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‘Superman’ Adonis Stevenson’s Success Depends on Stubborn American Fight Fan

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COMMENTARY | "Superman" Adonis Stevenson has everything needed to become one of boxing's "next big things." The WBC light heavyweight champ is remarkably heavy-handed and keen to put on entertaining shows in front of packed arenas. He also has that one special career-defining knockout--a brutal first round KO of defending titlist, Chad Dawson--that allowed him to not only win the world title, but to create a significant buzz among hardcore fight fans while doing it. Everywhere and anywhere boxing is talked, Stevenson is regarded as the legitimate world champ, as close to a lineal titlist as you'll find in the topsy-turvy world of big time boxing.

What Stevenson doesn't have, though, is U.S. citizenship or any real desire to fight on American soil. And, unfortunately, that may make all the difference between Stevenson becoming a true star or just existing as another intriguing fighter never quite able to win the full appreciation of American fight fans.

HBO has certainly recognized his star potential and will be showcasing his bout in his adopted hometown of Montreal, Quebec, Canada against former IBF champ, Tavoris Cloud on a split-site doubleheader Saturday night, September 28, alongside the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Brian Vera bout from Carson, California.

Stevenson, who is a Haitian-born resident of Canada, is 36 years of age and several years behind the curve when it comes to a world class fighter's typical "breakthrough" point. But the hard-hitting battler got to the top in the hardest of possible ways as someone who just barely took up the sport nine years ago and went pro two years after that.

Stevenson's criminal past has been well-documented and is not something he likes to discuss in public anymore. However, the life he previously lived resulted in four years lost in prison for pimping and assault. It was no minor miracle that the current world champ somehow found the resolve to turn a nightmare into a happy ending.

His story is one of redemption and rebirth-the type of tale American fight fans gobble up and the type of story that has made a hard-to-love fighter like Bernard Hopkins into a beloved legend. Yet, that love of the thug-to-champ story doesn't seem to extend beyond the U.S. borders.

As a matter of fact, American fight fans seem reluctant to embrace any fighter not born in the country or willing to actually fight in one of their fifty states. It's a wall of stubborn pride in the face of a truly globalized boxing world and something that is keeping too many American fight fans from discovering some amazing talent.

The obvious examples of this are the Klitschko brothers, who are admittedly an acquired taste, but have been two of the most dominant fighters of the last decade. Wladimir and Vitali own all the heavyweight belts and have conducted themselves like true champions, but are constantly targeted for insult and belittlement by writers and other media voices. Labeled as dull and irrelevant, both Klitschkos continue to pack stadiums and are the world's highest-paid fighters after Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.

And while foreign talents like Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Sergio Martinez have made themselves stars by doing their business in the U.S., foreign-based talents such as Marco Huck, Yoan Pablo Hernandez, Kell Brook, Roman Gonzalez, Felix Sturm, and just about every elite fighter from Asia are routinely ignored by all but the most devoted of boxing fans.

Adonis Stevenson has the chance to bust this trend to pieces and force the casual American fan base to look beyond the border.

"Superman" has the style to excite, the back story to intrigue, and enough quality opposition upon which to build a career beyond that of Canadian box office sweetheart. Bernard Hopkins holds a light heavyweight belt, as does heavy-hitting Russian, Sergey Kovalev, and the underachieving Beibut Shumenov. Fellow Haitian-Canadian, Jean Pascal; Canada-Based Colombian Eleidar Alvarez; and Romanian-Canadian Lucian Bute represent three world class 175 lb. fighters also working in Canada as their home away from home. Even super middleweight kingpin, Andre Ward could find himself exploring the waters at light heavyweight fairly soon.

So, the path to stardom in the U.S. is there and HBO seems on board, but there's no guarantee of success, even if Stevenson keeps producing exciting knockout victories.

Meanwhile, any slip up can destroy his career progress and keep him classified as little more than a regional talent with some world class ability.

Stevenson's opponent on Saturday, Tavoris Cloud, is a former world champ and still, despite a puzzling non-performance loss to Bernard Hopkins in his last fight, ranked by most in the top 5 of the light heavyweight division. Cloud hasn't looked good recently, but he can look good and Stevenson will just have to wait and see which Tavoris shows up at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec.

It would be awesome to say that the future is fully in Stevenson's own hands, but it really isn't. A lot of Stevenson's future success in the single most important market in boxing depends on the American fight fan's ability to ditch some of their elitism and accept that the world has stepped up its game in producing real fighters.

Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and is the author of Notes from the Boxing Underground. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.

Source: Yahoo! Sports

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