Beat the King to become the King: Stevenson vs Jack preview
Callum Rudge previews Saturday's eagerly awaited clash between lineal light heavy champion Adonis Stevenson and Swedish challenger Badou Jack in Toronto...
"I'm the king at light heavyweight, I beat the king to become the king. I know that I've accomplished some great things and me and my team plan to continue to do everything we can to stay on top” – Adonis ‘Superman’ Stevenson
This weekend 'the King' faces his latest pretender to the throne when WBC and lineal light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson (29-1) defends his title in Toronto against former 168lbs titlist Badou Jack (22-1-2) in a contest that will excite fans but has also left many people asking: “what took him so long?”
Stevenson’s first-round knockout of then dominant champion Chad Dawson in 2013 started a championship reign that promised much. However, despite wins over Tony Bellew, Tavoris Cloud and Andrzej Fonfara (twice), inactivity (just three fights since April 2015), underwhelming defences against Tommy Karpency and Dmitry Sukhotsky and his failure to face Sergey Kovalev - among others - have left a lot of fans keen for a new 'King' to be crowned in Stevenson's place.
Badou Jack is a newcomer in many ways; he started boxing at the relatively advanced age of 17 in his native Sweden, a country not known for its pugilistic pedigree, partly due to the ban imposed on professional boxing from 1970 to 2007. Jack was an early beneficiary of the lifting of the ban, making his pro debut in 2009. Jack is also a recent arrival at 175lbs, making his debut in this weight class last August, as well as a relative newcomer to championship level boxing, having had only five world championship fights to date. He hasn’t looked like a novice at the championship distance, though, going the full 12 rounds in four of his five title bouts.
While many have accused Stevenson of taking it easy in recent years, the same can’t be said of Jack; wins over George Groves, Lucian Bute (changed from a draw after a failed drug test for the Canada-based Romanian) and a very competitive fight with James DeGale which ended in a draw mean that the 34-year-old is more than ready for what could be the defining fight of his career.
Both men have suffered defeats but it’s Jack’s loss to Derek Edwards that stands out; Jack was the 16-0 Mayweather Promotions prospect until he ran into Edwards who wiped him out in just one round, and it’s this fight that gives Stevenson confidence.
The champion has 24 KOs from 29 wins and has taken a total of just nine rounds to win his last three fights. These numbers will make frightening reading for those betting on Jack this weekend and the feeling is that if Stevenson lands that southpaw left hand, it could all be over very quickly. The straight left from Stevenson is an equaliser but watching his last fight, the rematch versus Fonfara, the Haiti-born pugilist almost looked one dimensional as he threw left hand after left hand. I imagine Jack’s team have discerned this and will be doing their utmost to avoid the same fate as the Chicago-based Pole
A major factor may be that Stevenson is now 41; while he still has his power, he has been very inactive and hasn’t faced someone of Jack’s quality for some time, perhaps since the first Fonfara fight in 2014.
Jack has been a slow starter in his career - witness the aforementioned stoppage loss to Edwards, while he was also dropped early by DeGale in their 2017 unification bout. Therefore, a blow-out win for Stevenson wouldn’t be a huge shock, but the pick is for Jack to start faster than usual and work Stevenson to the body, slowing down the ageing legs of the champion and scoring a career-defining late stoppage to crown a new lineal king at 175lbs.