THE RING light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson (right) faces off with former titleholder Tavoris Cloud after the Friday weigh-in for their fight on Saturday in Montreal.
Adonis Stevenson leans against a wall inside the corridor of a local radio station in Montreal, awaiting the beginning of the final press conference leading up to his bout against Tavoris Cloud.
On a giant projector screen, a promotional video from HBO airs, including an interview with Stevenson, and the footage of his first-round knockout of Chad Dawson earlier this year. Adonis watches himself intently, and as the clip of referee Michael Griffin waving the fight off airs, and Jim Lampley’s call of “Adonis Stevenson is the light heavyweight champion of the world!” comes through the house speakers, he chuckles and high fives a few friends he’s brought along with him.
It’s as if he’s still in disbelief that he’s in the position he’s in. Many in the boxing community would share that opinion.
In his de facto debut in the weight class, he knocked out the consensus best 175 pounder on the planet in 76 seconds.
“Things changed. It changed everything,” said Stevenson of the effect the victory has had on his life.
It has changed everything in terms of his demeanor. If he is in shock, it’s only of the “boy, this is cool!” variety. If he didn’t believe it before, he sure does now. The Haitian-Canadian has always had the mentality of a knockout puncher, but now he exhibits it outwardly, standing at the podium and telling Cloud he’s going to knock him out. Though French is his first language, he’s always been capable of communicating in English. Now he has the confidence to trash talk in English.
“I’m going to knock him out. I’m good at talking, but in the ring, I perform too,” said Stevenson, before adding his assessment of Cloud’s performance against Bernard Hopkins. “He got beat by a 48 year old. He looked terrible.”
In the ring, and out of it, Stevenson (21-1, 18 knockouts) continues to surprise. In the year prior to facing Dawson, Stevenson had defeated Don George and Darnell Boone. Nothing on his resume suggested he was capable of reaching these heights right now.
“That’s what’s so great about him, he’s still learning. The first day he came into the gym and Emanuel and I stood and watched him box. He asked me what I think, and I said he’s a good fighter, he just needs to be polished,” said his trainer Javon “Sugar” Hill. “I say his boxing IQ is off the charts a lot, because it is. I’m watching him make adjustments on fighters, on the fly. He’s constantly learning, even outside the ring with his interviews, being himself a little more, enjoying himself.”
Stevenson lit up the room during the press conference with his bright smile and braggadocio (in two languages, no less), not making it particularly difficult for news outlets to find usable clips and B-roll. The added showmanship might be attributed to the study of Sugar Ray Robinson tapes he’s been doing with Hill during training camp in Michigan.
Or it could be that he’s realizing what everyone else is. He’s pretty damn good.
“It’s good to go walking down the aiselways knowing you have a confident fighter,” added Hill.
His confidence seems bolstered by a style matchup that he feels is favorable to him. Cloud has shown himself to be a straight-ahead pressure fighter, one who welcomes contact, as opposed to avoiding it. According to Stevenson, HBO passed on a potential bout between him and his WBC mandatory Tony Bellew because this would make for a more crowd-pleasing fight.
That decision was music to his ears.
“This guy is going to stay in front of me, come to me and apply pressure. With Chad Dawson, you saw what happened when you do that. Cloud is going to do the same thing. The first round and second round, he’ll try to move around I think. But after that, he’s going back to his old style, rushing and trying to give me pressure,” said Stevenson.
Cloud has recently reunited with former trainer Al Bonanni, a longtime staple of the Don King stable. Hill says he has heard through the grapevine that Cloud would consider coming out boxing, as opposed to his usual aggressive approach. Though he made sure to mimic that scenario in sparring for his client, he’s pretty sure of what we’ll see out of Cloud on Saturday night.
“It’s a little bit hard for me to see that out of Cloud, because I’ve never seen him box. I don’t think he’s seen himself box, because that’s just not his mentality,” said Hill.
It’s the same mentality that the Kronk Gym has, where Hill continues to carry the torch, and where Stevenson now proudly represents. “Knockouts sell” is an old adage of the late Emanuel Steward, dating back to his first world champion Hilmer Kenty, when he stopped Ernesto Espana for the WBA world lightweight title in 1980.
Steward saw the same potential Kenty had in Stevenson, and his nephew Hill has helped him realize it. Stevenson is to Hill what Kenty was to Steward.
“It’s not my first world champion, but it’s my first world champion since Emanuel’s passing, so it’s means a lot more to me to be able to take what Emanuel started with him and carry out that vision of him being a superstar in boxing,” said Hill.
Knockouts do indeed sell, and so far, the public is buying.
Photos / Will Hart-HBO
Corey Erdman is a staff writer for RingTV.com, a host at Fight Network and SIRIUS/XM in Canada, and a regular commentator for WealthTV. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @corey_erdman.