Then in 2013, the opponents, like the criticisms, began to increase in difficulty while continuing to fall in rapid succession. Stevenson had closed out 2012 with a knock-down, drag-out bout with hardnosed Don George. Stevenson was pushed to his limits and beyond, tiring, often taking shots and getting stunned but ultimately working his way to a 12th round stoppage victory. The fight showed a fistic depth of character not seen before from the natural-born puncher.
To begin 2013, Stevenson avenged old business by rematching Boone, stopping him in six rounds. In June, Stevenson picked up steam and gained the attention of the boxing world as being more than a simple project. With one hard left hand to the side of former WBC light heavyweight champion “Bad” Chad Dawson’s head, Stevenson announced that he is arguably the most dangerous single puncher in the sport today. The 5’11” southpaw Stevenson drilled Dawson moments into the first round and the bout was waved off at a mere 1:16 of the first.
Stevenson’s stiffest test was yet to come against Tavoris Cloud, himself a former light heavyweight titleholder, in September. Like George, Cloud is a tough grinder who was looking to rough Stevenson up and keep the fight on the inside. Instead, Stevenson, thought to be a mere one-trick KO artist, boxed Cloud into submission, stopping him between the seventh and eighth rounds. While few picked Cloud to win, many were shocked by how Stevenson won. He showed an ability to move backward while fighting, employed a punishing right jab and picked his shots carefully and effectively, all while busting Cloud up along the way. The win sent a message to both HBO and boxing that a potential star had been forged, who could be matched with either fellow 175-pound titleholder Sergey Kovalev (co-featured on Saturday’s card) or 168-pound champion Andre Ward.
“Fighter of the Year” is an award given to a fighter by various media outlets, honoring who had the best year. Last year’s recipient was Nonito Donaire. Like Stevenson this year, Donaire won four fights he was expected to in 2012. The bigger names he faced were faded a bit or diminished in some capacity. What pushed Donaire over the top with many voters in the media was his stance on the subject of anti-doping testing in boxing. Donaire announced that starting in July of 2012, he’d undergo random anti-doping testing year-round with the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA). Donaire became the first professional fighter to do so and recently re-upped for a second year. Edwin Rodriguez is currently the only other boxer to undergo testing year-round with VADA, an organization that utilizes World Anti-Doping-certified labs and sample collectors worldwide while employing a stricter protocol than used by other anti-doping testing organizations across the globe.
The subject has been a hot-button issue going back to the 2010 negotiations between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. Since then, many top fighters have agreed to be tested for training camps and fights by VADA as well as the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) but only Donaire and Rodriguez have committed year-round.
The point being, to be considered elite in this sport, standard equipment is random anti-doping testing. Mayweather, Timothy Bradley, Ruslan Provodnikov and Danny Garcia, champions all, have undergone testing in recent fights. In mixed-martial arts, UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre also tests with VADA. To date, Shane Mosley, Saul Alvarez, Victor Ortiz, Andre Berto, Robert Guerrero and Lamont Peterson, to name a few, have undergone some form of this type of testing.
Understanding what championship status is and the responsibilities it brings, Stevenson has entered a similar testing pool this year and contractually obligates his opponents to do so as well. The promotional companies GYM (Groupe Yvon Michel) and Interbox, Canada’s leading promoters, have entered into an agreement to have their fighters tested using a strict anti-doping protocol utilizing WADA-certified labs and sample collectors. According to Yvon Michel, Stevenson’s last three fights have been tested randomly using the GYM-Interbox Protocol.
“Adonis is a firm believer in Olympic-style, random, anti-doping tests for all fighters,” Michel told Maxboxing.com. “He was tested by WADA laboratories for both the Dawson and the Cloud fights. Everybody who is fighting Adonis will have to follow the same protocol as we have requested the same, contractually, for both Chad Dawson and Tavoris Cloud. He is also on the same system for his next fight against Tony Bellew scheduled November 30th.”
Understanding this stance, it will be interesting to see who decides to face Stevenson, who is also becoming a lucrative attraction in Quebec as well as on HBO, and who doesn’t.
One man who doesn’t mind being randomly tested outside the ring and by Stevenson in it is Tony Bellew. A Liverpool tough guy with cruel eyes, a take-no-prisoners volume attack and a fighter’s confidence, Bellew recently told a U.K. interviewer that this is the moment he has been waiting for.
“It’s the biggest fight of me whole career. It’s just a lifetime’s worth of work goes into 36 minutes. Well, 36 scheduled minutes. I’m not planning on going 36 minutes. I’m planning on ending it before it gets to 36. But that’s the ultimate goal: becoming world champion in this next fight and beating the best fighter in the world at me weight,” Bellew told David Chisnall of ITV News.
Bellew seems unfazed by Stevenson’s knockout ability and his nickname, “Superman.” At 6’2” with a 74” reach, Bellew, nicknamed “Bomber,” doesn’t seem fazed by anyone.
“That’s the biggest story everyone has asked me: ‘He’s ‘Superman.’ Are you his Kryptonite?’ At the end of the day, it’s just going to be two men in the ring. They call me ‘Bomber.’ They call him ‘Superman.’ At the end of the day, I’m Tony. He’s Adonis. And I am willing to do absolutely anything, anything it takes, whatever I have to go through. On November the 30th, I am walking out of that arena and away from Quebec as a world champion,” said Bellew, who turns 31 on Saturday.
As for Stevenson, his game plan, like Bellew’s, is simple.
“Knockouts sell. I know Tony is a puncher. He will try to knock me out,” Stevenson said at the press conference to announce the bout.
On Saturday, should he stop Bellew for the first time, Stevenson will extend his current KO streak to 10 and likely cement his status as frontrunner for “Fighter of the Year.” And he’ll do it while voluntarily touching the bar set by Mayweather and taken to new heights by Donaire and Rodriguez.
“I got my power. That is a gift God gave to me. That’s natural power; you know? I just work hard. I never say in my mind that an opponent is too tough or too big. When I walk into the ring with you, this is war and I am going to win by knockout,” Stevenson said in an HBO interview promoting the fight.
While some voting on “FOTY” may question Stevenson’s 2013 in-the-ring credentials, his cleanliness as an athlete won’t be due to his willingness to submit to strict random testing protocols. How many of the other FOTY candidates, much less champions in the sport, are able to say that?
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