Stevenson, the WBC light heavyweight champion, has had a very interesting first half of 2014.
In February, Lem Satterfield of The Ring reported that he signed with powerful adviser Al Haymon. Shortly thereafter, Stevenson took his show on the road, jettisoning HBO for a more lucrative deal with rival Showtime. The purpose of that move—other than the money—was, presumably, to match Stevenson in a unification bout against the ageless Bernard Hopkins sometime later in the year.
Hopkins took care of business, easily outpointing Beibut Shumenov in March to add the WBA to his IBF 175-pound title. So it seemed that the only thing standing in the way of that fight entering Saturday night—Sergey Kovalev and Main Events’ lawsuit notwithstanding—was a highly-ranked, but lightly-regarded, challenger named Andrzej Fonfara.
Stevenson turned back the challenge of Fonfara, dropping him in the first and fifth rounds, getting knocked down himself in the ninth and having to survive the fight of his life down the stretch to retain his title and chance at a big-money unification bout.
As far as expectations go, this was a home run for Fonfara. He was viewed as little more than a bump in the road but very nearly turned into a gaping sinkhole for Stevenson and his benefactors.
The challenger just kept coming, and he had Stevenson in very serious trouble after knocking him down in Round 9.
But, to his credit, Stevenson rallied like a champion down the stretch, holding Fonfara off with a gutsy effort in a grueling fight.
As always seems to happen, this night raised more questions than it answered. Did Stevenson overlook Fonfara? Or is the 26-year-old just better than advertised?
One thing is for certain, after this performance, Fonfara will be a factor at 175 pounds moving forward.
You also have to wonder if this adds credence to the idea that Stevenson made the right call in passing on the Kovalev fight to pursue Hopkins.
Fonfara can punch. But he isn’t a puncher, and he nearly had Stevenson out of there.
So was it a bad night? An overlooked foe? A sign of things to come?
To be determined.