Light heavyweight world champion Adonis Stevenson said throughout the buildup to his rematch with Andrzej Fonfara that he was training for the knockout.
“[The late] Emanuel Steward [Stevenson’s former trainer] always told me, ‘Knockouts sell.’ When I get in the ring I’m going for a knockout. It’s not an option for me to go 12 rounds,” Stevenson said a few days before the fight.
Well, he got the knockout, and an early one at that, stopping the outclassed Fonfara in the second round of an absolute annihilation that came to an end when Fonfara trainer Virgil Hunter stepped up onto the ring apron and implored referee Michael Griffin to stop the fight Saturday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, the Haiti-born Stevenson’s adopted hometown.
The rematch, at the same venue as their first fight in May 2014, was much different than that initial encounter, when Stevenson, a southpaw, said he was nursing a sore left hand and may have taken the relatively unknown Fonfara lightly.
In the first fight, Stevenson dominated the first seven rounds, including scoring two knockdowns. But Fonfara turned the tide in the eighth round, dropped Stevenson in the ninth round and battled him hard until the final bell, only to lose a unanimous decision.
He never had a chance in the rematch as Stevenson, who retained the title for the eighth time, jumped him from the start. He issued such a tremendous beating to Fonfara in the opening round that one of the judges scored it 10-7 despite only one knockdown.
Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs) dropped Fonfara with a hard left hand, and although Fonfara got up almost immediately, he was hurt and took massive damage the rest of the first round. Stevenson rocked him repeatedly with stiff left hands. He staggered him again and again and was pummeling him in a corner when the bell finally rang to end the round.
Things got no better for Fonfara (29-5, 17 KOs) in the second round, and when Stevenson clobbered him yet again with another destructive left hand, Hunter jumped up onto the ring apron to get the attention of Griffin, who waved the fight off at 28 seconds. Fonfara did not complain about the stoppage at all.
“I was focused on the fight, and you saw what happened,” Stevenson said. “My hands were moving very good, and you saw what happened. Fonfara tried, but I was ready for this fight.
“I know Fonfara is very dangerous. He’s a good fighter, so I was very focused on him. When I had the chance to catch him I caught him. I took my time and I finished the job.”
Hunter, who arrived in Montreal on Saturday after working the corner of 2016 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist Tony Yoka’s professional debut Friday in Paris, said he did what was necessary in asking for the fight to be stopped.
“There was no need to continue,” said Hunter, who was in his second fight as Fonfara’s trainer. “He was hurt in the first round. He survived, but even when he came back to the corner, he wasn’t all there. I told [him] in the second round, ‘Don’t even throw a punch — just defend until you get yourself back [together].’ But these things happen.”
Prior to the fight, the 29-year-old Fonfara, who is from Poland and fights out of Chicago, made a point to talk about how important getting off to a better start than he did in the first one would be, but he could not deliver.
“He got me in the second round with some punches, and this changed everything,” Fonfara said.
“After that I was not the same. He showed me tonight he’s a great champ. I must rest now and then get back to work and train harder.”
Fonfara also did not dispute Hunter’s decision to end the fight.
“I have a family. He knows that. He wants to protect me,” Fonfara said. “Stevenson is a great fighter. He has a hard left hand, and he could have hurt me more. This rematch didn’t go like I want. He won the fight. That’s all.”
When the fight was over, Stevenson donned a red-and-gold crown and a red robe to show his belief that he is the king of the 175-pound division. He is indeed the lineal world champion and a formidable puncher, but he has often taken the easy route and not faced the best opposition in the weight class. Regardless, he has a high opinion of himself.
“I’m the greatest at 175,” Stevenson declared, though unified world titleholder Andre Ward and former unified titleholder Sergey Kovalev, who meet in a rematch on June 17, might disagree. “I’m the champ, baby.”
Stevenson’s next opponent is supposed to be mandatory challenger Eleider “Storm” Alvarez, who maintained his status with a hard-fought victory over former world champion Jean Pascal in the co-feature. But Stevenson was not naming names after blowing out Fonfara — not the winner of Ward-Kovalev II or Alvarez.
“I’m the king. I don’t have to call anybody [out],” Stevenson said. “I’m Superman, baby. Whoever [adviser] Al Haymon puts me with I’m ready, baby.”
Alvarez beats Pascal by majority decision
In a battle of Montreal rivals, light heavyweight contender Alvarez maintained his status as Stevenson’s mandatory challenger by winning a majority decision against Pascal in a spirited fight.
Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs) has been Stevenson’s mandatory challenger since November 2015, but the title shot has been delayed for various reasons. But Alvarez has stayed busy, recording his fourth win in a row since achieving mandatory status, including victories in his last two fights against two of Montreal’s biggest, albeit faded, stars — Pascal and former super middleweight world titleholder Lucian Bute, whom he knocked out in the fifth round Feb. 24.
Alvarez, 33, appeared to clearly win the fight but wound up with a majority decision, winning 117-111 and 116-112 while one judge scored the bout 114-114. ESPN.com had it 117-111 for Alvarez, whose next fight is supposed to be for the title.
Once considered the world’s No. 1 fighter at 175 pounds, Pascal, 34, continued his downward fall as he dropped to 2-3 in his last five bouts, with one of the wins a tremendously controversial decision against Yunieski Gonzalez in 2015.
But Pascal (31-5-1, 18 KOs) gave it everything he had against Alvarez in a tough fight.
“I knew it was going to be a hard fight. I know Jean, but I prepared well,” Alvarez said through an interpreter. “I wanted to take this fight because real champions are fighting real champions. I’ve been waiting for two years for my title shot, and now there’s no doubt about it. I earned it.”
The two have known each other for many years, sparred together often and used to share the same trainer in Marc Ramsay, who remains Alvarez’s trainer.
Colombia-native Alvarez was quicker, far more active and kept a stiff jab in Pascal’s face while mixing in powerful right hands over and over. He rocked Pascal several times with his right hand and also landed several strong combinations.
Alvarez’s best sequence came in the ninth round when he blasted Pascal with a right uppercut and teed off on him as Pascal was trapped along the ropes.
Pascal, originally from Haiti, went through long periods without throwing many punches but tried to steal rounds by coming alive in the final seconds of many rounds.
According to CompuBox, Alvarez landed 174 of 508 punches (34 percent), including 99 of 317 jabs (31 percent). Pascal landed just 104 of 369 blows (28 percent), including just 26 jabs.
Pascal, who had Roy Jones Jr. as an assistant in his corner, did not complain too hard about the decision but said he thought he won.
“It was a close fight. I think I won the fight, but I have to respect the judges’ decision,” Pascal said. “I think the fans enjoyed the fight, and I’ll try to come back stronger. Right now, I don’t know [what’s next]. I’m going to sit down with my team and see what’s next for me. I would love to have a rematch because it was a close fight.”