In May of 2014 WBC Light-Heavyweight world champion Adonis Stevenson entered the ring to defend his portion of the Word Light-Heavyweight championship against top contender Andrzej Fonfara at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada. A fight that was in some ways overshadowed by the biggest story that centered around the division, an anticipated encounter between Stevenson and then undefeated unified WBO/IBF world champion Sergey Kovalev.
The fight between Stevenson and Fonfara saw the champion face a more difficult than expected test as both fighters suffered knockdowns before Stevenson retained his championship and standing in the Light-Heavyweight division with a hard fought twelve round unanimous decision. In the three years since Stevenson’s victory over Fonfara, the main storyline in the division has largely been the potential encounter between Stevenson and Kovalev as both world champions continued doing circles around each other while facing and defeating other opposition.
This of course was changed by Kovalev suffering the first loss of his career last November when he lost his unified world championship to undefeated former Super-Middleweight world champion Andre Ward via a razor thin twelve round unanimous decision. Ward’s victory over Kovalev that has been disputed by some has obviously caused a wrinkle in any potential plans for a Stevenson-Kovalev showdown. The outcome of that fight also left Stevenson as the longest reigning world champion in the division.
The loss to Stevenson one might argue benefited Fonfara from the standpoint of gaining more notoriety than he had prior to that fight due largely to the “Game” effort he put forth. Fonfara was able to bounce back to win his next three fights since that setback including impressive wins over former world champions Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Nathan Cleverly. Fonfara however, suffered another setback when he was stopped in one round by rising contender Joe Smith Jr. in June of last year.
Although Fonfara was again able to bounce back to defeat former Light-Heavyweight champion Chad Dawson in March of this year, it is understandable how one might question why Smith, who was able to build off the momentum from stopping Fonfara by knocking out future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins in December of last year, is not getting the title shot against Stevenson rather than Fonfara given that Smith is currently rated number three in the World Boxing Council (WBC) Light-Heavyweight ratings compared to Fonfara’s current number six rating by the same organization. It is important to remember that world champions are granted what are referred to as “Elective defenses” of their world championship against a top contender of their choosing in between annual mandatory championship defenses against a sanctioning organization's top/number one contender.
It is certainly possible that seeing as this is an “Elective defense” for Stevenson that the winner of this fight will be mandated by the WBC to face the winner of the bout between current WBC number one contender Eleider Alvarez and former WBC Light-Heavyweight world champion Jean Pascal, which will be taking place on the undercard of the Stevenson-Fonfara rematch. It is also possible that whomever wins this rematch could ask the WBC for an extension in order to pursue a unification bout with the winner of the June 17th rematch between WBO/IBF/WBA world champion Andre Ward and former champion Sergey Kovalev.
As for the fight itself, the main story of this fight in this observer's eyes will be what Andrzej Fonfara will have to offer. Was his first round knockout loss at the hands of Joe Smith Jr. a case of a fighter having a bad night at the office or a sign of a fighter on the decline? The biggest challenge for Fonfara in addition to answering the question of what he has left and in the process answering those who might be skeptical of his getting a second opportunity at a world championship so soon after suffering that loss will be can he avoid some of the tactics that Stevenson was able to execute in the first encounter.
In the first fight between these two men Stevenson was able to largely dominate the first half of the bout with lateral movement and combination punching. The task for Fonfara in my eyes will be to find a way to nullify Stevenson's movement and hopefully limit Stevenson's hand speed. Fonfara was dropped twice during the first encounter in rounds one and five each as a result of a straight left hand. It will also be up to Fonfara to find a way to avoid Stevenson's left hand and must find a way to neutralize the champion’s power.
One key component that led to Stevenson's success against Fonfara the first time around was not only the tactics of hand speed and his ability to land his punches in combination, but more specifically how he balanced his attack to the body and head of Fonfara. The challenger must also disrupt Stevenson's offensive rhythm in order to have success in this rematch.
In contrast to Fonfara, an interesting question that surrounds the second encounter will be how Stevenson, who is coming into this fight off of a fourth round knockout win over Thomas Williams Jr. in July of last year, will approach this rematch. The thirty-nine year old world champion who will be making his eighth title defense n this fight is a fighter who has knocked out twenty-three opponents in his twenty-eight career wins registering a career knockout percentage of 79%.
Given the success his measured approach had in the first fight the question of whether the champion will look to implement a similar approach in the rematch or if after seeing how quickly Joe Smith was able to hurt and finish Fonfara last year, if Stevenson will opt to approach this fight with more aggression in the hope of trying to get a similar result as Smith is a fair one to ask. One may also wonder whether the near year of inactivity for Stevenson will have some effect on him in this fight.
Although Stevenson dominated a significant portion of the first fight, Fonfara was able to have success as the fight progressed and did score a knockdown of Stevenson in the ninth round with a straight right hand as part of a rally in the second half of the bout. Even though the champion was able to recover from the knockdown, there was little doubt as some readers might recall this observer's coverage of the first fight that Stevenson did show signs of fatigue as the bout went on. One may also question if Fonfara can neutralize Stevenson's movement and is able to put the champion in a position where he is not as effective with his hand speed and punching power whether fatigue will become a factor as this rematch progresses.
In many ways, the rematch between Adonis Stevenson and Andrzej Fonfara will have a similar look as the first fight. Once again Stevenson will look to defend his championship against a top contender who is considered an underdog by some. Much like the first fight, a potential lucrative opportunity might be ahead for Stevenson should he be successful. A difference between the first encounter and when Stevenson and Fonfara square off again one might argue is that for the longtime Light-Heavyweight contender Andrzej Fonfara, he might view this fight as what could be his last chance to win a world championship. Despite suffering the setback against Joe Smith last year, Fonfara is still one of the best Light-Heavyweights in the world and is once again in a scenario where he has nothing to lose and everything to gain. If Fonfara's loss to Smith will indeed influence the champion in how he approaches this fight one might wonder if Stevenson will have a sense of complacency by thinking this rematch will not be as competitive as the first encounter perhaps with an eye on the potential payday that might loom ahead. If Stevenson is overlooking Fonfara, this could play into the challenger’s hands.
With the month of June largely highlighted by two World Light-Heavyweight championship rematches, the Boxing world will once again focus its attention on the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada where Adonis Stevenson and Andrzej Fonfara will square off on Saturday night. We will see if this fight will provide more wrinkles to not only a storyline that until recently Boxing fans thought was only a matter of when and not if a potential showdown would take place, but perhaps more significantly the long term landscape of the Light-Heavyweight division as a whole.
Stevenson vs. Fonfara II takes place tomorrow night (Saturday, June 3rd) at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada. The fight is being televised in Canada on a pay-per-view basis for $69.99 HD/ $64.99 Standard definition. Contact your pay-per-view provider or visit: http://www.canalindigo.com/en/event/event-sheet/284/Stevenson-vs-Fonfara-2-and-Alvarez-vs-Pascal-LIVE for ordering information. In the United States, the fight can be seen on Showtime beginning at 9PM ET/PT and will also be available on the Showtime and Showtime Anytime apps. For more information about Showtime, Showtime Sports, and the Showtime and Showtime Anytime apps please visit: www.sho.com.
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