by Cliff Rold
In the toughest fight of his title reign to date, Haitian 36-year old World Light Heavyweight Champion Adonis Stevenson (24-1, 20 KO) of Laval, Quebec, Canada, scored knockdowns in the first and fifth, and overcame a knockdown in the ninth, to win a unanimous decision over Polish 26-year old challenger Andrzej Fonfara (25-3, 15 KO) of Chicago, Illinois, on Saturday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It was Stevenson’s third defense of the lineal and WBC crowns he won with a first round knockout of Chad Dawson in June 2013. This was Fonfara’s first title attempt.
Both men came in under the Light Heavyweight limit of 175 lbs., Stevenson at 173 ½ and Fonfara at 174 ½. The referee was Frank Garza.
Fonfara didn’t shy away from the champion at the start, coming right at him and landing a solid right hand near the ropes. Stevenson backed Fonfara up with a southpaw left. Fonfara landed a left, and then a nice combination, but the response was stronger. A Stevenson left put Fonfara on the deck and, after beating the count, Fonfara struggled to survive as Stevenson poured it on. Fonfara punched back sparingly, and held when he could, while taking some heavy leather to the head and body, making it to the bell.
The challenger again came hard at the champion at the bell for the second, landing a right hand and then two more single blasts. Stevenson landed a counter left, and then another, and then a third, the round just past a minute old. The crowd chanted “Superman” for the champion as both men stayed at range and looked for openings. Both men landed single hard shots to the body in the final minute but neither could find a big head shot before the bell.
Once again it was Fonfara initiating to start the third, blocking and then eating lefts from Stevenson. Fonfara countered a Stevenson left to the body with a left to the head, the champion shaking his head that it didn’t bother him. Fonfara had moments working off the jab and, as had been the case in the second, defended well against the left in terms of minimizing full affect. The quicker Stevenson took over the round in the last minute to maintain his scoring edge.
Round four was close and saw both men slow it down just a hair, fighting at an exact if bruising pace. Fonfara started the fifth well, working well off the jab, but the quickness of Stevenson changed the landscape in an instant. A left to the body brought an immediate wince from Fonfara and then a trip to the deck. Fonfara bounced right up and nodded to go on, still refusing to shrink from the champion. Stevenson landed some more harsh blows to the belly but Fonfara sucked it up and taunted Stevenson for more.
Another left to the body nearly forced Fonfara down in the sixth but the challenger halted the assault with a short left hook. Stevenson froze for just a moment, giving Fonfara space. The challenger jogged away at one point as he caught his breath and, as he had all night, fought back hard in close.
The challenger had his best round of the fight to then in the seventh. Pressing and letting his hands go, Fonfara appeared to throw and land more against a Stevenson whose mouth was open for air in spots. There was reason to wonder if the champion might be experiencing some fatigue after launching so many hard shots in the first six rounds.
The issue continued to percolate in rounds eight and nine, Fonfara coming back strong into the fight. In the ninth, a right hand sent Stevenson to the deck and the champion appeared to be in big trouble. Notably slower than he’d been early on, and pushing his shots, Stevenson needed a championship display to halt the rally.
He found it.
Stevenson showed big guts in round ten, digging deep and willing himself to a winning frame with a focus on the body of Fonfara. Fonfara at one point waved off and taunted the crowd when they thought he was in trouble, and absorbed a bad low blow, but didn’t find the sort of offense he had in the previous few rounds.
Fonfara took another low blow early in the eleventh and was on the back foot early but as the round wore on both men behaved in warrior fashion. Stevenson continued his rally by keeping his hands going to the body but Fonfara was never far behind.
In the final round, Fonfara went deep into his own well in search of the knockout that would not come. Stevenson met him in the trenches, both men talking trash and winging hard. Fonfara, a snot rocket hanging over the hair on his lip, kept coming and buzzed Stevenson but after a long night of body shots didn’t have the snap he’d had just a few rounds before. The challenger cursed at the bell, and kept punching, a game effort fallen short in an excellent fight.
The scores came in at 115-110 twice and 116-109, all for the champion who earned the grueling win the hard way.
Stevenson claimed after the fight to have hurt his left hand, forcing him to box more but he gave credit to the challenger. “I fight top guys, and I accept any challenge.” Reflecting on the knockdown in the ninth, Stevenson said, “I still come back strong because I’m a true champion,” and his gritty effort in rounds ten and eleven spoke to that.
