by Cliff Rold
Just four months after one punching his way to the Light Heavyweight championship of the world, 36-year old Haitian lineal Light Heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson (22-1, 19 KO) of Longueuil, Quebec, Canada, cut 31-year old former IBF titlist Tavoris Cloud (24-2, 19 KO) of Tallahassee, Florida, over both eyes and landed a stream of big left hands to force a corner retirement after the seventh round at the Bell Center in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on Saturday night.
Cloud, making his first start since his title loss to Bernard Hopkins in March, suffers his second straight defeat following a widely decried win over former WBA titlist Gabriel Campillo in 2012.
Stevenson retains his place as champion of the WBC, Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and Ring Magazine in his first defense. The champion scaled 173 ¾ for the bout, Cloud weighing in slightly heavier at 174 ½. The referee was Michael Griffin.
Cloud initiated the action with some measuring left jabs against the southpaw champion. Stevenson, moving to his left, landed a stiff counter left hand. Another left hand past the halfway mark sent Cloud backward blinking, almost as if thumbed. Stevenson tried to follow up, Cloud countered off the ropes, and both men proceeded with caution towards the bell.
Early in the second, Stevenson shuffled his feet to express confidence and stayed at range, opting to box a Cloud coming straight at him. A right hand landed for Stevenson in the late going, Cloud responding with a good shot but unable to follow up as he slipped to the floor. Griffin ruled a slip and Cloud nodded to confirm a blow had not dropped him.
Stevenson maintained control in the third, boxing beautifully and landing hard left counters while he alternated between going forward and forcing Cloud to come to him. A left hand from the champion cut Cloud early in the fourth and Stevenson started to go downhill, pursuing and banging away at the challenger. Cloud mustered a couple body shots but Stevenson was unaffected.
Cloud would be the man hurt to the body late in the fourth, backed into a corner and wearing a mask of pain. Cloud fired to survive but he went to his corner at the bell a confused and seemingly close to beaten man. The Cloud corner worked on the cut over the left eye between rounds and he rose from his stool in search of a change.
Both men were warned for fighting off the break early in the fifth after a violent clinch. Indicative of the flow of the fight, Cloud landed a left hook in the middle of the round only to be touched hard in combination for his trouble. Cloud taunted Stevenson, sticking his chin out, in the final thirty seconds and baited Stevenson into a left hook. It was the smallest glimmer of hope in another solid three minutes for the champion.
Stevenson landed a hammering body shot early in the sixth and landed another before Cloud missed on a long right. Stevenson didn’t miss on a long left as the round neared the minute mark, rocking Cloud’s head back and following downstairs. Halfway through, Stevenson was making easy work.
Cloud got off to a better start in the seventh, landing rights to the head and body in the clinch and another right in a short exchange. It didn’t take long for Stevenson to respond, knocking Cloud off balance with a left. Stevenson opened a cut over the right eye of Cloud, a cut far worse than the earlier left eye abrasion. Late in the round, he added injury, hurting Cloud and backing him to the ropes where Cloud could only muster some desperate arm punches.
Cloud’s corner had seen enough. As they wiped away the blood from his face, Cloud offered no resistance and lowered his head. He was officially a beaten man at 3:00 of round seven.
A relaxed Stevenson took in his latest big win. “In four months, I beat two great champions in Light Heavyweight,” he said smiling, a reference to his explosive title winning effort over Chad Dawson in June. He also tipped his cap to a late, great trainer. “Emmanuel Steward, when I was at 168, he said…if I have a chance to fight Chad Dawson and Tavoris Cloud, fight. Let’s go. Let’s do it. Both guys, I will win and I will knock them out.”
Stevenson fulfilled the prophecy of Steward and looked to the future. Asked about a showdown with big punching WBO titlist Sergey Kovalev (22-0-1, 20 KO), Stevenson chose his words. “I got my mandatory now. Sergey, he needs to fight a couple champions too. I fight two Light Heavyweight champions; now, I got a defense of my title. I’ll let my promoter fix that. I don’t have a problem.”
Stevenson ignored that in fact Kovalev has in fact knocked out two champions in the class to date, stopping Gabriel Campillo and winning his WBO belt from Nathan Cleverly this year.
Stevenson also indicated he’ll have an eye on a big Canadian showdown later this year between former lineal champion Jean Pascal (28-2-1, 17 KO) and former Super Middleweight titlist Lucian Bute (31-1, 24 KO). A fight with the winner would be big business in the northland. No mention was made of IBF titlist Bernard Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 KO) but Stevenson has mentioned him in the past.
Stevenson’s WBC mandatory is the U.K.’s Tony Bellew (20-1-1, 12 KO). Hopkins is set to fight Karo Murat (25-1-1, 15 KO) on October 26th. Pascal-Bute takes place, barring another postponement, on January 18th of next year.
Stevenson, the king of the division, will survey his field to see what comes next. It’s good to be the king.
The fight was televised in the U.S. on HBO as part of their “World Championship Boxing” series.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org