In the muddled up and diluted world of boxing title belts, Liverpool’s Tony Bellew (20-1) has a rare target in striking distance - the recognised, lineal (or insert synonym for ‘real’ here) world light heavyweight championship.
The rationale in identifying the 'real' titlist in each weight class is perhaps the only element of boxing which is more subjective than a judge’s scoring. Essentially, it comes down to tracing lineage of ‘the man who beat the man.’
Adonis Stevenson (22-1-1) impressively dispensed with the man who most boxing observers had previously recognised as the true 175lb champion, Chad Dawson, in June, to capture the WBC title.
Stevenson’s status was further bolstered by a seventh round TKO of former IBF champion Tavoris Cloud just three months later.
A product of Detroit’s famed Kronk Gym and a pupil of the late Emmanuel Steward, Stevenson has improbably rocketed to the top the light heavyweight division at the late blooming age of 36.
He is best known for a thunderous left hand, one of which floored Dawson in round one of their June bout.
Courtesy of a WBC mandatory defense, Bellew gets his opportunity on Saturday in Quebec City, Canada. Most boxing pundits, who have been clamouring for a clash between Stevenson and WBO champion Sergey Kovalev in recent months, regard Bellew as nothing more than a speed bump in the near term scheme.
Despite a size and reach advantage, the Brit will be a substantial underdog to the trending Stevenson, who has rapidly built a reputation as a high level knockout artist.
How can Bellew compete? Or can he?
Stevenson has shown fallibility in his career, having suffered a second round knockout to the ever-dangerous Darnell Boone in 2010. And notwithstanding the last two names, his resume is hardly stacked with star power.
Bellew will need to test Stevenson’s chin early, in order to make the champion respect his power. If the British bomber can land a few shots and keep the champion at a distance, he may be able to exploit size and reach in order to beat Adonis to the punch.
Discipline will be the order of the day for both men. Stevenson, who is aware of the questions around his chin, is likely to avoid an all-out slugfest with Bellew in favour of a boxing display similar to that which he employed against Cloud.
Bellew’s plan should also be tactical; however, he will be forced to find an opportune time to exchange with the champion in order to temper his opponent’s aggressiveness. Stevenson is the bigger puncher, and could bring an end to the night with one well-timed shot.
This is certainly a tall order for the 30 year-old Bellew, who will be fighting outside of the UK for the first time in his career. Stevenson is a native of Quebec and will have audience support in a province that has seen him triumph over two of the biggest light heavyweight names in 2013.
Nevertheless, Tony Bellew will have an opportunity to instantly vault to the top of the division with a win. This may be unlikely in the minds of many, but let’s not forget that Stevenson is 36 and has shown flaws previously.
With all of its sanctioning bodies and its endless politics, the boxing world is such that much of the battle is simply to get an opportunity at a championship. Bellew has waged the political war successfully, but will now need to do his business in the ring in order to orchestrate the upset of the year.
Michael Nashed/ BoxRecNews