As a kid watching boxing, there was a name, a look and a style synonymous with the knockout to me: Kronk, a very small, very hot gym in the basement of the Kronk community center in Detroit, Michigan. Its fighters wore variations on red and gold shorts, their jackets mixed in with blue, inspired by the U.S. Marines. Though Tommy Hearns and Milton McCrory were the original champs, after a time, just seeing the gold and red trunks enter the ring was enough to let you know this was not going to be a go-to-the-fridge fight.
As a boxing writer, I had the pleasure of meeting the reason for that, our late friend Emanuel Steward. Emanuel loved the knockout the way Felix Trinidad loved the knockout. It brought a smile to Steward’s face just to contemplate it. To him, it was the goal of every fight. These days, trainers appear aware that boxing is entertainment by making outrageous statements on camera. Emanuel understood that boxing is entertainment in that his fighters were action-oriented, possessed knockout power and made that the goal of their fights. Really, what other reason is there to fight?
Emanuel had an eye for talent. But he wasn’t always able to bring it out. Steward recognized that kind of power in Adonis “Superman” Stevenson before the trainer’s untimely passing last year. Stevenson was born in Haiti but moved to Montreal when he was about five or six. A 5’11” southpaw with a tremendous physique, a checkered past and the kind of power that reminds one of Julian Jackson, Felix Trinidad and Mike Tyson, Stevenson was something of a project.
He started boxing young but a conviction for pimping (you read that correctly) put him behind bars and his boxing life on hold. At age 35, Stevenson is out to prove that power is indeed the last thing to go. As a pro, he is now 21-1 with 18 knockouts. His lone loss, a second round TKO to Darnell Boone, was avenged in March when Stevenson stopped Boone in six rounds. The coup de grace was a brutal left uppercut followed by a long left that froze Boone in midair before his body got the message he was no longer conscious and fell into a heap on the canvas. His left hand is raw, accentuating the effortless talent that Stevenson is getting better at using every fight.
In boxing, timing is everything, from the punches you land to deciding when to fight.
Heading into last Saturday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Stevenson was still an unknown quantity at the highest levels of the sport. Enter former light heavyweight champion “Bad” Chad Dawson. Coming off a one-sided beating last September (at 168) at the hands of Andre Ward that ended with Dawson helplessly on the ropes in the 10th round, Dawson hadn’t taken a tune-up of any kind for this fight. No confidence builder, no soft touch to get back in the swing of things.
Contested at 175 pounds for the WBC belt Dawson still possessed after the Ward fight, this was a way back in for Dawson and a way to the top for Stevenson. Dawson is a southpaw himself and a skilled fighter. He ended Tomasz Adamek’s career at 175 pounds and bested Glen Johnson (twice), Antonio Tarver (twice) and Bernard Hopkins (kinda twice) at the weight. Many felt Dawson would be too skilled and slick for Stevenson, who went a little life-and-death at times with Donovan George last year. The fight had been Stevenson’s stiffest test and while many criticized a seeming lack of stamina, they failed to acknowledge that the 12th round technical knockout proved Stevenson carried both power and poise late.
The fight also revealed that while Steward was alive, his knowledge and training had been imparted to his nephew, Javan “Sugar” Hill, who would handle duties with Stevenson when Steward went to Austria to train Wladimir Klitschko. Hill shone in the corner that night, guiding Stevenson through a tough battle with that waxed and waned. All throughout, like Steward before him, Hill did as needed. He was passionate, calm and concise. At times, cheerleading, at others, calmly explaining what needed doing. It was masterful and it showed that coming into this fight, Stevenson would be as prepared as ever.
The fight itself was preceded (at least on the HBO broadcast) by Gamboa vs. Perez. The less said about Gamboa’s decision win, the better. He is a black hole of entertainment. It’s time to match him with someone dangerous and see what happens. No more showcase fights. No more sure to be 10 or 12-round bore-fests. Or nothing. Those are the choices to HBO or whoever puts him on. This is boxing, not bodybuilding so his abs don’t impress me, OK?
