By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Well, that was quick.
Within mere seconds of Jimmy Lennon Jr. declaring him "winner and still" WBC light heavyweight champion on Saturday night in Montreal, some people couldn't step over each other fast enough to brand Adonis Stevenson with the perfect go-to "O" word – Overrated.
Never mind that nearly each one of these very same folks had been swept up in the “Superman” sentiment heading into the scheduled 12-rounder. Back then, they breathlessly said, nary a 175-pounder alive had the kryptonite to blunt such a man of Haitian-honed steel.
They’d seen him vaporize Chad Dawson in less than a round, bludgeon Tavoris Cloud and Tony Bellew into mid-round submissions and score two knockdowns in the first five rounds at the Bell Centre, after all – more than enough evidence for a still-active Canastota enshrinement.
But alas, when their would-be superhero stumbled, bled and, gasp... even fell down en route to a wide – and, by the way, correct – verdict over No. 3-ranked Andrzej Fonfara, the speeding bullet reaction was obvious: Stevenson was a shoddy facsimile and everything they'd said before… well, never mind.
Two hours before the fight, the idea of putting Bernard Hopkins in the same ring with Stevenson had been tantamount to premeditated homicide. But after 36 minutes with a foe 23 years younger, an inch taller and light years more active than “The Alien,” the champion was deemed imposter non grata and the future forecast was clear – a 49-year-old without a KO in a decade was the Lexxest of Luthors.
Even by perpetually fickle boxing standards, it was a remarkable show of street cred alacrity.
Some yahoos took it even further for their status update entertainment, co-opting the death of former 175-pound king Matthew Saad Muhammad and choosing his post-mortem to juvenilely diagnose what the former eight-defense WBC champ might have done to such a sorry excuse for a title claimant.
And a match with Sergey Kovalev... oh, the humanity.
Though the Russian’s middling title-fight foils hardly near the level of former belt-holders Dawson (IBF/IBO/WBC), Cloud (IBF) and Fonfara (IBO), the forecasts in the weekend’s aftermath suddenly lump 2013’s Sports Illustrated fighter of the year in with the likes of Nathan Cleverly, Ismayl Sillakh and Cedric Agnew that Kovalev’s been feasting on since the start of last summer.
And while it’s true that Stevenson did fade badly after appearing on the verge of another first-half stoppage win in defense No. 3 – it’s also true that he climbed off the deck in the ninth round, took the best a surging Fonfara had to offer in the closing moments of that hectic session and went on to win two of the final three down the stretch en route to legit scoring wins of five, five and seven points.
It’s not the mettle Saad showed against guys like Jerry Martin or Yaqui Lopez a generation ago, perhaps, but it’s more than anyone’s needed to beat the WBO’s contender flotsam lately.
Watch out, Krusher. They’re coming for you next.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF super middleweight title – London, United Kingdom
Carl Froch (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. George Groves (No. 6 contender/No. 8 IWBR)
Froch (32-2, 23 KO): Fourth title defense; Defeated Groves (TKO 9) in November
Groves (19-1, 15 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Eighth scheduled 12-round fight (6-1)
Fitzbitz says: The stoppage may have come early the time around, but chances are it was going to come. The bet here is that Froch doesn’t make it a must-have in the second installment. Froch by decision
WBA featherweight title – Macao, China
Simpiwe Vetyeka (champion/No. 4 IWBR) vs. Nonito Donaire (No. 2 contender/No. 3 IWBR)
Vetyeka (26-2, 16 KO): First title defense; Held IBO titles at 118 and 126 pounds
Donaire (32-2, 21 KO): Twelfth title fight (10-1); Held titles at 112, 118 and 122 pounds
Fitzbitz says: Vetyeka was a surprise in beating a long-running champ in Chris John, but he wasn’t pursue here because Top Rank expects him to provide too big a hurdle for their “other” Filipino. Donaire in 7
IBF featherweight title – Macao, China
Evgeny Gradovich (champion/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Alexander Miskirtchian (No. 1 contender/No. 10 IWBR) Gradovich (18-0, 9 KO): Third title defense; Third consecutive fight in China
Miskirtchian (24-2-1, 9 KO): First title fight; Eleven straight wins since 2008
Fitzbitz says: Gradovich might not be Salvador Sanchez, but he validated his reign with a second downing of Billy Dib and he’s become comfortable performing on the big-time Asian stage. Gradovich by decision
IBF middleweight title – Krefeld, Germany
Felix Sturm (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Sam Soliman (No. 1 contender/No. 7 IWBR)
Sturm (39-3-2, 18 KO): First title defense; Held WBO and WBA (twice) titles at 160 pounds
Soliman (43-11, 18 KO): Third title fight (0-2); Had result of first Sturm fight (UD12) reversed to NC
Fitzbitz says: They’ve only met once, though it seems like it’s been six or seven more. Soliman was the better man the first time – at least initially – but it feels like Sturm evens the score. Sturm by decision
WBC super flyweight title – Iztacalco, Mexico
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Carlos Cuadras (No. 1 contender/No. 13 IWBR)
Rungvisai (27-3-1, 25 KO): Second title defense; Fourth fight outside Thailand (0-3)
Cuadras (29-0, 24 KO): First title fight; Fifth scheduled 12-round fight (4-0)
Fitzbitz says: The Thai champion is a challenger’s nightmare on his home turf, but he’s been reduced to an also-ran in all three voyages away from the back yard. Make it an 0-for-4 here. Cuadras by decision
Last week's picks: 2-0
2014 picks record: 37-8 (82.2 percent)
Overall picks record: 584-202 (74.3 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz. Tags: Adonis Stevenson