When Adonis “Superman” Stevenson was in training for his bout against Donovan George, whom the Canadian dropped five times on the way to a 12th-round knockout last Oct.12, Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel “Manny” Steward was gravely ill.
Steward died on Oct. 25, but not before declaring Stevenson a future star, and having mentored the anvil-fisted fighter through two previous stoppage victories over Jesus Gonzalez and Noe Gonzales Alcoba.
“I met him and I sparred for him. I knocked out one or two guys in his gym, and they were like, ‘Who is this guy, knocking people out like that?’ That’s how it went,” said Stevenson, 35, who did not begin his boxing career until just shy of 30 years old.
Stevenson (21-1, 18 knockouts) had primarily campaigned as a 168-pounder before scoring last month’s 76-second stoppage over Chad Dawson in Montreal, winning the RING and WBC belts in the process.
“I dedicated those last two fights to (Emanuel), and I trained hard for him. He said that he believed in me,” said Stevenson. “He had told me that he hoped that I could get the Chad Dawson fight — that was before he died — because he knew I would beat him.”
Although focused on his next two potential bouts — an optional defense against Tavoris Cloud on Sept. 28 in Montreal, and possibly a Nov. 30 or December fight with Tony Bellew — he envisions future clashes with IBF 175-pound beltholder Bernard Hopkins and/or RING super middleweight champion Andre Ward.
Stevenson shared his thoughts on Steward, his bouts with Cloud and Bellew, and, also potential fights with Ward or Hopkins in this Q&A:
RingTV.com: Can you describe your relationship with Steward?
Adonis Stevenson: He trained me for a couple of fights. My trainer, in Montreal, Tiger Powell, he told me to go and see Emanuel, because he’s going to develop you and he’s a great trainer. So I went to see him, and I picked a flight and I went over there.
I met him and I sparred for him. I knocked out one or two guys in his gym, and they were like, “Who is this guy, knocking people out like that?” That’s how it went. Just like that, I met him there.
When he saw me, he said, “You’re going to be a superstar in boxing.” He told me, “You have amazing power.” He trained me and gave me good advice. From the first time that I met Emanuel, you know, he was not just a trainer.
He made me a better boxer, but he also taught me a lot of other things. He taught me about life, too. He developed it for me, and he gave me good technique and good footwork.
He trained me for two or three fights. Jesus Gonzalez. Noe Gonzalez. He was in my corner for those two fights. I was supposed to fight Donovan George with him, but he wasn’t able to come to training camp because he was sick.
I dedicated the fight with Donovan George to Emanuel, because he was training me for that fight, and I dedicated my world championship win over Chad Dawson to him, because he helped me a lot. I’m glad for that.
I dedicated those last two fights to him, and I trained hard for him. He said that he believed in me. He had told me that he hope that I could get the Chad Dawson fight — that was before he died — because he knew I would beat him.
That was when Chad and Tavors Cloud were champions — that I could beat both of those two guys. This guy was a doctor of boxing, so I was glad that, before he died, I was able to be with him.
When he died, I still stayed at the Kronk Gym. That’s my place. So his nephew, Sugar Hill, with Emanuel not being here, he trains me. He knows me very well too, you know?
RingTV.com: Can you reflect on the knockout of Dawson?
AS: When the opportunity came to fight Chad Dawson, I jumped on that fight. I believed in myself, because of Emanuel, he believed in me and he knows what he’s talking about.
I just remembered what Emanuel told me. When I started the press conference, I said that I was going to win the fight. I trained very hard for the fight, and I had a great training camp. I have a great trainer in Montreal, here. Tiger Powell and Sugar Hill, and they prepared me well, physically and technically. Both guys. I trained for the first time in Traverse City, where Thomas Hearns trained for Sugar Ray Leonard, in Michigan.
That was a great training camp there, because they only have about 15,000 people up there. Sometimes I would go jogging at night, and people saw me, and they would say, “Oh, this is a boxer.”
