In the most high profile bout of the weekend Adonis Stevenson hunted down and eventually stopped a game but outmatched Tony Bellew in six rounds. Stevenson has always had power and athleticism but under the tutelage of first the dearly departed Emanuel Steward and now Javon Sugar Hill he’s added a level of craft and finesse to his work. No-one’s going to mistake him for the second coming of Sugar Rat Robinson but he’s no longer the crude and limited puncher his early career indicated. Bellew himself has also gone through a transformation, starting his domestic career as a pure slugger with limited stamina and a questionable chin largel down to the vast amount of weight he cut. He suffered a wake-up call in a bout with Ovil McKenzie where he was dropped twice and since then has adapted his style to be more of a mobile boxer puncher, using lateral movement and a high workrate to avoid, bemuse and frustrate opponents.
The bout had some bad blood going into it as Bellew based his pre-fight hype around Stevenson’s less than enamouring past (he has a conviction for essentially pimping) and there was the sort of handbags that every so often appear at boxing weigh ins, but rather than the bout exploding into some massive brawl from the off, instead it quickly fell into a pattern. Stevenson stalked Bellew while Bellew looked to hit, move and counter. For a couple of rounds Bellew had some real success, finding a home for his own right hand, but Stevenson was winning rounds based on activity and in truth there was always a sense that it would only take one shot from the Canadian to end it. That sense was proven correct in the sixth when Stevenson dropped Bellew with a left hand and then finished him with another two lefts in the follow up flurry that had Bellew out on his feet. Stevenson was the deserved favourite and did nothing to particularly stand out but it was still a solid performance from a much improved boxer.
The chief support saw another 175lbs wrecking machine Sergey Kovalev flatten the once well regarded Ismayl Sillakh in two rounds. Much like Stevenson Kovalev clearly has power but what impresses me most about him is his accuracy and workrate. He’s a buzzsaw and if given an opportunity he’ll simply keep punching until his opponent falls over. Sillakh is fairly heavy-handed himself and had done a fair job in rebuilding his career following an upset loss to Denis Grachev but questions remained about his chin… and Kovalev is probably the last guy you want to risk a chin against. Much like the main event Sillakh tried to used movement to frustrate Kovalev but much like the main event, it didn’t work. The only real difference was that it only took two rounds for Kovalev to hunt down and finish Sillakh, dropping him twice with the second time leaving him unconcious.
The obvious bout to make and the one fan are calling out for is a unification bout between these two hard punching 175lbs boxers. The fact that that’s the case is a testament to boxing’s ability to create stars virtually from scratch. Six months ago Stevenson was a contender known for power but little else who had been left behind in a 168lbs division dominated by the Super Six and its participants. Unable to secure a bout with the likes of Ward, Froch, Kessler, Bute or Abraham he was brought up to 175lbs to be a comeback opponent for Chad Dawson after his loss to Ward… and instead flattened Dawson in a round. He then pounded out one-time title holder Tavoris Cloud in a one-sided beatdown and now has beaten Bellew. Likewise a year ago Kovalev was merely a prospect working the US scene before quick and one-sided victories over Gabriel Campillo, Cornelius White and Nathan Cleverly not only brought him to the world stage but gave him a world title.
As for Bellew and Sillakh, both have to go back to the drawing board. Bellew is still a regional draw in the UK and if promotional issues can be sorted out a rematch with Nathan Cleverly is a good domestic scrap but this bout starkly illustrated why Bellew is only on the fringes of the world scene. Sillakh has some talent but his chin appears to be a real issue and there will be questions hanging over him as to whether he has the durability to be more than a gatekeeper in the division.
The undercard featured 147lbs prospects/fringe contenders Kevin Bizier and Ionut Dan Ion face off. Ion controlled the bout early before starting to fade and the latter part of the bout saw a lot of holding and wrestling before Ion picked up a narrow win in a minor upset. Hard punching David Lemieux did what he does is stopping Jose Miguel Torres in seven rounds… with seven knockdowns. Torres was a live underdog considering his own power (24 stoppages in 27 wins) but the majority of his victories came against limited opposition and despite his braveryhe had no answers for Lemieuz’s power. There’s never been a real question as to whether Lemieux can do well at this level… it’s whether he can step up to the next that has troubled him.
In the UK Dereck Chisora picked up another useful win, this time stopping Ondrej Pala in three. The stoppage was controversially early (something other British bouts have had in recent weeks) and in truth Chisora’s last three stoppage wins have all had some controversy about them but despite that Chisora has done well at rebuilding a career that looked dead following a poor 2012 and is now a viable contender at heavyweight again.
When Western fans talk about Chinese boxing it’s understandable that they only really mention Zou Shiming considering the effort Top Rank put in to promoting him but it’s worth noting that the China already has a world title holder, the WBC minimumweight champion Xiong Zhao Zhong, who defended his title successfully on Saturday. Zhong’s not even the best in a weak division but he’s a competant enough boxer who probably doesn’t deserve to be overshadowed in the way he is.
French contender Nadjib Mohammedi picked up a solid victory as did Puerto Rican prospects Thomas Dulorme and Luis Orlando Del Valle, both still rebuilding after arguably being moved too quickly into high profile losses. In Russia cruiserweight prospect Dmitry Kudryashov picked up his 12th stoppage in 12 wins and while his opposition is nothing to write home about he’s still likely one to keep an eye on for the future.
Panama had a card featuring two of their favourite sons. Celestino Caballero halted what looked like it might be a serious career slide with a quick victory but Vicente Mosquera saw his charge towards another world title stopped when he lost to gatekeeper Javier Prieto. Caballero is a former multiple division and time title holder, one of the most unappreciated men in boxing and certainly one of the most avoided. At 37 he’s old for the lower weight divisions, especially when you consider that his style relies on a high workrate but he’s still a dangerous opponent even if the best had already come from him. As for Mosquera, this is clearly a poor loss for the former WBA super-featherweight title holder after a pretty good run of form.
Whenever people talk about Floyd Mayweather Jr’s next opponent, someone always mentions the name of Paul Spadafora, largely because of a sparring session they had years ago. Hopefully that can be put to rest now, with Spadafora losing his unbeaten record in a narrow loss to Venezuelan contender Johan Perez. Spadafora was once a good boxer, notably holding the IBF 135lbs belt for a long period in the late-90’s and early 2000’s but his career never really recovered from him shooting his pregnant girlfriend and being jailed for attempted murder. He’s 38, past his best and, to be polite, not a nice person. I never really want to see or hear from him again. Also in the US, heavyweight prospect Travis Kauffman (a man with his own troubled legal history) picked up a win over journeyman for the stars Jason Barnett. Beating Barnett doesn’t mean much and we’ll have to see if Kauffman can step up a level when put against more dangerous opponents.