Is Tavoris Cloud the man to stop the seemingly unstoppable force that is Adonis Stevenson?
The light heavyweight landscape underwent some huge renovations this past June, when the punishing hitter Adonis Stevenson lit up Chad Dawson in a showdown for Dawson’s WBC light heavyweight title.
In turn, Stevenson earned the right to call himself the best 175-pound fighter in the world.
Stevenson (21-1, 18 KOs) is now set to fight former IBF champion Tavoris Cloud (24-1, 19 KOs) on Sept. 28 at the Bell Centre, in Montreal, Canada.
As mentioned, in June, Stevenson overcame vast height, reach and experience disadvantages to knock out the former WBC champ Dawson with a booming left-cross in the very first round.
At 35 years old, “Superman,” as Stevenson is called, stands atop the 175-pound weight class. He's a ravenous monster that's gobbled up and spit out nearly every opponent ever served up to him, defeating every single man he has ever stepped into the ring with, including avenging his one loss. He wants nothing more than to prove to the world he’s more than just a one-hit wonder.
Cloud, albeit a dynamite puncher himself, isn’t carrying much momentum into this fight. He was once the IBF champion for four years until dropping a unanimous decision to Bernard Hopkins in March. He was, frankly, lucky to walk away with a win against light heavyweight standout Gabriel Campillo.
Some fans may argue Cloud doesn’t even deserve this opportunity, but when looking at both men’s frightening knockout power and their contrasting approach to defense, the way these two men match up on paper is far too fascinating to take for granted.
Both men throw with bad intentions and this fight promises to be absolutely exhilarating—that is, for as long as it lasts.
Main Event: Adonis Stevenson (21-1, 18 KOs) vs. Tavoris Cloud (24-1, 19 KOs) for Stevenson’s WBC light heavyweight title
Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
When: September 28, 2013
Stevenson is a finely tuned athletic freak of nature. But his ability on offense goes far beyond that.
He seemingly pumps out knockout victories at will but “Superman” isn’t a slugger or brawler, by any means. His high KO percentage comes from his wonderful ability to set up his finishing blows.
No matter how incredible his knockout power is—as was especially on display against a talented boxer in Chad Dawson—Stevenson isn't going to send such talent to the canvas simply swinging off the bat.
Even in the relatively short fight against Dawson, which took just over a minute, Stevenson found success early on sending jabs to his opponent’s body—setting up the final knockout sequence.
As you can see in the GIF linked above, Stevenson’s subtle lead-feint set up that devastating and career altering left-cross (that you'll probably view over and over, as I like to do).
Stevenson has also shown the capability to box a bit from the outside.
Cloud possesses one of the most interesting skill-sets in recent memory.
He is known for his high work rate—a trait usually attached to the lighter hitters of the boxing world—but carries the kind of power that must be respected at all times.
Bernard Hopkins' legendary footwork, even at 48, can make anybody uncomfortable and tentative and Cloud was no different in their fight. He has trouble with mobile fighters and Stevenson isn’t one.
Cloud’s ferocious output should be on full-display this time around.
Even outside of this violent power, Stevenson is an offensive juggernaut. His combinations are explosive and efficient and he is one of the game’s most underrated counter-punchers. And his counter-punching is just what gives him the edge here for me.
Cloud loves to brawl and he’s very good at it. But Stevenson is, all things considered, the much better boxer.
Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when I say Adonis Stevenson?
Was it power? Of course, it was.
Stevenson can crack with the best of them. But he hasn’t lit up enough notable opponents to be considered a more pound-for-pound destructive hitter than, say, Gennady Golovkin or Lucas Matthysse.
And it has to be asked.
Just how used up was Chad Dawson when Stevenson got to him?
But nonetheless, with absolutely frightening knockouts on this résumé—like this one, or this one and, of course, this one—Stevenson is the hardest hitter the light heavyweight division has to offer at the moment.
Cloud is noted for his power. But not like Stevenson is.
Since taking his first big step-up in competition in 2008 against former WBO light heavyweight claimant Julio Cesar Gonzalez, the “Thunder” Cloud, as he is nicknamed, has been a bit calm—recording just one knockout in his last six bouts.
