It took Adonis Stevenson 99 seconds to dispatch of Jesus Gonzales in highlight reel fashion on February 18 in Montreal.
It didn’t take ESPN much longer afterward to determine they wanted him on their network.
“The following Monday, I spoke to ESPN head of programming Doug Loughrey,” said Stevenson’s promoter Yvon Michel. “Adonis has found the maturity and the confidence, and what it takes really to pack the stadiums, because a puncher like he is, it’s always spectacular. When you’re such a powerful puncher, you have the capacity to amaze the crowd and sell a lot of tickets.”
The maturity that Michel speaks of has been questioned in the past, to say the least.
Stevenson (17-1, 14 knockouts), who headlines this week’s Friday Night Fights broadcast against Noe Gonzalez (28-1, 20 KOs), was once part of a Montreal street gang. He served 18 months in prison for managing prostitutes, assault and making threats, or as he has summed it up, “pimping.”
As has since been made clear, no, he was not convicted of rape, aggravated assault or sexual assault, but he was unquestionably running with the wrong crowd, something that was a major concern for Michel when considering working with the fighter.
“We sat with him and his manager at the time, and he explained to us exactly what it was, told us that he was out of that and that he was reinventing his life. And we believed him,” Michel told RingTV.com.
The Haitian-born Canadian only started boxing at 23 and turned pro at 29 under Michel, racking up 13 consecutive victories to begin his career sans headgear.
Near the end of 2009 however, Stevenson again drifted to a different crowd, deciding to move to the United States and work with a new promoter. In his first appearance with the new clan, he was shockingly knocked out by journeyman Darnell Boone on an off-TV undercard in Salisbury, Maryland.
Going to sleep was ultimately the wake-up call for “Superman.”
“We were disappointed when he left for the States, but when he came back he was really apologetic,” said Michel. “He said he was ready to give us the wheel to take him in the direction we believed was going to be the most beneficial for him. Since then, it’s been terrific.”
One year later, he was back in Montreal, flattening Derek Edwards in three rounds prior to David Lemieux’s first professional loss to Marco Antonio Rubio. A thudding knockout of Dion Savage on the Mayweather-Mosley undercard would follow.
Despite the return to success, something was missing.
Stevenson was garnering a reputation as a powerful, but one-handed fighter. Insiders still questioned his defense, and perhaps due to the loss to Boone, he was finding himself on undercards and not garnering legitimacy or exposure.
He and his team decided to part ways with longtime trainer Howard Grant and enlist the services of Emanuel Steward prior to his eventual win over Aaron Pryor Jr. Naturally, Steward is a selling feature and garners publicity for any fighter he works with, but more importantly, has been known to craft raw powerful fighters into something special.
“He’s a puncher. He’s a natural puncher, and the thing I worked with him on was being more flexible, not so tight, and work on his balance,” said Steward.
If he wasn’t convinced that Stevenson, 34, would be focused and committed based on his past, those worries were curbed one morning when he woke up and saw Adonis beginning his roadwork unprovoked in a Detroit blizzard, a day when other fighters might have opted for the treadmill.
“As far as conditioning goes, he’s phenomenal,” said Steward. “He’s a dangerous fighter from the first round to the 12th round. That’s an issue with a lot of punchers. But he has the same power in the final round, he maintains it throughout the fight.”
To show that he is committed as well, Steward has had “Stevenson Training Camp” shirts made for everyone, proudly displaying the name of his newest charge in a Kronk Gym that houses the likes of middleweight contender Andy Lee and THE RING’s heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.
Less than 15 years ago, Adonis was wearing an orange jumpsuit with only an identification number. Now a Hall of Fame trainer is wearing a shirt with his name on it.
“Within a year, he went from a guy who just lost by knockout against a journeyman to now, one of the best super middleweight contenders out there,” said Michel.
It took 34 years, but it seems that he has finally found a home.
Photos / Chris Cozzone-Fightwireimages.com
Follow Corey Erdman on Twitter @corey_erdman