By Dave Spencer
Photo Herby Whyne
As far as mistakes go, it was as big as you can make in boxing. And the timing? It couldn't have been worse.
After a handful of impressive wins, an unbeaten Adonis Stevenson set off for greener pastures for fame and fortune, heading south and hooking up with American promoter Lou DiBella for his first fight on American soil.
But everything unravelled at breakneck speed for the Haitian born Montrealer in oceanside Maryland in April 2010, and despite a dominant first round in which he scored a pair of knockdowns, Stevenson was done in less then four minutes to then 16-15-2 Darnell Boone.
"I put him to sleep," said Boone Thursday in advance of tonight's rematch with the now #1 (IBF) rated super-middleweight. "I put the jab in his face and a quick overhand right over top. He's really aggressive and he tried to play the bully game."
Stevenson had entered the U.S. as undefeated prospect, he limped home as a 32 year-old 13-1 fighter without a promoter and suffering an embarrassing knockout loss to a .500 journeyman.
"It was a big setback," Stevenson told FightNews, "Nobody wanted to sign me."
Suddenly the powerful southpaw was on the shelf. His former (and now current) promoter Yvon Michel was in no great rush to welcome back and reward the powerful southpaw who had jumped ship.
It took a year, and he had to definitely earn his keep, but Stevenson was eventually welcomed back into the fold. "I went to Yvon and he gave a chance and he signed me," said Stevenson.
But the spoon-feeding of opponents was a thing of the past. Michel had already a undisputed champion in Jean Pascal, a top-ranked hammer-fisted prospect in David Lemieux, there was not the will or desire to 'develop' a fighter, if Stevenson had something to show, he would have to do so against legitimate opponents.
Stevenson was given test after test, acing each one working his way back into promoter's good books and into the world rankings. "I learned with the loss and now I have good people around me," said Stevenson. "I have a good promoter, a good trainer, it's important you have good people if you want to be a champion or in the rankings. My level (after the loss) was another level. Every fight was do or die. I'd fight guys with one loss, two loss, good guys in the rankings."
In the six fights since his loss to Boone, Stevenson has gone on and scored six consecutive knockouts against an opposition that was a collective 130-10. "I only fought guys who were ranked, and that was big for me. The loss gave me a push and I trained more to prove myself."
Once again Stevenson finds himself at a crossroads with Darnell Boone in the way. This time the Atlanta fighter stands between Stevenson and his proposed fight with Chad Dawson. "I don't have pressure," said Stevenson "I'm going in the ring, I'm going to box, and he's going down. I'm not the same boxer as three years ago. KO. I know I can punch so we'll see which round, but I'm going to knock him out."
Boone of course disagrees. "Coming back to me for tune-up fight? I think that's a mistake given our previous relationship in the ring. He's the same fighter. After me he went out and knocked out everybody the same way. It's not much difference, he's going to try and knock me out too, he's going to try and get that knockout back and probably be more aggressive than he was before. I knockout don't come that easy, and I see everything in his game."