It’s hard to imagine even a few match-ups that Stevenson wouldn’t be given the edge in power and this isn’t one of them. His hands are rods of electricity just waiting to spark the next poor soul thrown into the ring with him.
Cloud on the other hand, frankly, isn’t even the second hardest hitter in the light heavyweight division (that would be Sergey Kovalev who probably has a better case to be No. 1 than I’m giving him credit for), let alone tops.
Unsurprisingly, Stevenson gets plenty of attention for his power. But his defense is nothing to scoff at.
His head movement is really impressive for a power puncher and he makes a commitment to taking his head off line when throwing punches—especially when bridging long distances and firing off his straights to his opponent’s head or body.
Another thing Stevenson didn’t receive enough credit for in his annihilation of Chad Dawson was the way he completely neutralized the defending champion’s lead-jab. And this is where Stevenson’s underrated counter-punching, that I eluded to earlier, comes into play.
For as long as the very short fight lasted, Stevenson countered Dawson’s jabs beautifully. As Dawson’s jab came in, Stevenson continually parried to the outside and countered with a right-hook or jab.
The best (and seemingly only) aspect of Cloud’s defense is his granite chin. He’s taken some big shots in his career and has yet to get knocked out.
There just isn’t much more to it than that. Cloud loves making it a real nasty fight on the inside and relies on his chin to get the job done. He isn’t mobile and he isn’t relatively quick or agile.
Although on paper—or at least in my particular breakdown—it would seem Stevenson would get the clear vote on defense, such is not the case.
I’m calling this feature even. Stevenson may be the more multifaceted fighter on defense, but he still leaves plenty of openings to be hit and isn’t as mobile as he should be.
This is undoubtedly the most intriguing aspect of the fight, even more so than their clash of knockout power: Stevenson’s leaky defense vs. Cloud’s unshakable chin.
There is no secret as to what sort of game plan either of these men will attempt to exercise.
Stevenson is going to look to keep things at a distance and uncork his murderous left-hand. He’ll have to get his feet wet early on to stay away from the aggressive Cloud. As exhibited in Cloud’s lone loss, he simply can’t keep up with the quick feet.
Cloud will do anything he can to draw Stevenson into a brawl. This is where he has the absolute best chance to win. If he can convince Stevenson to trade wallop for wallop with him in the trenches, there’s a far better chance his chin is going to hold up better than his opponent’s.
Either way, heavy leather is being thrown—that’s just what makes this fight so exciting.
Stevenson holds the edge and here’s why:
Even if Stevenson and Cloud engage in close quarters—like Cloud wants them to—and trade power punches, it’s still a 50/50 fight. Either man could go down from the other’s stiff fists.
But if Stevenson has it his way and maintains distance and control from the outside, there’s absolutely no way Cloud can walk away the winner.
So in essence, there’s two ways this fight can go. It could go Cloud’s way, where both men have just about an equal chance to win. On the other hand it could go Stevenson’s way, where Cloud just isn’t on the same level.
So either way, Stevenson has an avenue to success. Cloud simply doesn’t, giving “Superman” the advantage.
The jury is still out on Stevenson’s knockout power.
Was Chad Dawson damaged goods after the dismantling he received at the hands of Andre Ward? Did Dawson ever take big punches well, in the first place? Save for Dawson, who is actually the highest caliber fighter Stevenson has knocked out? Aaron Pryor Jr.?
But this is the perfect fight for Stevenson to prove himself. He’s facing a top-10 light heavyweight with a proven chin and one that carries greater name value than his WBC mandatory challenger Tony Bellew.
Adonis Stevenson is the favorite to win however this fight turns out, as just about everything is leaning in his favor. He has stylistic advantages, the sheer momentum he’ll be taking with him into the ring is a big factor, and his boxing gloves are dynamite-loaded.
Look for him to accumulate enough leather on a willing Tavoris Cloud, sometime in the middle rounds, to put him down and out for the first time in his career—providing the boxing world another charismatic celebration from the fistic dynamo they call "Superman."
Adonis Stevenson by Round 8 KO