Looking to the future, Stevenson said, “(WBA/IBF titlist) Bernard Hopkins can be next,” and also that there was, “No problem with (WBO titlist) Sergey Kovalev.” The latter name brought with it a caveat that keeps the desirable puncher’s duel with Kovalev something easier to say Stevenson wants than actually show true. “(Advisor) Al Haymon’s going to negotiate with that.”
Fonfara was resolved in discussing his defeat and how he stayed alive after two early knockdowns. “I survive because I have a heart to fight.” The challenger gave full credit to the champion for his performance as well. “Tonight, Stevenson is better,” while looking hopefully ahead in saying, “I’m still young. I’m just 26 years old. One day, I’ll be world champion.” When television interviewer Jim Gray offered him congratulations for his effort, Fonfara replied, “No congratulations. I didn’t win.”
It reflected the mentality it took to make the fight he did.
25-year old Middleweight thriller David Lemieux (32-2, 30 KO), 159, of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, ran over shopworn 27-year old Fernando Guerrero (26-3, 19 KO), 159 ½, of Salisbury, Maryland, in three brutally one-sided rounds. Lemieux was credited with four knockdowns, three a product of punches. It was Guerrero’s second loss in three fights; all of his defeats are by knockout. Lemieux has won seven straight, six by knockout, since suffering back-to-back losses in 2011. The referee was Michael Griffin.
In the final minute of the opening round, Lemieux got Guerrero in trouble and worked him well against the ropes. Guerrero maneuvered away from the strands but, resuming action near mid-ring, Guerrero ate a hard left hook. A slight delay was followed by a collapse to the floor, Guerrero clearly in trouble. He beat the count and the bell rang before another big shot could land.
Things didn’t get better for Guerrero in the second. The left hook and relentless pressure of Lemieux kept Guerrero on the back foot. A bad cut was opened over the right eye of Guerrero and he took a knee in the corner in the closing seconds of the frame to stave off the constant assault, a right hand setting up the official knockdown.
The southpaw Guerrero tried to find a dramatic left hand early in the third to change his fortune but it wasn’t working. Fleeing the fists of Lemieux, Guerrero voluntarily took a knee for another official knockdown and pointed to his eye. The doctor looked him over and elected to let him continue. It didn’t last much longer, Lemieux landing a finishing right uppercut in the corner to send Guerrero down once again. His face a crimson mask, Guerrero would not beat the count as Griffin waved it off at 1:56 of round three.
Speaking after the fight, Lemieux made clear what his goals for the future are. “I’m determined to be a world champion and remain a world champion.” Asked specifically about facing the winner of a proposed bout between WBO Middleweight titlist Peter Quillin (31-0, 22 KO) and Daniel Jacobs (27-1, 24 KO), Lemieux said, “I would love to fight anybody in the world at 160.”
The opener on the primary Showtime broadcast highlighted one of a promising twin tandem at 154 lbs. It wasn’t a memorable outing, barring a key moment in the third.
Suffering the first knockdown of his career off a right hand in round three, 24-year old Jermell Charlo (24-0, 11 KO), 153 ¾, of Houston, Texas, rose easily and boxed his way to a lopsided unanimous decision over twelve rounds against 32-year old New Yorker Charlie Ohta (24-2-1, 16 KO), 153, fighting out of Hachioji, Japan. Charlo had some issues with low blows in the fight, losing a point in round nine, but his work upstairs was more than enough. Ohta left the evening with a swollen left eye. Charlo left with his hand raised by scores of 115-111 and 118-109 twice over.
Asked after the fight about the knockdown, Charlo said, “He hit me with a right hand. It wasn’t one of those shots that hurts somebody. It just caught me off balance.” Charlo spoke about title opportunities in his future, specifically calling out interim WBA titlist Erislandy Lara (19-1-2, 12 KO).
Lara is currently slated for a non-title pay-per-view showdown with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (43-1-1, 31 KO) on July 12. Charlo’s twin brother, Jermall (18-0, 14 KO), also competes in the Jr. Middleweight division. The referee was Jean-Guy Brousseau.
The card was broadcast in the US on Showtime as part of its “Championship Boxing” series, promoted by GYM Promotions.
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 [email protected]