Light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson set to prove he has technical skill to match immense power

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports
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It was the simplest of combinations, one taught to the neophytes on the day they first enter a boxing gym: the one-two. The fighter throws a jab and then a straight shot with the other hand behind it.

But when it's Adonis Stevenson throwing it, a one-two often equals 10, as in a 10-count and a knockout.

Stevenson is one of the hardest hitters in boxing, as Chad Dawson learned on June 8 in Montreal. Stevenson knocked him out in just 76 seconds with a jab and a straight left hand to win the WBC light heavyweight title, setting off a wild postfight celebration.

The left-handed Stevenson hit Dawson with a solid right jab. But immediately behind that jab came a straight left hand that hit Dawson on the side of his face. Dawson dropped as if he'd been shot, and couldn't stand steady when he finally arose, clearly in no condition to continue.

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With that simple combination, Stevenson became a world champion and ascended to the precipice of boxing stardom. And if he gets past Tavoris Cloud on Saturday in the first defense of his WBC belt in an HBO-televised bout from the Bell Centre in Montreal, major bouts against the likes of Bernard Hopkins and Andre Ward could be awaiting him.

It's incumbent upon Stevenson to prove he's not just a one-dimensional fighter, because it's highly unlikely that anyone would ever blow out the likes of Hopkins and Ward the way that Stevenson did Dawson.

To beat that caliber of fighter, it requires boxing skill and plenty of it. But while Stevenson has been tagged as a banger for years, his trainer, Javan "Sugar" Hill, said he's much more than a big-time slugger.

There is finesse to go along with that brute force, Hill says.

"He has exceptional boxing IQ," Hill said. " ... He was not able to display his boxing skills [against Dawson], but that is something that he has been working on for a while, ever since he had come over to the Kronk Gym. I believe he has superior boxing skills."

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Stevenson is 36, but he began his boxing career late and is still learning the game. He's a quick study, as Hill said Stevenson has incorporated moves he watched Floyd Mayweather Jr. make in his drubbing of Canelo Alvarez into his own game.

Mayweather has been perfecting those moves for more than 30 years, and it could be dangerous to try to attempt them in a fight after just a few days of practice. But Stevenson is the kind of athlete who has the ability to pick things up quickly, and Hill said it's evidence of why he's such a good, and underrated, boxer.

"We watched the Floyd Mayweather and Canelo fight, [and] I know he learned from that because when he came into the gym the following Monday, he was doing some more new stuff that he learned from watching that fight and just being more mentally aware and being in control of the fight at all times," Hill said. "If he has to box Tavoris Cloud for 12 rounds, that is not a problem."

Cloud was outboxed easily by Hopkins, but Hopkins is a master who has, for nearly two decades, been one of the game's elite fighters. But Stevenson believes thoroughly in his boxing ability and his ability to use it to set up his power punches.

Cloud, who has one of the best chins in the division, has never been knocked out and will be in range for Stevenson to hit. Stevenson's plan is to coax Cloud into making a mistake and then capitalizing on it with his punching power.

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"When I fight a power puncher, this is a big difference and, of course, I can box – I can box – and I've got movement," Stevenson said. "You are not going to be the same. Soon Tavoris is going to make a mistake and I'm going to catch him. "Chad Dawson made a mistake. Chad is a good technician. He made a mistake, and I caught him. It is going to be the same thing with Tavoris Cloud. He is going to make a mistake, and I'm going to catch him."

It's the ability to excel at both assets that might turn Stevenson into one of the sport's top stars. It's like a baseball team that has great pitching and great offense, or a football team that has a suffocating defense and an explosive, attack-oriented offense.

Stevenson will rely on his boxing ability to put him into position, but he knows full well why people come to watch him fight.

He was trained by the late Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward, who was one of the great offensive minds in boxing history. Steward would rave about Stevenson's power, and he knew that it could be the difference between being a star and just another guy in the business.

"I'm going for the knockout," Stevenson said. "Knockouts sell, you know? Emanuel told me all the way that knockouts sell. … The fans, the TV, everybody wants to see a knockout."