by Cliff Rold
Sometimes, one can go home again.
In this case, home is the Light Heavyweight division and the World Champion at 175 lbs. must be glad to return. A decision to move down a class and challenge Super Middleweight king Andre Ward ended up a disaster.
Will a decision to face another Super Middleweight be equally harrowing? Stevenson, unable to secure a Super Middleweight title shot, gets the chance of a lifetime here and brings dynamite in his gloves to get the job done. Will we see a new Light Heavyweight king on Saturday?
Let’s go to the report cards.
Title: Lineal/TBRB/Ring/WBC World Light Heavyweight (2012-Present, 0 Defenses)
Previous Titles: WBC Light Heavyweight (2007-08, 3 Defenses; Vacated); IBF Light Heavyweight (2008-09, 1 Defense; Vacated)
Weight: 173.4 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 172.75 lbs.
Hails from: New Haven, Connecticut
Record: 31-2, 17 KO, 1 KOBY
Record in Major Title Fights: 7-2, 2 KO, 1 KOBY, 1 No Contest (8-2, 2 KO, 1 KOBY, 1 No Contest including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 8 (Carl Daniels TKO7; Tomasz Adamek UD12; Glen Johnson UD12, UD12; Antonio Tarver UD12, UD12; Jean Pascal L11; Adrian Diaconu UD12; Bernard Hopkins NC2, MD12; Andre Ward TKO by 10)
Title: 1st Title Shot
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 167.85 lbs.
Hails from: Longueuil, Quebec, Canada (Born in Haiti)
Record: 20-1, 17 KO, 1 KOBY
Rankings: #5 at 175 (BoxRec); #6 at 168 (ESPN); #9 (Ring); #10 (TBRB, BoxingScene)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 0
Pre-Fight: Speed –Dawson A; Stevenson B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Dawson B; Stevenson A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Dawson B+; Stevenson C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Dawson B+; Stevenson B
It’s not super common in the professional ranks to see two southpaws face off, but it is the case in this one and could make for some early unease for both men. Dawson, in his two fights with Tarver, has seen another southpaw across from him but not with this sort of explosiveness.
While not what one could call refined, Stevenson has quick hands, long arms, and his punches just have that little something extra. Sure, his quality of opposition hasn’t been overly notable, but with some puncher’s, one just knows it when they see it.
The trick for a puncher is to land the right punch at the right time and, if Dawson is back to form here, that could be tough. Dawson does a good job of staying tall and staying behind his jab. When he is focused, he can be difficult to catch clean and fires off quick counters in combination.
His problem has always been the moments where focus is lost. Against Jean Pascal, he looked lost for stretches facing a fighter who was quicker than him. Against Glen Johnson, Tarver, and Adamek, he relaxed and allowed fights he was winning to get closer than comfort would like to varying degrees. Against Stevenson, relaxation could result in a long, relaxing nap.
Stevenson catching Dawson for the upset doesn't seem impossible. It just doesn’t seem like the safe bet, and the safe bet is often the smart one. Dawson appears to do just about everything but punch better than Stevenson and one can't assume he's shot off one bad loss. The experience gap is a factor as well. Dawson has seen better and he’ll show it. Dawson by a comfortable margin.
Report Card Picks 2013: 21-14
It’s hard to be mad on a weekend where literally every fight, even those with fairly clear favorites, could conceivably go either way…The biggest overseas fight of the week, off U.S. TV, is the third Cruiserweight clash in the under-celebrated rivalry between longtime WBO titlist Marco Huck (35-2-1, 25 KO) and Ola Afolabi (19-2-4, 9 KO). Their second fight, a draw, was one of 2012’s best and their first was closely contested. This should be no different in terms of quality. Afolabi has to be the sentimental favorite after two close calls, but the home court edge for Huck should still be too much to overcome. Huck by decision is the choice…The Dawson HBO undercard will feature a clash for an interim WBA Lightweight belt and Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa (22-0, 16 KO) looks to have just a little too much class and experience for Darley Perez (28-0, 19 KO). That said, it’s Gamboa so the chance for an upset, or at least some dramatic wobbles or a knockdown, are there in a new weight class…Showtime has a strong card as well on Saturday…Their main event is non-title but some think it might earn a title by night’s end. That title? Fight of the Year candidate. If Josesito Lopez (30-5, 18 KO) were a big puncher, or a little bit quicker, his chances would look better here. They’re good anyways. Marcos Maidana (33-3, 30 KO) has seen a lot of quality and speed has been his undoing. Lopez has some but not enough to hold off the rugged Argentine…Underneath Maidana-Lopez, Cuba’s Erislandy Lara (17-1, 11 KO) looks like the surest thing of the weekend. Alfredo Angulo (22-2, 18 KO) is often good TV but he’ll be lucky to get through to hear the scores in this one. It could come on cuts or attrition as the fight wears on. Either way, Angulo has always been slow and hasn't looked that good since dealing with a tough immigration problem. The loss to James Kirkland may well have been his high mark. This just looks like different classes of professional.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transanational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org