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Adonis Stevenson vs. Tony Bellew: Preview and Prediction for Title Bout

Kevin McRaeFeatured Columnist IVDecember 17, 2016

Adonis Stevenson vs. Tony Bellew: Preview and Prediction for Title Bout

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Adonis Stevenson vs. Tony Bellew will take place this Saturday night at the Colisee de Quebec in Quebec City, Canada, and the WBC Light Heavyweight Championship will be on the line.

    Stevenson captured the title this past June with a stunning one-round demolition of then-champion Chad Dawson. He successfully defended the title for the first time in September by stopping former champion Tavoris Cloud, and he enters this fight having scored nine straight victories inside the distance. His punching power is, in a word, lethal.

    Bellew is the WBC mandatory No. 1 contender, but he isn't really well-known outside of his native United Kingdom. He's fought some solid opponents—including a close majority-decision defeat against Nathan Cleverly in 2011—but most are considering him a long shot to unseat the champion.

    So here it is, all you need to know about Saturday night's big clash for the light heavyweight championship. This is your complete preview for Stevenson vs. Bellew!

Tale of the Tape

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Adonis Stevenson—as is the case with most anyone he'll face—has a clear advantage in punching power. He has knocked out north of 80 percent of his foes, and that make's Tony Bellew's rate of 55 percent seem pedestrian.

    Bellew will carry in some physical advantages on Saturday night. He's got a few inches on Stevenson in both reach and height. If he hopes to stay away from the devastating punching power of his opponent, those attributes may aid him.

     

     

    Record

    Adonis Stevenson

    22-1, 19 KO

     

    Tony Bellew

    20-1-1, 12 KO

     

    Age3630
    Height5'11"6'2.5"
    Reach72"74"
    Weight173.75 (last fight)174.5 (last fight)
    StanceSouthpawOrthodox
    HometownPort-au-Prince, HaitiLiverpool, Merseyside, United Kingdom
    Rounds Boxed87132

Main Storylines

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    Jun 8, 2013; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Adonis Stevenson (gold/yellow) knocks out Chad Dawson (black) during the first round of their light heavyweight  WBC title bout at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Adonis Stevenson is fighting for the next fight as much as this one. No disrespect to his opponent on Saturday night, but if all goes according to plan, this will just be a way station on the way to something more high profile.

    There are few fighters who have risen through the ranks faster than the 36-year-old Canadian of Haitian descent. His one-punch knockout of Chad Dawson earlier this year might well be the knockout of the year, and it served notice to everyone in the world that, while he might be a little crude at times, he can win a fight with a single punch.

    No, for the light heavyweight champion, this fight is about getting through a mandatory and then finding a way to secure a fight with Sergey Kovalev early next year. That's why he's taking such a quick turnaround, having fought just over two months ago.

    Tony Bellew isn't a pushover, and he's getting the opportunity of a lifetime when he fights for the light heavyweight championship of the world. He's a long shot for sure, but he has the ability to make this an interesting fight.

    There are certain benefits to entering a fight as a big underdog. For one, your opponent could underestimate you, and that's relevant here since Stevenson is being groomed for bigger and better things in the near future. Another would be that when nobody expects you to win, you have nothing to lose.

    Bellew certainly wouldn't agree with the latter. He's coming to win and has full confidence in his ability to walk out of Quebec on Saturday night as the new 175-pound champion.

Strengths

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Adonis Stevenson has tremendous punching power, and he can end virtually any fight by landing one massive shot. But that's not his only trick, even if it's what he's best known for in the ring.

    The light heavyweight champion showed in his bout with former champ Tavoris Cloud in September that he has underrated boxing ability. He's able to use a solid jab and feints to set up his big power punches, and while he has the one big punch in his back pocket, he can also systematically break a foe down.

    Stevenson isn't just a straight-up banger who doesn't have the ability to box patiently. He can stop you with one shot, but he doesn't have to.

    Tony Bellew is a tall, rangy fighter who likes to be aggressive, particularly in the early rounds of a fight. He has good hand speed and does well to place himself in good angles with which to land his punches. 

