The November 30th broadcast of HBO’s Boxing After Dark was headlined by a light heavyweight bout between division champ and streaking knockout artist, Adonis Stevenson (23-1, 20 knockouts) and the always tough Tony Bellew (20-2-1, 12 knockouts). In the build-up to the bout it was clear that there was no love lost between the two fighters. With Bellew often calling Stevenson “midget”, “dwarf”, and grossly overrated (an not to mention a weigh-in scuffle) it was plain for all to see that Stevenson was certainly not lacking in any motivation to end his bout with Bellew in a particularly concussive manner. In reality, this just led to a formation of expectations that had the first few rounds feeling dull before finally reaching its violent conclusion.
In the early rounds of the bout, both fighters were surprisingly tentative. While Bellew was concerned with keeping a healthy distance between himself and Stevenson, Stevenson was surprisingly sparse with his power shots as if he didn’t quite know what to expect from the much bigger Bellew. Both fighters exchanged jabs and hooks early throughout, but nothing of significant landed. The only shots landing consistently for Stevenson was a jab to the body that did little else but earn him points for activity in the round.
Things got interesting in the third round after Bellew managed to bloody Stevenson’s nose with a stiff jab that caught the champion off-guard. This seemed to be enough to inspire activity from Stevenson as the feel/taste of his own blood had him suddenly charging forward and throwing power shots as Bellew was forced against the ropes. Although nothing landed clean, Stevenson finally began stringing together power shots before managing to land a straight left hand that sent Bellew’s head snapping back.
With Bellew finally feeling the force behind one of Stevenson’s now infamous left-hands, Bellew came out much more aggressive in the fourth and fifth rounds in hopes of countering and effectively hurting his opponent. The two go blow-for-blow in the center of the ring and as Stevenson was attack Bellew’s body, Bellew managed to hook Stevenson behind the head and tangling up with his feet, leading Stevenson to collapse to the canvas. Although ruled a slip, Bellew came forward as if Stevenson was actually hurt, but this just prompted Stevenson to come forward again before Bellew resorted back to sitting along the ropes.
In what ultimately proved to be the sixth and final round of this fight, Bellew came out charging and throwing power shots that were mostly blocked by Stevenson. As Stevenson braved the sudden onslaught, he seemed determined to counter his opponent during one of his wild exchanges as he unleashed an odd left hook/uppercut hybrid. It was this same type of punch that eventually led to Bellew dropping along the ropes as Stevenson managed to attack while effectively cutting off the ring.
Bellew managed to recover, but Stevenson charged forward and with a few vicious power shots did enough to force the ref to signal an end to the bout. Stevenson was awarded the TKO victory, and has earned his fourth KO of the year in as many fights. After the win, Stevenson was asked about perhaps fighting Kovalev. Responding with an answer akin to “if the money is right”, Stevenson seemed more determined to pursue a bout with Bernard Hopkins or Carl Froch. Some see this Stevenson ducking Kovalev while others see this as a champ cherry-picking his opponents, but one thing is for sure, there are few fighters who had a more significant/better breakout year than Adonis Stevenson. With a well-earned vacation aheaed of him, here’s to hoping we see Stevenson back in the ring sooner rather than later.