Monday, June 2, 2014
Andrzej Fonfara VS Adonis Stevenson: Fonfara Stirs Up Crowd & Gives Kovalev Supporters Ammunition?
All over the Internet, the taunting of Light Heavyweight Champion of the World Adonis Stevenson grew worse after his win over Polish contender Andrzej Fonfara. Mostly, the taunting was along the lines of "This is why he won't fight Kovalev." Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson have been bound to each other in the minds of all following the division. You mention one, you mention the other or someone does it for you. I did not see Stevenson's recent title defense-his third in under a year's time-when it happened live, but to see the reaction to the knockdown he suffered against Fonfara, you'd have sworn the fight was even close. Having now watched this match, I can say it wasn't. But the scorn of Kovalev's most enthusiastic supporters lit up like a Christmas tree, as if Stevenson being simply knocked down in a fight he clearly won was some kind of a vindication for Kovalev and a loss for Stevenson. Fascinating! It takes away from a proud showing by Poland's Andrzej Fonfara and it took away from Stevenson's mostly punishing control of the match.
Fonfara was a definitively gritty challenger. After being hurt badly and dropped and beaten up in the first round, the second round saw him openly inviting Stevenson to hit him in the guts. Stevenson happily obliged. Fonfara had plenty of bravado and it went both ways, of course, as Stevenson has a lot of bravado himself. There was a lot of "No, no," head shaking and smiling going on from both men.
While I've never been impressed with Fonfara on a technical level, this man's attitude wins me over. It would've been so easy to fight scared for most fighters, if not after the first round, then after the terribly painful looking body shot knockdown in the fifth round, but not only did he not shell up and wage a survivalist fight, he never even really fought a particularly discouraged fight. This was a highly admirable challenge against a very dangerous champion.
At one point, Fonfara literally ran away from Stevenson while hurt, in the sixth round. It was an odd moment in that Fonfara's night, overall, was an unconcerned man moving forward into Stevenson's power punches to try and land his own, so the literal, yes very literal, running away looked like the last sign that he would be rolled over by the explosive champion, as almost all of his opponents have been. By the time the bell signifying the end of round seven rang, Stevenson almost had to be a puzzled man, to see Fonfara still standing with him and trading punches. In the ninth, the entire fight gets turned on its head. While the first half of the rounds was a heavy domination of Fonfara that looked increasingly more and more hopeless for him, he scores a knockdown in this round and lays it on Stevenson throughout. Stevenson's corner tells him he's "pulling that same old lazy sh*t". Indeed, I think he just got too confident and careless and had a man who wouldn't hesitate to take advantage.
Stevenson looked bad in the knockdown round but he recovered like a champion and took back control, punishing Fonfara's body as badly as his head into the final round as Fonfara got a closer second half, and a physically closer fight that favoured his short range left hooks. It wasn't enough though. They had the same class of grit (and bluster) but they were not the same class of athlete. To me, Stevenson's stock as a fighter suffered not at all. He got knocked down? So what?
Addressing the fan reaction:
Something worth noting: Including avenging his lone loss, Adonis Stevenson has either stopped or taken a unanimous decision over every man he's ever faced as a professional fighter. For a man who has been in four lineal world title fights, this is quite an accomplishment. Leading up to Fonfara, Stevenson had stopped all ten of his last ten opponents. Maybe it's because of a past that can be called checkered if using the most polite terms available but I do not believe Stevenon's very late arrival to the elite boxing scene has been fully appreciated for what it is. How often does the lineal champion of the division get flattened in one round? How often does a fighter do what Stevenson's been doing to his opponents on a world class stage? I'm not saying Adonis has done anything legendary, but he has been on a rare tear and there's no use denying it because of his past or because the Kovalev fight went south for the time being.
When all is said and done, Adonis Stevenson is our champion in the light heavyweight division no matter what else is going on right now. He's no less impressive nor less the champion because Kovalev's excited people as a hungry challenger. No less so than Sergio Martinez, as the world is excited by Gennady Golovkin's eerily-similar-to-Kovalev rise in boxing contender ranks. Gennady waits for Sergio, Sergio fights Cotto. Sergey waits for Stevenson, Stevenson fights Fonfara and may very likely fight Hopkins next. That's the business. Sometimes the business drives us crazy and ruins the fights we want to see most. There aren't many champions who don't fall in line with the money. Stevenson has to deal with the ire over this, and that's his problem, putting off the most deserving challenger, but let's not let it blind us to what he's been doing in the ring. A knockdown isn't a loss just because you don't approve of a fighter.
Notable names at Stevenson/Fonfara (Point me in the right direction if you have names you want up here that I've missed):
1. Announcer Jimmy Lennon Junior
2. In Adonis Stevenson's ring walk entourage, heavyweight major title holder Bermane Stiverne
Work that bag,
Basement Gym Boxing