Next month will be the fifth anniversary of the explosive start of Adonis Stevenson's light heavyweight world championship reign.
He won a sanctioning organization belt and the lineal title in sensational fashion when he used his vaunted left hand -- what he calls his "Superman" punch -- to knock out Chad Dawson in just 76 seconds.
After the fight was waved off, Stevenson did a wild celebration around the ring, and it seemed as though he was destined for a memorable and exciting title reign. But five years and eight successful defenses later, Stevenson's reign has been anything but.
He has been relatively inactive, with just one fight in 2016 and one in 2017, and to many he has done nothing but sit on the title with one soft defense after another. Instead of seeking out fights with Sergey Kovalev, Andre Ward or other top 175-pounders, Stevenson has faced the likes of club fighter Tommy Karpency, Andrzej Fonfara (twice), Dmitry Sukhotskiy, Sakio Bika and Thomas Williams Jr.
That 2013 sixth-round knockout of Tony Bellew in his second defense looks better and better every day given that Bellew went on to win a cruiserweight world title and has now twice knocked out David Haye at heavyweight. But Stevenson has not exactly faced Murderers' Row.
However, at long last, Stevenson is about to find himself in what most view as a real fight, a serious match that puts his title reign in jeopardy.
For title defense No. 9, Stevenson will take on by far the most dangerous opponent of his reign in former super middleweight and secondary light heavyweight world titlist Badou Jack, whom he will meet Saturday (Showtime, 10:05 p.m. ET/PT) at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. It is the second fight of a special split-site doubleheader that will open at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, with featherweight world titleholder Gary Russell Jr. (28-1, 17 KOs) making a hometown defense against mandatory challenger Joseph Diaz Jr. (26-0, 14 KOs).
The Stevenson-Jack fight is being billed as the most noteworthy bout in Toronto since the late Hall of Famer Aaron Pryor defended his junior welterweight title by 15-round decision against Toronto native Nicky Furlano on June 22, 1984.
Stevenson has heard the criticism of his competition level and lack of activity, but he brushes it off.
"I don't decide who I am going to fight," Stevenson said. "They give me the opening. I am not the manager. They give me what is available.
"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. I'm the best fighter in this division, period. When I win on [Saturday], I'll just be doing my job. People might still talk trash, but I'll still be the champ."
As for coming off an 11-month layoff since knocking out Fonfara in the second round of their rematch, Stevenson said, "Not a problem for me. I'm always in shape, you know. It's not a problem."
But Jack, as battle-tested and experienced as they come, could be.
"This is my toughest fight. Any fight is tough," Stevenson said. "And so for me, I am going in there for the knockout. That's it. Badou is a two-time world champion for a reason. I'm not underestimating him. I know he's durable and that he has attributes like good head movement and I'll have to be ready for everything."
Jack has wanted a crack at Stevenson for a while -- since his action-packed draw with James DeGale in their super middleweight world title unification fight in January 2017. After that fight, Jack moved up in weight and hoped to challenge Stevenson in his next fight.
When the fight could not be made, Jack got a shot at secondary titlist Nathan Cleverly in August on the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor undercard, and steamrolled him in five rounds to send him into retirement.
Jack (21-1-3, 13 KOs), 34, a Sweden native fighting out of Las Vegas, quickly vacated the belt in a prearranged move, and Mayweather, Jack's promoter, promised him a significant fight and was able to deliver the one he wanted all along against Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs), 40, a southpaw from Haiti who has lived in Montreal throughout his career.
"I asked for this fight after the DeGale fight. Now we finally got it," Jack said. "We've been talking to Floyd a long time about this fight. He's a man of his word and he always said that I was going to fight Stevenson. I'm grateful for what he's done, and now I just have to take advantage of the opportunity.
"[Stevenson is] an underrated boxer. He's a pretty good fighter. Just because he's been ducking a lot of fights and people don't like it, you can't overlook his boxing skills. He can fight."
So why does Jack suppose it has taken Stevenson so long to accept a fight with a top-notch opponent?
"It could be two reasons," Jack said. "First, he didn't have no choice. You got to fight somebody good sometime. Second, I think he probably thinks I'm coming up from the smaller weight class. I'm just happy I got the fight. I might even be the bigger guy.
"I just have to take his strong weapons away from him, his left hand. But I'm not seeing him as a one-handed fighter. He's a good fighter. I'm looking forward to fighting him. A lot of fans from Quebec hit me up every day [on social media]. They want me to beat him. I'm not overlooking him just because people don't like him."
On paper, the fight figures to be competitive and entertaining. Both fighters have openly talked about knocking the other man out.
"I've been robbed a couple of times, so I don't want to get robbed again. The best way [to avoid that] is to finish your opponent," Jack said. "It's easier said than done, but I believe I got what it takes to stop him."
Stevenson, one of boxing's biggest punchers, always looks for knockouts. It's what he was taught to do by his former trainer, the late Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward, whose nephew, Javan "Sugar" Hill, now trains him.
"I'm looking for the knockout, [but] we can box. I can box," he said. "It's not a problem, but you know I am looking for the knockout because the knockout, [as] Emanuel always told me, knockouts sell.
"I'm still ready for 12 rounds, but I want the stoppage every time. I'm hungry for knockouts. If Badou comes in aggressive, this could end very quickly. You have to step into the ring with me to understand my power. If I connect right just one time, that's it, lights out. We train specifically for knockouts. You'll have to wait and see how I do it on [Saturday]."
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