Friday, June 9, 2017

Brief Thoughts On Stevenson-Fonfara II

On June 3rd WBC World Light-Heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson climbed back into the ring with top Light-Heavyweight contender Andrzej Fonfara in a rematch of their May 2014 battle for Stevenson's Light-Heavyweight crown. The rematch between the two took place in the same venue as their first encounter the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada.

Prior to this second encounter between the two, this observer stated that it was my view that the main story of this fight would be what Andrzej Fonfara would have to offer. Although Fonfara, who lost a hard fought decision to Stevenson in their first encounter, was largely able to establish himself as a player in the division in defeat; he had suffered a brutal first round knockout loss to undefeated top contender Joe Smith Jr. two fights before his rematch with Stevenson. Despite being able to bounce back to stop former Light-Heavyweight world champion Chad Dawson earlier this year, one might argue that Dawson, who has been a cornerstone of the Light-Heavyweight division for much of the last decade, is now a fighter who's best days could well be behind him. On this basis, it was fair to ask the question of whether or not Fonfara's knockout loss at the hands of Smith was a case of a fighter having a bad night at the office or a sign of a fighter on the decline.

It would not take long for that question to be answered as unlike the first encounter where despite being dominated early in the fight the challenger was able to rally late in the bout, the rematch would not see such a spirited battle. Instead, this fight would be a clear demonstration of one fighter's superiority over the other in devastating fashion.

In previewing this bout, I stated that the biggest challenge for Fonfara in addition to answering the question of what he would have to offer and in the process answer those who were skeptical of his getting another opportunity to fight for a world championship a year after suffering a knockout loss would be if he could avoid the tactics that the champion Stevenson was able to implement successfully in the first fight, specifically the champion’s lateral movement and hand speed. The challenge was simply too much for Fonfara to overcome as Stevenson would quickly find a home for his left hand and score a knockdown of the challenger midway through the first round.

Even though Fonfara was able to get up after being dropped as was the case in the first fight, he simply had no answer to avoid Stevenson's left hand as the combat quickly became target practice for the champion. Stevenson battered Fonfara and had the challenger in serious trouble on the ropes at the end of the first round. At this point in the fight, I was frankly surprised to see Fonfara make it out of the first round as he was unable to provide any resistance to whatever Stevenson threw at him.

Sensing he had his opponent in trouble, the champion quickly picked up where he had left off at the end of round one, battering Fonfara with flush left hands to the head before the bout was promptly stopped by Fonfara's trainer Virgil Hunter early in the second round. Simply put there was not much to say about this fight. A world champion seeing his opening and taking full advantage of that opening was the story.

An interesting question is what will be next for the champion Adonis Stevenson. We will likely not get the answer to that question until the outcome of the upcoming rematch between undefeated unified WBO/IBF/WBA Light-Heavyweight world champion Andre Ward and former champion Sergey Kovalev, which will take place on June 17th in Las Vegas. As readers might recall prior to the Stevenson-Fonfara rematch, I offered a brief explanation as to why Fonfara, who was rated number six in the world in the World Boxing Council (WBC) Light-Heavyweight ratings was in position to challenge for a world championship, despite his recent loss to Joe Smith Jr. in explaining how world champions are granted what are referred to as “Elective Defenses” of their championship in between making annual mandatory title defenses against a sanctioning organization's top/number one contender.

Although I suggested that the possibility exists that the winner of the Stevenson-Fonfara rematch could request an extension from the WBC, which would theoretically allow that winner to seek an opportunity to further unify the World Light-Heavyweight championship against the winner of the Ward-Kovalev rematch, I believe regardless of who wins that fight that a unification bout between the two champions might not take place until sometime in 2018. This is primarily due to both the negotiating process that would be required to sign such a bout as well as the potential of injuries that might occur, which might make a fight toward the end of 2017 less likely.

If one also takes into account that most fighters at the top/elite level of the sport typically average between one to two fights per year, this observer believes it may be more likely to see Stevenson make a mandatory title defense before a unification clash with the Ward-Kovalev winner can be made. Current WBC number one Light-Heavyweight contender Eleider Alvarez fresh off of a convincing victory over former WBC Light-Heavyweight world champion Jean Pascal on the undercard of the Stevenson-Fonfara rematch has built significant momentum including also scoring a knockout win over former IBF Super-Middleweight world champion Lucian Bute earlier this year appears to be ready for the opportunity to fight for the WBC Light-Heavyweight world championship that he has earned.

A fight between Stevenson and Alvarez seems to be an ideal option for Stevenson should the champion want to compete once more before settling his sights on a unification clash with the winner of the Ward-Kovalev winner. Given that both Stevenson and Alvarez are both fighters with significant fan followings and have each drawn huge crowds in Canada, where both fighters reside, it would not surprise me to see a potential encounter between the two also take place in Montreal’s Bell Centre, one of the sport's more popular venues. Boxing fans and experts alike will first turn their attention to the June 17th battle between Ward and Kovalev to see how the outcome of that fight will impact not only the landscape of the division, but more specifically what impact it will have on Stevenson’s plans before any potential fights could be made.

Some may also question what is next for Andrzej Fonfara coming off another devastating setback. At the end of the day, this bout had a similar look and outcome as Fonfara’s loss in June of last year to Joe Smith Jr. Although some fighters have been able to bounce back from such defeats as Fonfara has shown in the past, it was clear to this observer that perhaps Fonfara was compromised by the effects of the punishment he suffered at the hands of Smith in that he did not seem to have good reaction time once he was hit by Stevenson in this rematch. Whether or not Andrzej Fonfara will go on with his career is anyone’s guess, but when one considers the ongoing research that has taken place with regard to the effects of concussions on athletes throughout all of sports, one should wonder how many knockout losses and overall punishment a fighter can or should take as the risk of long-term damage is always present. Fonfara has always been a valiant warrior who has given it everything he has every time he’s stepped inside the ring. Whether or not this latest loss to Stevenson will signal the end of his career, Andrzej Fonfara should hold his head high because he has nothing to be ashamed of.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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