By Keith Idec
The most obvious criticism of the Adonis Stevenson-Andrzej Fonfara rematch is that Stevenson could’ve fought the contender that knocked out Fonfara in the first round nearly a year ago.
Promoters for Stevenson (Yvon Michel) and Joe Smith Jr. (Joe DeGuardia) negotiated, but couldn’t come to an agreement for them to fight April 29 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. That’s among the reasons Stevenson ended up agreeing to fight Fonfara (29-4, 17 KOs, 1 NC) again Saturday night at Bell Centre in Montreal (Showtime; 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Though the Haitian-born, Quebec-based Stevenson (28-1, 23 KOs) would’ve received more credit for fighting Smith than for facing Fonfara, the 39-year-old Stevenson has as complete an understanding as anyone regarding what he thinks happened to Fonfara against Smith. Stevenson took an opponent lightly once, too, and it resulted in the lone loss of his professional career – a second-round technical knockout defeat to Darnell Boone seven years ago.
Stevenson avenged that defeat by knocking out Boone in the sixth round of their rematch in March 2013, but he learned a costly lesson he feels Fonfara was taught by Smith.
“I think Fonfara was not prepared for that fight,” Stevenson told BoxingScene.com. “Anything can happen in boxing and I think he thought it would be easy to fight Joe Smith. That’s the same thing that happened with me when I was beginning my career. I fought Darnell Boone and I thought it would be easy and everything. And I got caught. It happens.
“So I think the same thing happened to him, too. It doesn’t mean nothing because he came back strong against Chad Dawson. He knocked Chad Dawson out [March 4 at Barclays Center] and he’s been training and he’s ready. For me, it doesn’t mean nothing because I know when I fight him he’s gonna be ready. It’s not the same thing when he fights Joe Smith and when he fights me. He’s been training hard, with all he’s got, for this fight. This is a title fight – not the same thing.”
Fonfara floored Stevenson in the ninth round of their first fight in May 2014, but Stevenson recovered to win a unanimous decision at Bell Centre (116-109, 115-110, 115-110). Stevenson dropped Fonfara once apiece in the first and fifth rounds, but Fonfara got up both times to make the match competitive.
The 29-year-old Fonfara wasn’t as fortunate against Smith (23-1, 19 KOs).
Fonfara appeared to buzz the then-unknown Smith with a left hook in the first round, but Long Island’s Smith immediately countered with a right hand that floored Fonfara. The popular Polish contender made it to his feet, but Smith swarmed Fonfara and connected with several power punches to knock him down again.
Referee Hector Afu stopped their fight 2:32 into the first round before a crowd full of Fonfara fans June 16 at UIC Pavilion in Chicago. Fonfara’s 10th-round stoppage of Dawson (34-5, 19 KOs, 2 NC) on the Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia undercard marked his first fight in the 8½ months after Smith stopped him.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.