Adonis Stevenson: Can He Handle Sergey Kovalev?

Adonis Stevenson Sakio Bika - Minas Panagiotakis Getty Images6
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

There’s one thing we all know about Sakio Bika–the dude can take a punch. Adonis Stevenson landed about 800 left hands–basically the only punch he throws effectively–right on Bika’s chin, and he kept coming back for more. He was hurt multiple times, down twice, and seemingly on the verge of being stopped more than once.

Yet there he was, still standing after the bell sounded to end the 12th round.

So Stevenson, the lineal Light Heavyweight champion of the world, beat up a guy well past his prime and seven pounds north of his normal weight division. We weren’t expecting a particularly good fight–Bika and “good fight” go together about as well as Chris Algieri and “high-sodium diet.”

Bika isn’t the most talented fella in the world. He doesn’t have blazing hand speed, superior footwork, or a whole lot of pop on his punches. But he does everything he can to try and make a fighter horribly uncomfortable, including holding, headbutting, mauling, biting, groin stuff, etc.

Stevenson, for the most part, kept Bika at arms length by using his right hand as a rangefinder for that missile of a straight left hand he possesses. And he landed that missile over and over. Bika was so far out of range that most of his punches fell harmlessly short, sometimes by feet. There were times when he’d finally get close enough to land some shots, but nothing he landed bothered “Superman” in the slightest.

Worse, Stevenson barely had to break a sweat. Bika, despite having a fantastic trainer (and prolific, exquisite user of the word “fuck”) Kevin Cunningham, did little more than walk straight into bombs.

There was no head movement, no lateral movement, no adjustments of any kind. He simply ate punches, like the hopelessly over-matched opponent he was supposed to be.

Fans have been begging for a fight between Stevenson (the lineal champ) and Sergey Kovalev (the best fighter in the division) for quite a while, and while Kovalev couldn’t care less who he scraps with, Stevenson has been the hesitant one. That probably has to do with the fact that Al Haymon advises him. The route Haymon takes his fighters on usually involves steering well clear of danger while collecting a nice pay day to beat up on stiffs.

Perhaps Stevenson is finally ready to give the fans what they want. The problem for him is that while his last few performances have been less-than-awe-inspiring, Kovalev has been happily bashing away at everything in front of him. His last two fights include a spirited knockout of Jean Pascal and a one-sided, calculated beat down of Bernard Hopkins.

Before Saturday’s meh win over Bika, Stevenson beat the shit out of Dmitry Sukhotsky, and defeated Andrzej Fonfara. The Fonfara fight may have been a case where Stevenson took him a bit lightly, or it may have showcased the fact that he’s now in his late 30’s. Either way, he faded badly down the stretch and was even dropped by a guy not exactly known for his wrecking-ball power.

The point is, Stevenson, at least at this point in his career, is in serious trouble should he meet with Kovalev. When the fight looked like a done deal early last year, we still weren’t sure exactly how good “The Krusher” was. We knew of course that he could crack cement with his fists. But what about his boxing ability? Could he adapt to different styles? Would he fold if he couldn’t put his opponent on the canvas soon enough?

He answered those questions pretty damn emphatically in 2014. The man is patient. He’s okay if the knockout doesn’t happen. He can make adjustments. This isn’t some mindless brawler looking to seek and destroy. He’s a thinker.

Stevenson jumped onto the scene with a spectacular one-punch knockout of Chad “I Used To Be Good” Dawson. He’s defended the championship five times since then, and while it’s clear that he’ll look the part against inferior opponents, it’s also become clear that he’s a bit of a one-trick-pony.

Now that one trick is an absolutely monstrous, devastatingly powerful left hand. But he has little else. He uses his right hand sparingly, mostly to jab. And even the jab is often just a set up for the big shot. He’s like a bigger Vic Darchinyan, only less awkward and with fewer bodies in his basement.

He can beat guys like Sakio Bika easily, simply because he’s much bigger and way more talented. But against Kovalev? I don’t see it happening. While Stevenson might have some success landing the left against the orthodox Kovalev, he’ll also be quite vulnerable to whatever Kovalev brings his way. And that will be a lot. The Krusher throws every punch effectively, and he has massive power in both hands.

The other issue for Adonis is that he’s 38 years old. The stamina concern that seemed to creep up on him during the Fonfara fight wasn’t a problem with Bika. But he could have eaten a bagel and done his laundry in there with the amount of time Bika was giving him. Kovalev is going to make him work. That flat-footed stance is only going to get him drilled.

If Stevenson’s game plan was to force Kovalev to wait, it probably backfired badly. Kovalev has only gotten better, while Stevenson has lost a good deal of the luster from when he was named Fighter Of The Year in 2013.

Still, it’s an important fight–one in where the best two fighters in their division would fight for Light Heavyweight supremacy. Sadly, though that should be the norm, right now it’s a rarity in boxing. There is also a massive drop off after these two guys, unless Andre Ward ever feels jumping up to 175. We shouldn’t plan on that happening anytime soon.

Hopefully the fight comes off in 2015. Though it will be a huge fight for the sport, I don’t expect it to be a very close one. The Krusher has gotten too good, and Superman isn’t quite the world beater he first appeared to be.

Sometimes, the longer something marinates, the tastier it gets. Stevenson better hope he hasn’t left this one in the cooker too long.


Some Random Notes From PBC on CBS

Artur Beterbiev is one terrifying dude. It wasn’t so much the ease with which he kicked the Christ out of Gabriel Campillo, though that was nasty. It wasn’t just the walk off homerun left hook he landed before quietly turning away while his man was still falling to the canvas. More than that, it was the anger and utter contempt he showed while Campillo laid helplessly on the floor. He wanted to smash some more skulls. And I love him for it.

Thank god the fighters are now able to walk down to their own music. It’s still awkward as balls to watch them walk out alone, but still, it’s an improvement.

Another improvement? The broadcasting crew. They were exceptional. Paul Malignaggi, like him or not, is the best expert commentator in the sport BY FAR. Virgil Hunter was a nice surprise, although somebody needs to either turn his mic up or play Aaron Neville’s music in the background while he speaks. Or maybe both…

The broadcast kept cutting out which was annoying. I’m not sure if someone was cursing or not, but I was expecting nothing but dead air once Kevin Cunningham entered the ring.

Those promos for each fighter got really old about 11 seconds into the first one. When people are begging for commercials, it’s time to reboot…

Sakio Bika’s skull is like a large piece of iron, which works out well because he has the ring I.Q. of a large piece of iron.

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