(Adonis Stevenson, right, throws at Andrzej Fonfara; credit: Stephanie Trapp, Showtime)
From the very start, the expected Adonis Stevenson rout was on: The first clean left he landed on Andrzej Fonfara dropped him. Even the first whole half of Stevenson’s Showtime debut Saturday still had the air of the lineal light heavyweight champion getting a coronation on his new network: In the 5th, Stevenson dropped Fonfara on a body shot, and in the 6th, he made him wince with the exact same straight left to the midsection.
But, quietly, Fonfara was competing as Stevenson was fading. He was winning the 1st for a while, then probably won the 2nd. By fight’s end, everyone knew he had lost, and the judges deemed it so by scores of 115-110, 115-110 and 116-109. But man, did Fonfara make a run of it over the back half of the fight.
The knockdown he scored in the 9th, off a left-right combination, came as Stevenson’s gas tank seemingly hit “E.” He was tiring rapidly, and the KD had as much to do with that as anything else. But that moment had another father, Fonfara’s persistence and toughness. He simply wouldn’t go away, the way everyone else does when they face Stevenson, one of the top couple pure punchers in the sport, the kind of guy with that rarified ability to stop anyone with one shot.
Usually Stevenson fights are worth watching for the inevitable moment when one of those left hands does its worst and it’s say good night, Gracie. This encounter started as one where you were waiting for the arrival. Fonfara turned it into a real fight. You have to take him seriously as a real threat in the division now. This was a big, big step up in class and he held his own. As he said afterward, he’s only 26 and he’s going to learn from this experience. He’s got so many flaws — a leaky defense, almost zero body punching — that with his toughness, the room to grow is real.
Stevenson claimed an injured left hand afterward. Stamina, though, was his downfall here, abetted by the pressure Fonfara exerted on it. Perhaps he didn’t take this fight seriously enough. Yet the move from HBO to Showtime felt more like a retreat from Sergey Kovalev than ever after Saturday night — this Stevenson didn’t look like one who would handle Kovalev and his pressure and power superior to Fonfara’s. That fight, despite Showtime’s Jim Gray admirably bringing it up after, will not happen. Rather, Stevenson should face 49-year-old Bernard Hopkins next. Stevenson has the athleticism that tends to be the only thing that troubles Hopkins these days. But it’s also easier to imagine Hopkins picking Stevenson apart after this showing vs. Fonfara. It’s not the fight most fans wanted most at 175, but it’s plenty appealing, all the more after Saturday.