Adonis Stevenson: Why He's Not the Man to Beat Bernard Hopkins

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Adonis Stevenson: Why He's Not the Man to Beat Bernard Hopkins
USA TODAY Sports

It would be easy to dismiss the talent and future of Adonis Stevenson based upon his performance against Andrzej Fonfara, but every fighter has shortcomings.

But the fact is, when considering how he fares in a bout with Bernard Hopkins, it’s not just about what Stevenson does wrong but also what Hopkins does right.

In his fight with Fonfara, Stevenson was quite simply the man with the higher work rate and the stronger punches. He scored two knockdowns and was able to rally back and fight hard down the stretch; a trait that is equal parts conditioning and heart.

But for all Stevenson has, he still looks like a painting in progress. The same cannot be said of Hopkins, a masterful boxer who, at 49 years old, continued to adapt and evolve, setting the curve along the way.

Against Hopkins, Stevenson has two basic ways to win; either he catches Hopkins with a knockout blow, or he just so happens to be in the ring when Hopkins suddenly gets old.

The fact that Stevenson sits atop his corner of the light heavyweight division is not surprising given that I-175 has never really been all that deep as far as talent is concernedat least not in the past seven years or so.

In addition, he fights like a man who honestly wants to be great. His aspirations power him in the ring, and he’s utterly transparent with his emotions.

Tim Larsen/Associated Press

All the things he wants and aspires to are the exact things he would be facing in Hopkins, who is truly great in nearly every use of the word.

Stevenson is an older man with a young mans record; out of 24 wins, his two biggest victories were impressive stoppages over Chad Dawson and Tavoris Cloud. The Dawson victory clearly translates with more authority given that Stevenson was able to win via knockout in Round 1; Hopkins was defeated by Dawson via majority decision in their second bout.

But once that is acknowledged, the fact remains that Hopkins has faced many more high-caliber fighters than Stevenson, and more than a few of them are cut from the same cloth as the WBC champion.

One fight that stands out for Hopkins is his win over Kelly Pavlik, an upright fighter who possessed frightening knockout power and was considerably younger at the time of their fight in 2008.

Hopkins had Pavlik turning and missing with such ease that it was almost embarrassing. The ring generalship skills and guile Hopkins displayed was a clear indicator that an opponent needed far more than just power and youth to defeat the greatest Methuselah the sport had ever seen.

After the loss to Dawson, it seemed as if Hopkins had finally reached the end of his road. Instead, he went back to the gym and came out as strong as ever, his game adapting to his age once again and allowing him to win his next three bouts and claim the IBF and WBA titles.

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Now, Hopkins is taking aim at Stevenson, and it is no surprise.

As good as Stevenson is, he is still the kind of fighter who looks to be tailor-made for the 49-year-old wonder. Stevenson isn’t the fastest fighter with his hands, he doesn’t have the footwork or defensive skills of Hopkins and, above all else, he doesn’t have the experience that seems a necessary prerequisite to handle a man as cunning as Hopkins for 12 rounds.

Chances are, Stevenson doesn’t have to worry about being knocked out; Hopkins hasn’t won via KO/TKO since 2004 when he stopped Oscar De La Hoya. Save his advantages in power (or Hopkins' lack thereof in the higher weights) and youth, Stevenson is simply outmatched in nearly every other area.

There is every chance that Hopkins will put Stevenson in the same straitjacket that he slipped onto Pavlik, boxing his ears off and winning a unanimous decision while unifying the belts in grand fashion.

Obviously, a man with the power of Stevenson always has a chance to win, but if forced to choose, it seems as if he is not the man to beat a legend like Hopkins.

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