When light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson and Andrzej Fonfara fought each other in May 2014, Stevenson was a huge favorite expected to take out his challenger with relative ease.
As it turned out, nothing could have been further from reality as Fonfara gave him an extremely difficult challenge before losing a unanimous decision.
Now Stevenson has kicked off the promotion for their June 3 rematch (Showtime) — at the Bell Centre in Montreal, same site as the first encounter — by predicting a knockout this time.
“I’m very excited for this rematch with Fonfara, but it is going to be a short night for him because they don’t pay me for overtime,” said Stevenson, who will be making his eighth title defense. “I’m very happy to be back in the ring for my first fight of 2017. I can’t wait to fight in front of my hometown fans at the Bell Centre.
“The first time I fought Fonfara was at the Bell Centre in 2014 and now we’re back doing it for a second time. I will put on a great, exciting show for the fans in my hometown and for the fans on Showtime.”
In their first fight, Stevenson, a hard-punching southpaw originally from Haiti, dominated through the first seven rounds. He knocked Fonfara down with a left hand in the third round and again in the fifth round with a body shot. It seemed to be only a matter of time until Stevenson got the knockout.
But Fonfara, 29, a Poland native fighting out of Chicago, showed tremendous heart and fought his way back into the bout. He turned the tide in the eighth round and then knocked Stevenson down in the ninth round and had him in major trouble. Stevenson hung on and won by scores of 116-109, 115-110 and 115-110.
Fonfara (29-4, 17 KOs) rebounded to win his next three fights in a row, including making Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. quit in the ninth round and winning a brutal slugfest with Nathan Cleverly, who went on to win a light heavyweight belt for the second time.
After Fonfara was upset by shocking first-round knockout against Joe Smith Jr. last June, he rebounded to stop Chad Dawson in the 10th round on March 4. Dawson is the former world champion whom Stevenson took the title from in 2013.
Fonfara, after his ups and downs, said he is excited to get another crack at Stevenson (28-1, 23 KOs), 39, and the world title.
“I feel good that I’m back here after three years,” Fonfara said. “I’m ready for revenge. I’m a different fighter physically and mentally. I’ve shown in a couple of fights that I’m a better fighter. It’s a great opportunity to get the rematch and be a world champion. The last fight against Chad Dawson gave me experience because it was very technical. But really all the fights since then — Julio Chavez Jr., Nathan Cleverly and even Joe Smith — have helped me prepare for Stevenson again.
“I changed my team, got a new coach and a trainer [Virgil Hunter], which makes me physically and mentally where I need to be for this fight. I don’t have a problem fighting in Montreal. I love Montreal. It’s a beautiful city with beautiful people. It will be a great night of boxing and I’m sure that I will be victorious on the night of June 3.”
Yvon Michel, Stevenson’s promoter, initially attempted to make a fight for Stevenson against Smith in Smith’s home region on Long Island, New York, but when the deal fell through Fonfara got the call and they returned to Montreal.
“This is one of the best shows in Quebec in a long time,” Michel said. “It’s the kind of event that will inject some adrenaline into boxing in Quebec. We have two fights that could be main events anywhere in the world and on any network. To be a world champion for four years is exceptional. Fonfara has a style that can give Adonis some problems.”
The second fight Michel referred to was the co-feature, which will match Eleider Alvarez (22-0, 11 KOs), who will risk his status as Stevenson’s mandatory challenger, against former world champion and fellow Montreal-based fighter Jean Pascal (31-4-1, 18 KOs). The Stevenson-Fonfara winner will be obligated to face Colombia native Alvarez next as long as he doesn’t lose to Pascal.
“In the co-main event we have a former world champion in Pascal, who still believes he can be world champion. He will have a tough assignment with Alvarez, a fighter who just proved he belongs with the best in the world with his win over Lucian Bute,” Michel said. “If he beats Pascal he will have beaten two of the best stars that Canada has ever produced in back-to-back fights. He will prove to be a threat to anyone in the future.”
Alvarez also risked his mandatory status against Bute and knocked him out in the fifth round on Feb. 24.