It didn’t take long for people to recognize me there, because it’s a small town, you know? It’s far from Detroit, like three and a half hours if you drive there in a car, and about 45 minutes if you fly there.
RingTV.com: So you expected to knock out Dawson, but were you at all surprised at how quickly it happened?
AS: You know, that punch that I caught him with, I had practiced it a thousand times in sparring. It’s called the overhead hook. That’s the punch for the southpaw. I practiced my stance and my footwork. It took some time.
I told people that I was going to knock him out, and people didn’t believe that. But I always believed that. My team believed that, too. I did what I told him I was going to do. It was quick, but boxing is like that.
It’s one punch, and you can get the knockout. If I catch you good, it’s bad for you. I caught him very badly, and everything changed with that one punch.
RingTV.com: Do you think Dawson will be able to recover from it?
AS: I hope that he will be all right. I think that he’s going to recover and that he’s going to come back strong. People said that he was finished, and that he’s done.
But boxing is not like that. I think that he needs to take a rest for eight or nine months, and then come back strong, you know?
RingTV.com: How close is the deal to being done on the Cloud fight for Sept. 28?
AS: You know, they have a couple of things about this deal to work out. It’s not signed and it’s not done. My promoter still is negotiating with Don King. So, you know, with Don King, negotiations can be long.
So, I hope that the deal is going to be done in a couple of weeks. Maybe one or two weeks. I’m waiting for that to happen. But nothing is done.
I can adapt to any style. If he wants to come forward, I don’t have a problem with that. You saw Dawson come forward, and you saw what happened. If Tavoris Cloud comes forward, I won’t have any problems. If Tavoris Cloud wants to move, I won’t have any problems. I can adjust to any style.
RingTV.com: Do you feel as if you’re a late-bloomer who is hitting his stride and his peak right now?
AS: This is the right time for me. The people of HBO proposed this last fight, and I am ready for them to bring me the best in the division. I’m ready for any guy or anything. Even if it’s Bernard Hopkins. I’m ready to come on strong, you know? This is boxing.
RingTV.com: So what sort of fight to you expect out of Bellew?
AS: You know, Bellew, I’m not worried about Bellew. I’m not worried about him. I’m just focused on Tavoris Cloud. That’s another fight. I go fight by fight.
So, now, I’m focused on Tavoris Cloud. Bellew, for now, I’m not worried about Bellew. I will take care of Bellew after Tavoris Cloud.
RingTV.com: How about Hopkins or Ward?
AS: You know, Andre, he’s a good fighter and a smart fighter. And now I’ll mention his name, because he’s at 168, and I’m at 175. But me, I can fight at 168. I could fight him at either weight. So, that would be an interesting fight.
But right now, I don’t think that would be an easy fight to make this year. It would be more like something in 2014 or 2015. So I think that I will just take it fight by fight.
So I might not get Andre Ward for now. I’ve got one fight now, against Tavoris Cloud, and then another fight against Tony Bellew, so I’m focused on those two fights right now.
But Bernard Hopkins fought Jean Pascal twice in Canada, and because of his last fight in Montreal, everyone knows Bernard Hopkins in Montreal, so him against me, that would be a big fight in Montreal.
We want this fight, and I think that people in Montreal would want to see me against Bernard Hopkins. So, in 2014, I would like to fight Bernard Hopkins. I want Bernard Hopkins because Adonis Stevenson, he’s a champion, and we could unify the title with him.
RingTV.com: Are you concerned about your age, given that you will turn 36 in September?
AS: Look, Bernard Hopkins is 48 years old, and he’s a still a champion. Now, I started late in my career, at the age of 29, and I don’t do a lot of 12-rounds fights.
That’s because most of my fights end by knockout. Since I don’t get a lot of rounds of boxing, I’m at a young 35 years old.
Photos by Richard Wolowicz, Gettyimages
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com