He's got a chance, and that's all that Andrzej Fonfara wanted. He left his native Poland and landed in Chicago because he believed in himself and he felt that one day he could be a world champion.
The easiest place to do that, he said, was the U.S., where the majority of the world's top fighters competed.
Fonfara has toiled in virtual anonymity since, and he's been barely a sideshow since Stevenson announced in March that he'd opted to bypass a potential fight on HBO against Sergey Kovalev in favor of a move to Showtime and a match with Fonfara.
Stevenson, his promoter and manager were sued, and Stevenson was widely accused of ducking the heavy-handed Kovalev.
Fonfara has heard it all, and yawned. If no one thinks he has a chance to win the WBC light heavyweight title on Saturday when he meets Stevenson in the main event of a Showtime-televised card from the Bell Centre in Montreal, well, then just watch.
"People talk and it's easy to talk," Fonfara said. "Let them talk. I'm here to fight. That's all that matters anyway."
Fonfara was born and raised in Poland but moved to the U.S. in 2006 after just one pro fight in search of better competition. He landed in Chicago, where there is a large Polish population, and hooked up with trainer Sam Colonna, who was former heavyweight contender Andrew Golota's trainer.
Adjusting to a new city, a new country with a new language and culture could be difficult, but it went smoother than expected for Fonfara.
In Chicago, there is little different for him than there was when he was based in Warsaw. The food is virtually identical. The Polish community is so large, Fonfara barely felt he'd left home.
"Everywhere I go, there is Polish food, Polish drinks," he said. "In the Polish community in Chicago, sometimes, they don't even speak English. It's all Polish because everyone is Polish and so it made it easy."
But he found what he was looking for and got the type of competition he wanted. He defeated Glen Johnson, Tommy Karpency and Gabriel Campillo, three solid light heavyweights, in succession and quietly put himself in position for a major fight.
As Stevenson made his name in 2013 – he won many Fighter of the Year awards – Fonfara had his eye on him. Stevenson was fighting on HBO, which was feverishly working to pit him against Kovalev in what would have been a mouth-watering slugfest.
HBO put Stevenson and Kovalev on the same card against different opponents in November, but made the mistake of doing it despite not having a signed agreement for them to fight.
And at the time, Stevenson kept talking about interim fights rather than going right into a match against Kovalev.
Even before the talks between Kovalev promoter Kathy Duva and Stevenson promoter Yvon Michel about a fight between them broke down and led to the Main Events law suit, Stevenson had always been insisting on an interim fight.
And for him, that fight was Fonfara. While he was probably viewing Fonfara as little more than a tune-up, Fonfara viewed it as the opportunity of a lifetime.
"If he doesn't take me seriously, whose fault is that?" Fonfara said. "That's not my fault. I got the fight and that's what I wanted. I have wanted a big fight for a long time and this is a guy with a lot of attention and a lot of [hype]. It's a good fight for me to take."
Fonfara has a good right-hand punch, which has accounted for many of his 15 knockouts. He's hit frequently, which could be a problem against the power-punching Stevenson, but Fonfara feels he's peaked at the right time.
He said he can change things up against Stevenson and control the pace of the fight. The most important thing is not, as Stevenson has repeatedly said, getting a knockout. Winning is all that matters.
"I've been boxing a long time and I've worked so hard," he said. "Everything I've done has been to get that title. And now my time is here and that's all I'm worried about. I've done my job and I'm ready to fight to get this title."
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- Andrzej Fonfara
- Sergey Kovalev