By Keith Idec
Badou Jack has noticed something interesting since he arrived in Canada earlier this week.
Jack technically entered enemy territory, or as threatening an area as Canada can be considered. But the more he explored Toronto, the nation’s largest city, the more Jack realized that Adonis Stevenson isn’t quite as popular north of the border as some might think.
Jack, a Las Vegas resident raised in Sweden, has been surprised by just how many boxing fans have approached him to tell the former two-division champion how badly they want him to beat Stevenson on Saturday night. Quebec, where the Haitian-born Stevenson has lived since he was 5, is Stevenson’s home base, but Jack still expected fight fans in Ontario to support their Canadian champion.
In fact, Jack doesn’t believe Stevenson will have much of a home-ring advantage when they enter Air Canada Centre for their 12-round fight for Stevenson’s WBC light heavyweight title.
“More Canadian fans I think are rooting for me,” Jack told BoxingScene.com following a press conference Thursday in Toronto. “He’s probably got some fans, of course. But everybody on the street, everybody’s coming up to me, ‘Please, please beat him. We don’t like him here. He’s a former pimp. He don’t fight the best. He’s not a likeable guy.’
“So regardless if they like him or not, I’m a road warrior. It don’t matter. I’ll fight him in his backyard, in his house, in his gym – wherever. It don’t matter. It’s just me and him in the ring, anyway.”
The 34-year-old Jack (22-1-2, 13 KOs) has fought exclusively in the United States since June 2011, but he welcomed the opportunity and the accompanying payday that’ll come with facing Stevenson in Canada.
Their fight was supposed to take place at Montreal’s Bell Centre, where Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs) has fought 12 times since December 2007. Last month, however, Yvon Michel, Stevenson’s promoter, was forced for undisclosed reasons to move the event to Toronto.
The 40-year-old Stevenson has fought in Toronto just once. He stopped American Tommy Karpency in the third round at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum in September 2015.
Stevenson has a fan base in Quebec, but he has been heavily criticized by Canadians and others outside his country for fighting mostly a low level of opposition since winning the title by producing a spectacular, stunning, first-round knockout of Chad Dawson nearly five years ago at Bell Centre. The powerful southpaw hasn’t been particularly active, either, as this will be just his ninth title defense in a championship reign that began in June 2013.
Since Stevenson emerged as a star north of the border, disturbing details about his past have been revealed as well. Before Stevenson began his professional boxing career, he worked as a pimp and at times abused the women that worked for him and the gang with which he was affiliated.
Stevenson spent 20 months in prison for his role in that prostitution ring.
“I paid my dues to society,” Stevenson told the Montreal Gazette in 2012. “It has been 14 years. That’s a long time. I have never had a criminal record since.”
Stevenson doesn’t say much about that troublesome time in his life these days. Jack doesn’t know many of the details, only what people have told him.
“I mean, only God can judge him,” Jack said. “I’m not saying [it]. I’m just saying what people have been telling me, when you said that he’s got all the support in Canada. I don’t think he’s got a lot of support here. But, you know, only God can judge him. That’s on him. I don’t know nothing about his past anyway. So I’m focusing on winning the fight. I don’t care what he did in the past.”
Floyd Mayweather Jr., whose company promotes Jack, was asked about Jack alluding to Stevenson’s violent history outside the ring. The retired superstar, who served two months in Nevada’s Clark County Detention Center in 2012 on a misdemeanor domestic battery conviction, declined comment.
All Mayweather would say is Jack might’ve mentioned Stevenson’s troubled past as a psychological ploy just two days before their fight.
“Well, if that’s the way that [Jack] feels, he’s entitled to say what he wanna say,” Mayweather told BoxingScene.com. “You know, guys get under each other’s skins in different ways. I mean, you have to use your tactics, your different tactics, to win the way – if that’s winning on the outside for him and it’s getting under [Stevenson’s] skin, and it’s getting to him mentally, that’s what he’s doing. He’s doing the right thing.”
Only Stevenson truly knows how much Jack discussing his criminal history has bothered him. Even if it hasn’t given Jack a psychological advantage over the defending champion, Jack is confident he is a more complete fighter than Stevenson.
Even though his opponent is widely viewed as one of the most punishing punchers in boxing, Jack suggested Stevenson is too reliant on his left hand.
That’s been a common criticism, but Stevenson only lost once as a professional. He avenged that second-round, technical-knockout defeat to Darnell Boone in April 2010 by knocking out Boone in the sixth round of their rematch seven fights later.
Regardless, Jack expects to become the second opponent to beat Stevenson on Saturday night.
“I’m an all-around good fighter,” Jack said. “I can do it all. I can box, I can bang, I can hit him to the body, I can punch hard. I’ve got a lot of things I can do. He got one thing that he really can do. I’ve got two hands, remember. I’ve got a left and a right.”
Showtime will televise Stevenson versus Jack as the main event of a split-site doubleheader, which will begin at 10:05 p.m. Before the two-fight telecast shifts to Toronto, WBC featherweight champ Gary Russell Jr. (28-1, 17 KOs) will defend his title against mandatory challenger Joseph Diaz Jr. (26-1, 14 KOs) at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
When asked how he envisions his fight against Stevenson ending, Jack replied, “Either he’s on the ground, or he quit on his stool.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.