long time about this fight. Adonis is definitely my toughest opponent on paper but that doesn’t really mean he will be the toughest on fight night.” Jack will not walk into the fight overconfident, and pointed to the obvious, “Everyone knows about his power but he has good skills and, overall, can do everything you need to in the ring. He’s definitely a good fighter but I’m a better fighter. I am excited to fight him and beat him.”
Despite a great camp, there were distractions. His wife gave birth to their second child and Jack also launched his nutritional brand “Ripper Nutrition.” One is sure to inspire, while the other was created to aid Jack in the first place. Facing the press, Jack, not a spring chicken at age 34, framed answers to highlight his seeking out Stevenson, “I’m a guy who’s great at a lot of things, and who’s coming to win. I promise you I’ll leave Toronto a champion. I’ve been asking for this fight for a long time and was willing to fight him anywhere, including his backyard. I know he’s good and very dangerous and that’s the reason I want to fight him. I’m all about the best fighting the best.”
Stevenson’s promoter Yvon Michel respects what Jack brings to the table but says he will fall short, as other challengers have, “It will be a real fireworks! Badou Jack is a two-division world champion and an Olympian. He is dangerous and, by far, the biggest challenge for Adonis since he won the title against Chad Dawson in 2013. Over the duration of his time as world champion, Adonis has become not only one of the best light heavyweights in the world but one of the best fighters in the sport. But Badou Jack is the toughest opponent that Adonis has faced since becoming champion. Adonis has always risen to the occasion, and, on May 19th, he’ll do it again. We are confident that Superman has what it takes to defend his title successfully for the ninth time.”
A question people have for Stevenson is, how his reflexes will react when finally faced with a challenging challenger? A panel of boxing experts, surveyed by Showtime, voted 9-2 against Stevenson. They favored Jack’s youth and activity but hedged their bets. Lyle Fitzsimmons, of BoxingScene.com and CBS.com, was a good representation of the ambiguity found in the panel, “I love this fight. And every time I think about the result, my mind changes. Stevenson is certainly the puncher of the two men, while Jack seems the more dynamic, all-around fighter,” while Salvador Rodriguez, of ESPN Deportes, most reflects my opinion, “Adonis Stevenson is 40 years old and Jack showed some very good things in his first fight at 175, with the KO over Nathan Cleverly, last year. I believe Stevenson has something in his pocket but not enough to defeat a younger lion like Badou Jack. I go for Jack by points.”