SPORTS

Canada's Stevenson confident he can beat Kovalev, unify light heavyweight titles

03/17/2015 05:09 EDT | Updated 05/17/2015 05:12 EDT
MONTREAL - Adonis Stevenson watched Sergey (Krusher) Kovalev's dominant victory over Jean Pascal and shrugged.

"I'm not impressed by Kovalev because Kovalev has never fought a guy like me," the World Boxing Council light heavyweight champion said Tuesday. "A guy who has the power, the footwork, the fast hands, a counter puncher.

"He fought good opponents, but he never fought me. Plus, I'm a southpaw."

Stevenson (25-1), who like Pascal is from Montreal, is on a collision course with Kovalev that could put the division's heaviest hitters against one another later this year.

Kovalev (27-0-1) holds the three other belts from the main fight sanctioning bodies — the World Boxing Association, the International Boxing Federation and the World Boxing Organization — so a showdown would leave one of them with all four titles.

First, each has to get through his next fight.

Stevenson has a date April 4 in Quebec City with Sakio Bika (32-6-3), a former super-middleweight champion from Cameroon via Australia.

Kovalev expects to make a mandatory defence of his IBF belt against Frenchman Nadjib Mohammedi (38-3) before tackling Stevenson in what could be one of the major bouts of the year.

The 31-year-old Russian dominated Pascal, the former WBC champ, before their bout on Saturday night at the Bell Centre was stopped at 1:03 of the eighth round.

"Pascal has fought once or twice in the last four years so he hasn't kept busy," said Stevenson. "That (affects) the timing.

"Kovalev is like a train. He keeps coming. You need to target him and you need power to stop that, to make Kovalev think. Kovalev used his jab and Pascal didn't. That changed everything."

There is bad blood between the Stevenson and Kovalev camps. In late 2013, both fought on a card in Quebec City to set up a proposed showdown between them on the HBO network. But then Stevenson signed with manager Al Haymon, whose allegiance was to rival network Showtime, and the fight never happened.

Kovalev's promoter Kathy Duva and others accused Stevenson of ducking the fight. Pascal joined in when his challenge to face Stevenson was turned down. All accused him of avoiding tough opponents.

Stevenson said his manager and the TV networks decide who he fights and that he hasn't ducked anyone.

"I was supposed to fight Bernard (Hopkins) but he went to fight Kovalev," he said. "Let me take care of Bika and my manager will negotiate that fight."

Bika lost his super-middleweight title to American Anthony Dirrell in his last outing, but right away will get a shot at the light-heavyweight belt.

An advantage for Stevenson is that his trainer, Javan (Sugar) Hill, also trained Dirrell and knows Bika's strengths and tendencies.

"The challenge is that Bika is unpredictable," said Hill. "He's not an orthodox fighter.

"He throws punches from all kinds of angles and you have to watch out for that. For Adonis, it's basic boxing. You have your stance correct, your hands in the right position and you throw your punches properly. Then you don't have to worry about those wild punches."

Unlike Stevenson, Hill was impressed by Kovalev, who he said has improved his overall boxing skills even if he still makes mistakes that his fighter can exploit.

Stevenson usually trains in Detroit, Hill's hometown, but this time is working out at his new gym in the north end of Montreal. He said it should not be a distraction and allows him to spend more time with his family, including four young children.

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