    The Brit is an adaptable fighter when things don't immediately go his way or when an opponent forces him to change his style or game plan. His punching power is solid, and it's pretty surprising that he doesn't have more victories inside the distance.

Weaknesses

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Adonis Stevenson showed a much better boxing IQ and ability to fight from the outside in his dismantling of Tavoris Cloud earlier this year. But a lot of that might have had something to do with the fact that his foe was a known puncher and Stevenson has been tagged in the past.

    By boxing effectively and totally blunting Cloud's offensive attack—what little of it there was—Stevenson was able to take his foe apart and set himself up for a stoppage victory.

    In the past, as a come-forward type of fighter, Stevenson has proven to be hittable. Against a fighter without the reputation of being a huge knockout puncher, it's not inconceivable that Stevenson could be more aggressive, and that could give his opponent openings to land.

    Tony Bellew has solid punching power, but he hasn't knocked out as many foes as you'd expect. That may have a lot to do with one glaring flaw that has undone many a boxer in the past. Consistency.

    The Brit is very aggressive, particularly at the outset of fights, but he often has struggled with putting together a consistent effort for the full 12 rounds. He's also struggled against boxers who can control the distance and prevent him from getting on track offensively. 

    Bellew has been dropped in the past by foes not known for their punching power, and he'll face a man who is clearly the biggest puncher he's ever seen inside a ring on Saturday night.

Adonis Stevenson Will Win If...

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Adonis Stevenson will win this fight as long as he's not looking too far past it and at a showdown with Sergey Kovalev next year. You can only fight the man in front of you, and if you lose, the next fight doesn't matter. The light heavyweight champion would do well to remember that come Saturday night.

    Stevenson showed an impressive ability to box effectively and set up his power shots against Tavoris Cloud in September. That performance tends to get overrated a tad—given Cloud's seeming complete lack of game plan or interest in throwing punches—but it was certainly impressive to demolish a former champion in that way.

    It's made even more so by the fact that it came on the heels of blasting out Bernard Hopkins conqueror Chad Dawson inside of 90 seconds. 

    Look for Stevenson to put on a very similar show against Tony Bellew. 

    He'll box at the outset and use his jab to keep Bellew at bay. He'll use that punch to range-find and open up the Brit for his devastating power shots. And when he lands them, lights out.

Tony Bellew Will Win If...

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Tony Bellew is a long shot, and the odds are that all he'll get from Saturday night is a nice paycheck and a trip to Canada, but he shouldn't be completely dismissed. He's hungry and he's strong, and he'll definitely be coming to win and not just collect his money. 

    He's going to need to do a couple of things in order to win this fight. 

    First and foremost is to find a way to avoid Adonis Stevenson's bigger punches. That's basically what it comes down to for the challenger. If he gets tagged by the champion, it'll be over quicker than he'd like.

    Bellew needs to fight in a way similar to how he defeated Isaac Chilemba earlier this year. That means a rough, mauling type of fight that takes away his opponent's power and makes the contest ugly. 

    If he does so and neutralizes Stevenson's power, he has a chance.

And the Winner Will Be...

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Adonis Stevenson is simply too strong, too good and riding too high a wave right now for Tony Bellew to come close to knocking him off. That mean's that the British challenger will get a nice showcase fight on HBO and little else for his troubles. 

    Bellew will likely attempt to maul Stevenson in the early going, but as Stevenson showed in his previous fight, he is more than capable as a boxer from the outside. He won't let his opponent even get there, and he'll control the fight with his long powerful jab.

    That punch will keep Bellew at a distance, which will allow Stevenson to uncork his power punches. What makes Stevenson particularly dangerous is that he has lethal knockout force in both hands. That's very hard to defend against. 

    With some fighters, you can strategize a way to take away one of their big punches or one of their hands. But in this particular fight, Bellew will quickly find out that he's in there with the strongest puncher he's ever seen, and he won't be able to handle it.

    Stevenson wins impressively inside the distance, hopefully setting up a showdown with Sergey Kovalev next year.

    Stevenson TKO 6 Bellew

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