The record books will show that Adonis Stevenson and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. both won light heavyweight fights on the night of Sept. 29, 2013. That is quite literally where the similarities end.
While Stevenson elevated his stock significantly by shutting out and stopping Tavoris Cloud in his first defense of the lineal 175-pound title, Chavez's reputation was decimated in what three California judges, but hardly anybody else, deemed a decision victory over journeyman Brian Vera. At age 27, Chavez's questionable training habits are causing him to regress as both a fighter and an attraction. At age 36, Stevenson is still approaching his peak and is on the verge of genuine stardom earned with his fists, not his heritage.
In the opening bout of the split-site doubleheader, Stevenson returned to the scene of his shocking title win three months ago over Chad Dawson, the Bell Centre in Montreal. The southpaw self-styled "Superman" soared past Dawson with a first-round knockout, but the mere 76 seconds of action left us with plenty of questions. For seven rounds against former beltholder Cloud, Stevenson provided answers.
Though one-punch power remains Stevenson's calling card, against the predictable style of Cloud he was able to show off his movement and boxing skills like never before, fighting with world-class poise and confidence. A straight left hand damaged Cloud's left eye in the opening round, and from there the route was on, with the Haitian transplant walking "Thunder" Cloud into that counter left time and again.
Stevenson dropped his hands quite frequently-both in the defensive sense, showing how unconcerned he was over the incoming fire, and in the offensive sense, working Cloud's body diligently. In the fourth round, with Cloud's left eye beginning to bleed, Stevenson took the cockiness to the next level, sticking his chin out before rocking the challenger with a combination to the ribs.
Stevenson hurt Cloud with a series of left hands in the sixth, and in the next round, a left knocked Cloud off-balance and into the ropes, but not quite off his feet. By the end of the seventh, with Stevenson having out-thrown Cloud 2½-to-1 (434-176) and out-landed him 3-to-1 (108-36), Cloud's corner wisely stopped the contest before the hopelessly outgunned challenge could get hurt.
"I beat two champions in four months," Stevenson (22-1-1, 19 KOs) said. "[Trainer Sugar Hill] said more pressure and go to the body, because [Cloud] covered up very good. It was working. I mixed it up to the body and head." Stevenson was asked after the fight about a showdown with fellow knockout artist Sergei Kovalev, and seemed a bit reluctant, saying, "Sergei, he needs to fight a couple champions too." It's true that Kovalev's record isn't exactly littered with household names, but like Stevenson, he's been winning and doing so spectacularly, and it would seem they're on a collision course.
We saw a different kind of collision at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, as Chavez Jr. proved unable to get out of his own way. A controversial week leading up to the fight saw the son of the Hall of Fame Mexican legend with the same name renegotiate the weight limit for the fight with Vera up from 168 to 173. This turned Chavez, who in his previous fight a year ago came up just a few punches short of a miraculous knockout victory over Sergio Martinez for the middleweight championship, into something of a villain. By fight's end, he was being booed as if he's just gone on a puppy-killing spree.
Vera, the guy with six losses on his record who doesn't get to call the shots, rolled with the changes and accepted the theoretical size "disadvantage," believing all along that he could hand Chavez his second defeat. From the start of the fight, he tried to make it happen with guts and volume, while the sluggish Chavez looked for a one-punch ending. Junior did land several crackling left hooks in the early rounds, but Vera kept coming. He built momentum in the middle rounds, though Chavez earned a key swing late in the seventh round, when he stole a round the Texan was dominating by landing a huge left hook that had Vera reeling.
The scheduled 10-rounder appeared up for grabs with two to go, and Vera proceeded to hand in perhaps his two best rounds of the fight and was even clowning Chavez in the final 10 seconds of the fight. The CompuBox numbers said Vera outlanded Chavez 176-125 and out-worked him a ridiculous 734-328. The ringside media and the Twitterverse were near unanimous in seeing Vera the close winner. But the judges all had it for Chavez, some by appalling margins. Carla Caiz scored it 96-94, Marty Denkin saw it 97-93, and Gwen Adair somehow had it 98-92, revealing that the playing field was every bit as imbalanced as the scales that were adjusted to suit the needs of the entitled star.
"He was supposed to be the guy pushing me back. I outworked him, I feel like I won the fight," said Vera (23-7, 14 KOs). "I feel like I could have done better, but I did enough to win the fight. It makes me sick to my stomach that it happens this way, but I'd like to do it again. I hope he gives me another chance and we do it the right way."
Chavez, meanwhile, was ready with excuses when the microphones were in his face after the bout.
"In about the fifth round, I fractured my right hand," revealed Chavez (47-1-1, 32 KOs). "He was being very dirty, he hit me with about 20 headbutts and he kept hitting me low, and I told the referee, but he didn't do anything about it." Chavez said he thought he was closing in on a knockout win when the 10th round ended, and in a similarly eyebrow-raising statement, said he wants to go down to 168 pounds for his next fight.
Getting down to 168 would take Chavez out of Adonis Stevenson's division. Regardless of weight, it would seem Chavez has already removed himself from Stevenson's league.