As for Stevenson-Dawson, the fight was not long, about a minute, actually. The two men circled. Southpaws aren’t used to facing mirror images. Both started off moving to their lefts, customary for same-side fighters to do. That’s the game: fight to get your lead foot on the outside, take over the line and fire down the middle with your power shot.
Dawson fired off six jabs to the head and body but he drifted right. Stevenson mixed in a hard jab as Dawson stepped forward with his. It stopped Dawson in his tracks. He tried a wide left as Dawson again fired off the jab. It missed but clubbed the top of Dawson’s head. Stevenson was tight but ready, his hands turning in a tiny wheel just in front of him under his chin. He popped a jab downstairs and waited. Dawson stepped right and fired two jabs. Stevenson met his second with his own and then stepped back. Dawson ducked and came up with a half-hearted leaping hook with the feeling-out process for both in full effect. Respect was in the air.
Stevenson feinted with the jab in the air, dancing in place and sliding imperceptibly to his right. They moved in and Stevenson ate three short jabs before trying a wide and wild left hand. Chad bounced back in position and after some feints from both, landed a jab. He didn’t seem tight or tentative. His jab was working. His plan to box seemed well on its way in the early stages.
Then it happened. Power has a way of defying skill. As Mike Tyson said, everyone has a plan until they get hit.
They traded jabs and Stevenson backed out and left, looking for that moment to shift course, move left and unleash something horrible. Stevenson jabbed, stepped forward, faded back and then launched with a hard, short left hand that landed on the right temple of Dawson, its sheer force bending his whole body to the left. The defending champ’s feet stayed in place before physics took over and he careened backward to the canvas. Dawson’s body canoed, his legs sticking straight out and his upper body tensing while his hands stayed at his sides, body on overload. Stevenson had put Dawson on tilt. As he rose and slowly waded backward to the ropes, referee Michael Griffin stared into his eyes, looking for some sign that this fight was still on. Seeing none, he waved the action off at 1:16 of the first round. Like Hearns putting out Roberto Duran or Pipino Cuevas in two, Stevenson “Kronked out” Dawson, sending him down unexpectedly with one single punch. Stevenson went wild, celebrating as Dawson argued - as all men who quickly regain consciousness despite disbelief usually do.
HBO’s Max Kellerman deemed it a star-making performance. More than that, it signals a clear and present danger in the division with growing drawing power in a growing market. Promoted by Yvon Michel of GYM, the performance will do well in building Stevenson as a fighter to watch.
With his combination of power and marketability (OK, the jail stuff will be rough to defend. At press time, we both navigated around it in pre-fight rhetoric), Stevenson will is the perfect person to build toward Andre Ward, Carl Froch or the winner of Lucian Bute vs. Jean Pascal. He can fight Beibut Shumenov or Tavoris Cloud. Any fight in which he’s thrown into the mix will be exciting.
“It has to be a knockout,” Stevenson told me days before the fight. Men with godlike power in their hands usually think this way. They also, as so many fighters find out, usually end up the victims of that belief as Trinidad, Hearns, Jackson and so many others have found out. Until then, we should cherish this latest son of Kronk. Power is useless if one doesn’t have the fearlessness to use it. It’s something you cannot teach and as the George fight showed, Stevenson possesses that as well.
Let the good fights roll.
I was impressed by Alfredo Angulo’s performance Saturday night at the StubHub Center (formerly the Home Depot Center). His use of smaller steps to close the distance and smother opponent Erislandy Lara on the ropes coupled with brutal body work had him ahead on my card by at least two rounds at the time of the 10th round stoppage. From what I was told, his orbital bone is not broken but rather, he suffered an eye contusion. We’ll see how that heals over time but for now, it does not appear career-threatening.
Many felt this was an easy out for Lara. Angulo showed that 1) Lara can be in very exciting fights and 2) Angulo might be a grade higher than everyone thought.
I thought Marcos Maidana’s stoppage of Josesito Lopez was both timely and impressive. Like the Dawson stoppage, I didn’t need to see either man get hurt even further to know the fight was lost.
The Next Round
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