Hard punching super middleweight contender Adonis Stevenson scored an impressive stoppage of Don George Friday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
As reported by ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael, George (23-3-1, 20 KO) was the only man willing to step up and face Stevenson (19-1, 16 KO) in an official IBF eliminator after the likes of Edwin Rodriguez, Thomas Oosthuizen, James DeGale, Mikkel Kessler, Andre Dirrell, Sakio Bika and Kelly Pavlik rejected the fight.
Since hooking up with Emanuel Steward, Stevenson’s boxing ability has improved dramatically. Once a brawler with a punishing left hand, Stevenson has developed a sharp southpaw jab, as well as a right hook that he throws well to both the head and body.
Already 35, Stevenson has relatively few miles on his physical odometer considering his advanced age. Stevenson’s dramatic improvement now has him poised to challenge for a world title, and his three consecutive stoppages since he began training with Steward at the Kronk Gym has made him one of the most feared and avoided fighters at 168 pounds.
Against George, Stevenson displayed a varied attack, working off his right jab and mixing a combination of aggressive offense and precise counter punching. Particularly impressive was Stevenson’s body work—especially his right hook—and it was this commitment to punishing George’s midsection that led to five knockdowns and a 12th round stoppage.
Stevenson floored George twice in the fifth, once in the sixth and two more times in the abbreviated final round. George, who went the distance with Edwin Rodriguez two fights ago, showed tremendous heart and resilience, though the fight became drastically one-sided after the seventh round.
That said, George did expose some flaws in Stevenson’s game. Stevenson has a tendency to keep his lead hand low, which forces him to jab from him waist. George was able to land several telling right hands, and he backed Stevenson up multiple times in the early rounds.
Stevenson appeared to lose steam in the middle rounds, which has been a problem for him in the past. However, to Stevenson’s credit, he was able to catch his second wind, and scoring a late round stoppage will undoubtedly feel good.
Stevenson appeared to hurt his left hand during the fight, and the way he adapted with movement and crisp jabbing shows just how far he’s come. If Stevenson can continue to hone his boxing skills, he will surely be a formidable title challenger. Combined with his natural power and solid chin, Stevenson looks to be a tough out for any super middleweight.
Part of Stevenson’s charm is that he isn’t hard to find in the ring, and his willingness to make a good fight should attract the attention of major networks (Stevenson is already a big draw in Canada). But now, as the mandatory challenger to Carl Froch’s IBF title, the question is: will Froch want to fight him?
While Froch (29-2, 21 KO) would undoubtedly be a heavy favorite against Stevenson, he will likely be looking for a bigger fight after his rematch with Lucian Bute in Montreal. Should Froch defeat Bute a second time, the 35-year-old from Nottingham will likely pursue a fight along the lines of a rematch with Andre Ward before too much time passes.
Another roadblock standing in the way of a Stevenson-Froch fight is that Froch already has his next two bouts scheduled, which means that Stevenson would only be able to challenge for the IBF title by the summer of 2013, at the earliest.
Given the track record of sanctioning bodies, this could mean that Stevenson—who already owns the WBC “silver” super middleweight title—might find himself fighting for an interim title while Froch takes care of his own business.
At 35, Stevenson will not want to remain on the shelf for eight months. An enticing interim matchup could be made between Stevenson and Edwin Rodriguez, who also defeated George, though far less impressively. Still, Rodriguez (22-0, 15 KO) has tremendous potential, and while he called out Kelly Pavlik after his last fight, such a bout seems a bit presumptuous.
It’s time for the top super middleweight contenders to fight each other. Stevenson seems game, and if Edwin Rodriguez steps up, a fight between these two elite contenders would be great for the sport.
Also of note from the card in Montreal was rebuilding middleweight prospect David Lemieux scoring a knockout of the year candidate over Alvaro Gaona. With his confidence seemingly restored, look for the 23-year-old Lemieux to step up his level of opposition in his next fight.
After back-to-back losses to Marco Antonio Rubio and Joachim Alcine, the power punching Lemieux is hoping to re-establish himself as one of boxing’s most exciting prospects.