One of the great joys of boxing is watching new stars appear seemingly from nowhere, thrust into the limelight not by salivating promoters or over-eager media but instead simply through the strength of their performances and the acclamation of their fans. This award is to celebrate those who rose from (relative) obscurity in 2012 to become notable names in boxing as 2013 comes to a close.
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.