We saw him box for 12 consecutive rounds against an opponent whose best weapons were his willingness to engage along with his awkwardness.
We saw him land his Sunday left cross flush on the chin of an opponent who was standing right in front of him, and it produced one legitimate knockdown. I’m talking about WBC/Lineal light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson’s 12 round unanimous decision win over challenger Sakio Bika 32-7-3 (21) this past Saturday afternoon on CBS.
Stevenson 26-1 (21) dominated the fight against the off balance and sporadically wild swinging Bika. Adonis pretty much did whatever he wanted throughout the course of the bout. Bika was usually out of position and his slapping and cuffing punches that sometimes did land on Stevenson, had little effect. Bika came forward for practically the entire fight, but it was the wrong kind of pressure and it didn’t force the southpaw Stevenson to rush anything that he wanted to do. His forward motion actually provided Stevenson a clear target, but left Sakio a second too late to counter back. I’ll give Bika credit for keeping the fight interesting because he’s very tough and fearless, however, he is very limited both offensively and defensively and therefore Stevenson was never really under much duress during the fight.
After watching Stevenson fight and box for 36 uninterrupted minutes, four things stood out.
1) Until he’s confident that the other guy doesn’t have a lot of pop, he fights scared. That seemed the case to me for the first two or three rounds.
2) He’s very left hand reliant.
3) He has no right hook or uppercut to speak of behind his right jab.
4) He is not a very good judge of distance.
And if he fights WBA/WBO/IBF title holder Sergey Kovalev 27-0-1 (24) to settle the debate as to who the best light heavyweight in the world is, one, two and three will be very detrimental for him if he is forced to go rounds against Kovalev.
As for number four, Stevenson’s lack of judging distance won’t be that big of a deal because Sergey will be pushing the fight and stepping to him. And it’s much easier to hit an opponent without gauging distance if he’s constantly bringing the fight to you, so the poor distance won’t be much of factor.
The problem Stevenson will have to overcome against Kovalev is his sheer reliance on his left cross, which is his finishing punch. Adonis doesn’t do much to set it up either, other than shoot his right jab, mostly to the head and sometimes to the body. The threat of the left cross alone will not be enough to keep Kovalev from putting pressure on him while he’s looking to get in with his own hard lefts, rights and uppercuts to the head and body. For Stevenson to have his best chance to make his left hand the dominant punch in the fight, he must keep some distance between he and Kovalev. Also, Stevenson’s lack of any kind of a noteworthy right hook behind his jab reduces what Kovalev has to worry about from mid-range. Adonis needs distance to get off good with his left hand. And if he’s cornered or has his back against the ring ropes, his lack of an inside game will enable Sergey to take his liberties and win the exchanges.
Basically, Stevenson has to rely solely on one weapon to outscore and beat Kovalev up, and I can’t envision that unfolding or playing itself out over the course of 12 rounds. Kovalev is smart and can fight inside and outside in addition to that, he’s a little quicker handed with his combinations than he looks. Stevenson is strong, but the only weapon in is arsenal that Kovalev has to address is his left cross. And if Kovalev forces the fight and backs Stevenson up the way I think he will, Adonis will have to rush throwing his left hand. By Stevenson being forced to rush his punches, some of the steam will be taken out of them and other than getting caught with one he doesn’t see or anticipate, Kovalev will be advancing the fight without much resistance.
It would’ve been a great promotional injection regarding the urgency for a Kovalev-Stevenson showdown if Adonis, who slightly underperformed, looked as good as Sergey did in his last fight when he stopped Jean Pascal. And it was odd that after the fight Stevenson wasn’t asked about his thoughts on fighting Kovalev next…..
The perception of Stevenson the knockout artist added more intrigue as to the outcome and danger that Stevenson presented Kovalev. But after watching him hit Bika almost at will and really never having him in trouble or on the verge of being stopped, it took some of the bloom off of the rose. As the fight with Bika progressed it became more apparent just how one dimensional Stevenson really is.
Kovalev is clearly the more skilled and versatile fighter, but Stevenson’s left hand power is a legitimate threat for as long as the fight lasts, and it’s not like Kovalev will be hard to find. Both have showed they can go the distance without much trouble if they have to. But Kovalev has more weapons at his disposal and will most likely be the stronger presence once the fight begins as they try to impose themselves physically on each other. And lastly, Stevenson should not fight with trepidation at the onset if and when he faces Kovalev, because Krusher will sense that and feed off of it and try his best to make Stevenson doubt himself even more as the fight progresses.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com