Stevenson, Kovalev Annihilate Challengers, Remain on Collision Course

by Kieran Mulvaney

Tony Bellew (left), Adonis Stevenson (right) - Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland

Before Saturday night's light-heavyweight double feature, the talk was of the prospect that the two favorites, Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson, could be on a collision course in a mouth-watering light heavyweight clash for the ages. After both men disposed of their foes with consummate and concussive ease, the talk turned to shouting.

Kovalev's turn was first, and it was the briefer of the two outings. Whether for reasons personal or geopolitical, Ismayl Sillakh, the Ukrainian challenger for the Russian's world title belt, seemed from a distance to have gotten under Kovalev's skin, as evidenced by the way the defending champion taunted him verbally in the first round as he stalked him around the ring. The rangier Sillakh sought to keep his opponent at a distance -- a fine strategy in principle against a knockout artist who goes by "Krusher," but difficult to pull off for long. Indeed, shortly after hearing the bell to begin the second round, Sillakh was likely hearing a lot more of them, courtesy of Kovalev's right hand.

The first right made its mark about 30 seconds into the second frame, and looked to have landed somewhere around Sillakh's left ear, scrambling his equilibrium and depositing him on his back. Sillakh was swiftly to his feet, but even as referee Marlon Wright completed the mandatory eight count, Kovalev was like a pit bull straining on an invisible leash, snorting and growling and desperate for an opportunity to rip apart his prey. As soon as Wright waved them back together, Kovalev flew across the ring, landed another right hand that effectively ended the fight and nearly decapitated Sillakh in the process, and somehow found time to land two straight follow-up lefts to help his falling opponent to the canvas, where he then lay, under the ropes and wondering where he was for a while.

Wright didn't even bother to count; he could have started reading "Moby Dick" and Sillakh wouldn't have been vertical before Ahab disappeared beneath the waves. It was a frighteningly impressive performance for the Chelyabinsk-born Floridian, who moves to 23-0-1 with 21 knockouts. Asked by HBO's Max Kellerman whom he would like to fight next, Kovalev initially proffered the "whoever my promoter wants me to fight" stock answer until, after Kellerman gently pressed, he smiled and said, "Adonis."

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CompuBox Analysis: Adonis Stevenson vs. Tony Bellew

by CompuBox

Who would have ever thought on January 1, 2013 that by late-November Adonis Stevenson would be a contender for Fighter of the Year? But after avenging his only defeat by knocking out Darnell Boone in six rounds, winning the WBC light heavyweight title in 76 seconds from Chad Dawson and defending it by TKO over ex-titlist Tavoris Cloud, the 36-year-old southpaw is in prime position to make a strong case for the honor.

On Saturday, Stevenson hopes to put a bow on a life-changing year when he takes on mandatory challenger Tony Bellew, who is looking to create his own dreams by capturing a major title on the road. The question is will he?

Statistical factors that may shape the outcome include:

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Can Stevenson and Kovalev Take the Next Step on Their Collision Path?

by Tim Smith

Adonis Stevenson - Credit: Will Hart

Rarely does a boxer announce his arrival onto the scene and state his intent to capture an entire division with the kind of loud, concussive flourish light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson did this year.

Stevenson smashed Chad Dawson, the lineal light heavyweight champion, with a devastating first round knockout in June. To demonstrate that the victory wasn't a fluke, he vanquished a worthy successor in beating Tavoris Cloud into submission, forcing him to retire in his corner in the seventh round in September.

"He was the one who was supposed to get knocked out by Chad,'' said Javon "Sugar'' Hill, Stevenson's trainer. "Chad was supposed to be superior and the comment that they had about Adonis was they had to Google him to find out who he was. People thought he was a fluke. So he had to come back and outbox Tavoris Cloud. Those were great accomplishments. It showed his maturity and his confidence.''

Not many doubt Stevenson's credentials anymore. He has fought his way into the conversation for 2013 Fighter of the Year. He has the supreme confidence that comes with being a reigning champion. Now that he has reached the top it's all about staying there.

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