SPORTS

Canada's Stevenson confident he'll take light heavyweight title from Dawson

06/05/2013 06:16 EDT | Updated 08/05/2013 05:12 EDT
MONTREAL - No one wants to see Adonis Stevenson win a world light heavyweight title more than his promoter.

The Yvon Michel Group has not had a world champion since Jean Pascal lost the light heavyweight belt to veteran Bernard Hopkins two years ago.

Now Stevenson has a chance to win it back.

The power puncher from Longueuil, Que., will challenge wily American Chad Dawson for the WBC version of the title as part of an impressive fight card on Saturday night at the Bell Centre, which is to be televised on the HBO specialty channel.

"The success or failure of the event depends on the outcome of Stevenson-Dawson," Yvon Michel said. "If Stevenson doesn't win, when are we going to have another championship fight here?

"It might be very long."

If Stevenson (20-1-1, 17 knockouts) is feeling and pressure, he didn't show it as he and Dawson (31-2-0, 17 KOs) took part in an open air news conference at a downtown bar on Wednesday.

Recently returned from a training camp at the Kronk gym near Detroit, the 35-year-old Stevenson wore a Tigers baseball cap and a confident grin as he vowed to use his explosive power to overwhelm the technically superior Dawson in the battle of left-handers.

"When I touch him, he's going to panic," Stevenson predicted. "Sure, he's got skill, but if you touch him, you can beat him."

It will be a first attempt at a world title for Stevenson, a late starter in boxing whose career looked to be headed nowhere until he hooked up with Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward two years ago. While Steward died last fall from an abdominal ailment, his nephew Javan (Sugar) Hill has taken over.

He has been a super-middleweight until recently, and was mandatory challenger for a 168-pound title, but gave that up for the chance to face Dawson.

The six-foot-one Dawson, who is two inches taller and five years younger than Stevenson, has a long string of bouts against the best in the 175-pound division. It will be the two-time champion's 11th world title fight.

He beat Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson twice each and, when Montreal's Jean Pascal lost the title to Bernard Hopkins in 2011, it was Dawson who beat the 47-year-old former middleweight king to claim it.

But Dawson was beaten on his previous visit to Montreal in 2010 by Pascal in a bout stopped in the 11th round due to a bad gash on the American's eye due to an accidental head butt.

And in his last outing in September, Dawson was outclassed and stopped in 10 rounds as he went down to super-middleweight to take on Andre Ward, considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

Dawson's camp felt the cut was not bad enough for the Pascal bout to be stopped. And they believe he was left too weak from making the 168-pound super-middleweight limit to give Ward a proper battle.

"I was drained, dehydrated," said Dawson. "People can say what they want, but they're wrong.

"I made the weight and I went to Oakland, in his backyard, and I challenged him. Andre Ward's a great champion, but let's see what happens if we do that at light heavyweight."

Dawson feels he is in higher class of fighter than Stevenson and that he should win clearly enough not to let home town judging be the difference.

"I understand that Adonis is a big puncher, but he's getting into the ring with a different animal," he said. "Those 17 knockouts he got were against nobodies.

"Now he's getting an opportunity to go in the ring with a real somebody. I'm on a different level. He hasn't been in the ring with anyone. There are no world champions on his resume. I'm going to show him he is not the man for this division."

Dawson and promoter Gary Shaw can also avenge a snub from Michel.

Dawson was supposed to have a rematch with Pascal, but Michel convinced HBO to give him Stevenson instead so he could arrange a local grudge match against former IBF champion Lucian Bute.

A sellout was expected for the bout originally set for May 25, but it was postponed to Dec. 7 or perhaps in January when Bute broke a hand in training.

Shaw called it bad karma for Michel.

"I wasn't happy with the fact that he went and met with HBO and tried to slide the fight out from under us," said Shaw. "But you've got to be able to deal with people in this game, so I let it go.

"I was able to make a good deal for my fighter with HBO. If not, they would never have agreed to the Bute-Pascal fight. And look what happened — the fight didn't happen.

"In the end, it became a better deal for us. Pascal's still there, or the winner of Pascal and Bute. So we'll probably come back to Canada and finish off the all the ranked fighters Yvon was talking about."

Michel says he still has a friendly relationship with Shaw, who used to promote ring star Arturo Gatti of Montreal.

The co-feature has former featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa (22-0) fighting at lightweight for the first time in a bid for the WBA interim title against Darleys Perez (28-0) of Colombia. Gamboa, a former Olympic champ from Cuba now living in Miami, is a rising star in the sport.

Michel was left scrambling when HBO mandated what should be a lively scrap between young welterweights Jose Pedraza (12-0) of Puerto Rico and Sergio Villanueva (25-2-2) of Mexico.

They forced a bout featuring light heavyweight prospect Eleider Alvarez against veteran Allan Green to be dropped from the card.

Michel's newest signing, former Russian Olympian Artur Beterbiev, will make his pro debut against journeyman Christian Cruz (12-14-1), who is on a 10-match losing run.

Middleweight Davis Lemieux (28-2) of Montreal will face Robert Swierbinski (11-1) of Poland, while Didier Bence (8-0) of Montreal faces Eric Barrak (7-0) of St-Come, Que., in a heavyweight bout.

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