Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Stevenson Dominates Cloud In First Title Defense

When top Super-Middleweight contender Adonis Stevenson moved up in weight to the Light-Heavyweight division and dethroned WBC champion and longtime division cornerstone Chad Dawson in just seventy-six seconds in June of this year, it was clear that a new star had emerged in the sport of Boxing. Despite the devastating manner in which Stevenson became in some observers eyes the Light-Heavyweight champion of the world, questions remained.

After all, when someone who is of the caliber of a Chad Dawson not only gets knocked out, but is knocked out as quickly and decisively as Stevenson was able to end that fight; it is only natural to question how good the fighter who scored the knockout really is. An obvious basis some might use could be to suggest that Dawson was somewhat diminished following his loss to Super-Middleweight world champion Andre Ward.  Stevenson however, did enter into the fight with Dawson having compiled a career knockout percentage of over 80%. Although some may have been tempted to question how good Adonis Stevenson is, no one should have questioned his punching power.

An argument could be made that a more appropriate question that Stevenson would have to answer is how his punching power would fair against the elite level of the Light-Heavyweight division? It was not very surprising to this observer to hear that Stevenson’s first title defense would come against former IBF Light-Heavyweight world champion Tavoris Cloud on September 28th at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada.

Cloud, who reigned as champion for nearly five years came into the fight with Stevenson after losing his world title to future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins in March of this year. Stylistically, this seemed to be a good match up for both fighters. Much like Stevenson, Cloud has an exciting style, is not afraid to mix it up, and in his own right has a career knockout percentage of over 70%.

What seemed to be a probable collision between two power punchers was the latest in a series of extremely well-matched bouts that taken place in the sport in 2013. When it comes to Boxing however, always expect the unexpected. 

The brawl between these two punchers that some had expected going into the fight never materialized. What did materialize was frankly a demonstration of one fighter’s vast skill in showing that he had a lot more in his arsenal then just punching power. For seven rounds Adonis Stevenson controlled the fight using his hand speed and lateral movement to pick his shots and gradually break Cloud down. Stevenson was effective in using his jab to set up quick combinations, mixing his attack to the body and the head, all while keeping Cloud at distance. Cloud did not seem to have an answer to neutralize Stevenson’s movement and nullify his offense.

One of the things that Stevenson used to control this fight from start to finish was excellent lateral movement. This allowed him to get off first, keep Cloud on the defensive, and minimize Cloud’s offense by being an elusive target. Although being seemingly outgunned, Cloud was quite “Game” and continued looking for a way to turn the momentum in his favor. As the rounds went on however, the effects of the punishment Cloud had sustained gradually began to show as he suffered cuts over both eyes. This led to the eventual stoppage of this bout by Cloud’s trainer Al Bonanni at the end of the seventh round.

Some might argue that this latest loss for Cloud may set him back in terms of being in the Light-Heavyweight championship picture. A questionable decision win over Gabriel Campillo in a fight that most observers, this one included, felt Campillo won was followed by his lopsided decision loss to Bernard Hopkins earlier this year. One should not however, write Tavoris Cloud off following his loss to Adonis Stevenson. The toughness he showed in this fight with Stevenson along with his style makes him a dangerous fighter and someone who should not be taken lightly. We will have to wait and see what happens for Cloud heading into 2014. 

For Adonis Stevenson although some questions may still remain, his dominant performance in this fight has certainly solidified his status at the top of the Light-Heavyweight division. In the immediate future, Stevenson’s next title defense should come against WBC mandatory challenger and former world title challenger Tony Bellew. Bellew, a winner of twenty out of twenty-two professional fights is a former British Light-Heavyweight champion who has only been defeated by former WBO champion Nathan Cleverly in a narrow decision that could have gone either way. Although some may be envisioning potential fights between Stevenson and the other champions of the Light-Heavyweight division Bernard Hopkins, Beibut Shumenov, and Sergey Kovalev, Bellew is a fighter who could give Stevenson difficulty. Based on how effective Adonis Stevenson was able to out box Tavoris Cloud, it would be interesting to see if Stevenson elects to box with Bellew or if he will look to be the power puncher.

 The potential fight with Bellew could take place before the end of 2013. If Stevenson is successful against Bellew, one might argue that his next fight following his fight with Bellew could be a potential pay-per-view draw with either Bernard Hopkins or Sergey Kovalev. Hopkins is scheduled to defend the IBF Light- Heavyweight championship against mandatory challenger Karo Murat on October 26th.

If Hopkins is successful in defending his title later this month, it could present an interesting dilemma as to who Adonis Stevenson would choose to face in a potential unification bout if those options are indeed available to him. One should also not overlook the possibility of Stevenson facing the winner of the upcoming bout between former Light-Heavyweight champion Jean Pascal and former longtime IBF Super-Middleweight champion Lucian Bute, which is scheduled to take place in January 2014. Although Stevenson seemingly has business to attend to with Tony Bellew before any of those potential fights can be considered, from an economic and business standpoint; the winner of this Light-Heavyweight championship picture just may be the city of Montreal which has become a hotbed of Boxing in recent years.

Whichever way the Light-Heavyweight championship picture plays out it should be entertaining to watch. The Light-Heavyweight division could be another boost for the sport of Boxing heading into 2014.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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