On June 8, Adonis Stevenson lived out a dream by winning the WBC light heavyweight title by scoring a one-punch, 76-second knockout over Chad Dawson before his adopted home crowd at the Bell Centre, where he had fought his last five fights, all of which were KO victories. The celebratory displays were spine-tingling and the crowd noise was ear-splitting. It was the best of boxing, for the power-punching Haitian was able to transform a difficult past into a bright future with a single punch.
On Saturday, the rest of his fistic life will begin with his first defense against former IBF titlist Tavoris Cloud, who, in his last fight, had lost the belt to 48-year-old Bernard Hopkins. With the win, "B-Hop" broke his own record for oldest man ever to win a major boxing title.
Will Stevenson re-ignite the magic before his beloved Bell Centre crowd or will Cloud rain on his parade with a torrent of punches?
Statistical factors that may influence the outcome include:
Body Blaster: Body-punching has been a staple of Stevenson's attack, whether they be jabs to the stomach or heavy lefts and rights to the rib cage. Body shots were responsible for one knockdown against Darnell Boone (KO 6, avenging his only loss), three against Donovan George (KO 12) and one against Aaron Pryor Jr. (KO 9). Ironically, Stevenson didn't land a single body shot against Dawson, for both of his power connects struck the head.
Of his 156 power connects against Pryor Jr., 79 targeted the body while 84 of 198 power connects against George and 48 of his 116 versus Boone struck the flanks. Because the targets of Stevenson's offense is so diverse, he has been able to land a high percentage of power shots (49% vs. Boone and Pryor Jr., 44% vs. George).
Peak-and-Valley Defense: For all of his offensive success, Stevenson's defense has been inconsistent. It was excellent against Pryor Jr. as he absorbed only 12% of his total punches and 21% of his power shots and it was better-than average against Boone as he tasted 23% overall and 29% of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts. Against the sieve-like George, however, he took 28% of his total punches but 40% of his power shots. That sub-par defense against George's power shots was greatly mitigated by the huge gaps in connects (275-99 total, 77-38 jabs, 198-61 power). In any case, Stevenson must be mindful of Cloud's volume attack. Then again, if recent performances are any indicator, Cloud may no longer be capable of generating that kind of volume:
Cloud the Chameleon: When Cloud faces an aggressive opponent he responds in kind. But when he faces a stylist, he tends to retreat into an uncomfortable shell. Such was the case in his last two fights against Gabriel Campillo and Bernard Hopkins, two boxing-oriented stylists who prefer science over slugging.
Cloud's two early knockdowns essentially saved his title against Campillo, from whom he won a split decision that was thought to be among the worst verdicts of 2012. From round five onward Campillo out-hustled Cloud and out-landed him by decisive margins (149-92 overall, 123-42 power) during that span. Cloud's pace was a moderate 59.3 per round while Campillo's was 62, but the American never really got untracked.
Against Hopkins his troubles were even more pronounced. Only twice did he surpass 70 punches in a round (75 in the eighth, 74 in the 12th) while Hopkins' accuracy (41%-21% total, 31%-18% jabs, 48%-26% power) transcended his glacial 34.8 punch-per-round pace and persuaded Cloud to throw just 54.2 per round. As a result, Cloud was out-landed 169-139 overall and 110-72 power en route to another historic moment for "B-Hop."
But if he's given pace, he'll respond with pace. In winning the vacant IBF title against Clinton Woods, Cloud fired a division record 1,147 punches and amassed big connect edges (410-258 total, 138-131 jabs, 272-127 power) and one fight earlier he countered Julio Gonzalez's 102.9-punch-per-round pace with 71.1, out-landing Gonzalez 267-208 (total) and 180-154 (power) and capturing a 12-round decision.
When Fulgencio Zuniga forced a 92.7-per-round pace, Cloud fired 82.5 and again out-landed his rival (301-258 total and 179-122 power) en route to a 12 round decision.
The only time when Cloud didn't react positively to pressure was against elder statesman Glen Johnson, who threw 73.6 punches per round and out-landed Cloud (56.8 punches per round) 254-246 overall and 134-79 in jabs. Cloud's 167-120 gap in power connects allowed him to overcome his 56.8-per-round output and win a close but unanimous decision. The good news for Cloud is that Stevenson is a come-forward fighter who isn't afraid to take one to give one. But will that dynamic translate to victory?
Prediction: No. Shot-for-shot Stevenson is the harder puncher and he'll likely be the one to take the lead, which, in Canada, means points. Cloud is durable and more versatile but Stevenson may be one who improves by owning a title. Also, the home crowd advantage will likely be decisive, especially in close rounds. Stevenson by decision.