SPORTS

Stevenson vows to focus on Sukhotsky, even though bigger bout awaits in 2015

12/18/2014 12:37 EST | Updated 02/17/2015 05:59 EST
The challenge awaiting Canada's Adonis Stevenson at the Pepsi Colisee is not just opponent Dmitry Sukhotsky, but the distraction of a bigger fight waiting down the road.

Stevenson (24-1), the power punching lefthander from Montreal, will make the fourth defence of his World Boxing Council light heavyweight title on Friday night against little-known Sukhotsky (22-2). The fight is to be shown on the Showtime specialty channel in the U.S.

If he keeps his focus, Stevenson should win.

And a win would put him into what should be the top fight in the division in 2015.

This week, the WBC ordered Stevenson to face the winner of what it presumptuously called an "eliminatory bout" on March 14 in Montreal between his hometown rival Jean Pascal and Sergey Kovalev, who holds the other three titles that matter, those of the IBF, WBA and WBO.

"My plan is to face Kovalev in 2015, but first we need to focus and win this fight," Stevenson said this week. "Then we can talk 2015.

"I know (Sukhotsky) is a tough contender. And I know he's training very hard for this fight. He's going to try to surprise me, but I'm very prepared."

Stevenson has been criticized for ducking the top fighters in his division, notably Kovalev, an accusation he denies.

Both fighters were on a card in Quebec City in November, 2013 that was supposed to set up a Stevenson-Kovalev showdown. But the Canadian signed with manager Al Haymon and moved from HBO to Showtime and Kovalev opted instead to fight veteran Bernard Hopkins, who he dominated for 12 rounds in November, on HBO.

Now the WBC has acted to make sure the fight happens, but Kovalev needs to get past Pascal, the former WBC champ who will be fighting on home turf at the Bell Centre.

The Quebec City fight card should be a good one.

The co-feature has American super-middleweight Andre Dirrell (23-1) against Derek Edwards (27-3-1) in an elimination bout for the top ranking in the IBF. Dirrell is on a comeback from a brain injury suffered during a win over Arthur Abraham in 2010. He is determined to become a world champion.

He came close in 2009 when he lost a split decision to super-middleweight king Carl Froch in England.

Dirrell is in his third fight in six months and says he is back on top form.

"I want that rematch with Carl Froch," he said. "He's the IBF Champion and a win on Friday will bring me closer to fighting him again and proving that I beat him the first time."

Edwards is 2-3-1 in his last six bouts, including a TKO loss to Stevenson in 2011.

Another IBF eliminator has welterweight Ionut (Jojo) Dan, a Romania native fighting out of Montreal, in a rematch with Quebec City's Kevin Bizier.

Dan (33-2) earned a hard-fought split decision over Bizier (23-1) at the Pepsi Colisee last year, but getting a decision twice in his opponent's home town won't be easy. Especially since promoter Yvon Michel has plans for Bizier when Quebec City's new NHL-size arena opens in the new year.

"I'm more prepared than I was for the first fight," said Dan, an intelligent, technically solid fighter, but not a knockout artist. "I'm in better shape, both physically and mentally.

"I expect it to be a great fight."

The more aggressive Bizier feels he was robbed in their November, 2013 bout.

"What killed us in the first fight was the holding from Jojo Dan," he said. "Every time I did something good he would hold me, and then he would respond with garbage punches that made him look good.

"Even if I landed the cleaner punches, he would score with garbage punches after holding. The holding was a huge issue and we're going to make sure the referee doesn't allow it this time around.

"I'm ready for everything. I'm ready for a war. I've been ready since the last fight. Whatever he brings to the table, I will be one step ahead. I will win. I promise you. If the knockout comes, it comes."

The card also has Artur Beterbiev (6-0), an impressive Russian light heavyweight fighting out of Montreal, in a 10-rounder against American Jeff Page Jr. (15-0). Beterbiev, a two-time Olympian, beat Kovalev twice as an amateur.

"I'll do what I have to do to win over the U.S. fans," said Beterbiev. "I know I'm not that well known in the U.S., but I'm going to show them my skills and give them my best.

"I'd like to become a world champion in 2015."

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