by Cliff Rold
36-year old Haitian lineal World Light Heavyweight Champion Adonis Stevenson (23-1, 20 KO) of Longueuil, Quebec, Canada, dropped 31-year old challenger Tony Bellew (20-2-1, 12 KO) in round six and finished him in the corner for the second successful defense of the crown he won from Chad Dawson with a first round knockout in June.
Stevenson also retains the WBC title in the division. Bellew loses in his second attempt at a title, his lone other loss coming via majority decision in a challenge of then-WBO titlist Nathan Cleverly in October 2011.
Stevenson came into the bout just under the division limit at 174 ½. Bellew weighed spot on the mark at 175. The referee was Michael Griffin.
The first two rounds were a chess match, Bellew working the perimeter and not allowing the southpaw champion room to find the countering options he desired. An exchange late in the second saw Bellew take a big power shot and fire back. In the third, Bellew drew blood from the nose of Stevenson and landed a counter near the middle of the round that pushed Stevenson off balance.
It may have woken Stevenson up.
The champion roared to life in the final minute of round three. With Bellew going to the ropes, Stevenson started to find a home for his thudding left hand and Bellew was clearly affected.
Bellew responded with a sharp right hand at the start of round four. Stevenson, as was the case the previous round, used willingness from Bellew to fire his big stuff. A series of crowd-pleasing exchanges marked the frame and Stevenson appeared wobbled. A left behind the head sent Stevenson to the floor but it was ruled a slip. Stevenson would take some more hard shots along the ropes but by round’s end had taken the momentum back with quicker blows.
Stevenson didn’t let the momentum get away from him in round five, walking Bellew down and landing single big shots. Bellew seemed to be fighting to prolong the fight, picking spots to attack and hoping to buzz the champion as time wore on.
He ran out of time in the sixth.
Nearing the midway point of the round, Stevenson let loose a seismic straight left that sent Bellew down in a heap near the corner. Bellew beat the count, up at three, and told Griffin he could go on. Bellew got on his bicycle when the fight resumed and pawed at Stevenson with some wishful blows. Stevenson touched Bellew with two lead rights and set up another left behind them, turning the challenger sideways and loose legged in the corner. Another undefended left landed flush before Griffin leapt in to save Bellew further punishment at 1:50 of round six.
A delighted Stevenson was interviewed after the fight and took pleasure in feeding pre-fight words from Bellew back to him. “He said I’m a dwarf. The dwarf knock him out man.” Stevenson, who posted nothing but knockout wins in 2013 including a revenge win over the lone man to defeat him (Darnell Boone), reflected on his year. “I fight four times and knock everybody out…now I need a vacation.”
Asked what could come next after his vacation, and asked specifically about Sergey Kovalev, Stevenson said, “I don’t have a problem if HBO put the money, I don’t have a problem. But the fans of Quebec City want (IBF/WBA Super Middleweight titlist) Carl Froch or (IBF Light Heavyweight titlist) Bernard Hopkins. Kovalev is a good fighter too…but, right now, the fans of Quebec City…want Carl Froch and Bernard Hopkins because they know Carl Froch and Bernard Hopkins.”
Stevenson seemed to talk down another pair of potential opponents in former lineal Light Heavyweight champion Jean Pascal and former IBF Super Middleweight titlist Lucian Bute. “Pascal and Bute was both defeated,” he said, referring to their most recent losses to Hopkins and Froch, respectively.
Pascal (28-2-1, 17 KO) and Bute (31-1, 24 KO) are signed for a big Canadian showdown on January 18th. Stevenson’s interest in the winner of that fight could improve as the magnitude of a clash north of the border emerges.
While Canada may or may not want something else, the world of boxing fans likely want to see only one man with Stevenson in the near future. That man took the stage in the bout prior to Stevenson’s.
30-year old Russian WBO Light Heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KO), 174 ½, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, made his first successful defense of his belt with a second round shelling of 28-year old Ukrainian Ismayl Sillakh (21-2, 17 KO), 174 ½, of Simi Valley, California, a once lauded prospect who was dropped twice and knocked out in round two.
The win ran Kovalev’s mark in 2013 to 4-0, all of the wins by knockout, the longest a stoppage inside the fourth round. The loss ends a four-fight win streak for Sillakh since a surprising stoppage loss to then-undefeated Denis Grachev in April 2012.
The referee was Marlon Wright.
The opening stanza was measured, Sillakh boxing, moving, and looking to counter. Kovalev stalked, landing a good combination and beginning to vary his jab to the body as the round progressed. Thirty seconds into the second round, Kovalev found the opening he wanted, blistering Sillakh with a right hand and sending him to the deck.
Sillakh was up at three, his nose bloody, nodding to Wright that he could continue. Kovalev wasted no time ending matters, throttling Sillakh with another lethal right hand and putting his man to sleep under the ring ropes at :52 seconds of round number two.
Interviewed in the ring after the fight, Kovalev was asked how he set up the knockout. “This is the result of my hard work in the gym. And it’s automatic. You know, I wanted this fight already a long time and I hope that I put very, very big doubt about me and Sillakh.”
There was surely no doubt left about the better man. Even less doubt was left about what the building showdown will be. Asked about what he’d like for the future, Kovalev at first gave a stock answer. “I’m open for any fight that my promoter can offer for me. I’m ready for Adonis Stevenson. I’m ready for any champion in my division.” Asked further which man he wanted the most, Kovalev smiled and said, “Adonis.”
As they continue to leave foes strewn across the ring, the desire to see a battle of two of the best puncher’s in boxing will only grow. Sometime in 2014, it appears inevitable their paths will cross.
The card was broadcast on HBO as part of its “Boxing After Dark” series, promoted by GYM.
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]