01/17/2012 05:58 EST | Updated 03/18/2012 05:12 EDT

Canada's Stevenson looks to star trainer Steward to go to boxing's top level

MONTREAL - When Adonis Stevenson went looking for a trainer to take him to the next level of professional boxing, he went straight to the top.

Emanuel Steward, a ring legend and HBO boxing analyst who made world champions of Thomas (Hitman) Hearns, Lennox Lewis and many others, will be in Stevenson's corner when he defends his three North American super-middleweight titles against American Jesus Gonzalez Feb. 18 at the Bell Centre.

''I need a guy like Emanuel Steward,'' said the Longueuil, Que., fighter said. ''He has a lot of experience. He has world champions. I know I'll be ready in the ring.''

Stevenson (16-1) and Gonzalez (27-1) will also be fighting for the No. 2 ranking in the International Boxing Federation, which would put the winner within a victory or two of challenging undefeated IBF champion Lucian Bute of Montreal.

The 34-year-old Stevenson, with a devastating left-hand punch but little else in his repertoire, started boxing late and only turned pro in 2006. He's aware time is not on his side in his bid to be world champion and wants a trainer who will make him more than a one-punch wonder.

''That's what we're working on,'' said 67-year-old Steward. ''The first thing I noticed was his punching ability.

''But everyone you fight, you can't just walk in. I had him dance around and throw punches using his upper body, using head movement, footwork. I said if you can do that and then stop and punch with your power, you can be a dangerous man.''

Stevenson has gone the distance in only three of his wins, all against lesser opponents fairly early in his career. Normally, he knocks people out early. But he's in trouble against opponents strong on defence, or with an especially solid chin.

Stevenson, who stopped a fighter Steward used to manage, Aaron Pryor Jr., in his last bout Dec. 10, called the Kronk Gym in Detroit out of the blue last week and told one of the sports' big names he was coming in the next day to train.

Steward had never heard of him and thought he'd give him a quick look and send him on his way.

''I told him I had to go to California and I only had two days, but I got so excited training him I stayed with him for five days,'' said Steward.

''I worked with him on the pads and I was so impressed with his short, accurate punching and his balance. I still don't know much about him. I've never saw him fight.''

He said he did much the same with Lewis, who took him on as trainer after losing to one of Steward's fighters, Oliver McCall.

''The first thing I did with Lennox was I made him start moving,'' Steward said of the Kitchener, Ont., heavyweight. ''They were all depending on his big right hand. I knew he was going to throw right hands and I trained Oliver to knock him out while he was throwing right hands.''

Stevenson will continue to work with long-time trainer Howard Grant leading up to the fight, although Steward said he may bring him to Austria where his top fighter at the moment, heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, has a camp to prepare for a March 3 bout with Jean-Marc Mormeck.

Steward lost two top clients, Chad Dawson and Miguel Cotto, in recent months partly because he is so busy with training and his HBO work. He was excited to take on Stevenson and to work with his promoter Yvon Michel.

He said Andy Lee, an Irish middlweight he trains, hopes to fight in Montreal one day and that two of his prospects, amateur twins Joseph and Jacob Bonas, want to turn pro there one day because they are Romanian, like Bute.

Michel was delighted to have one of his top fighters team up with a top trainer.

''It can only add to his confidence,'' said Michel. ''Not only does Steward have all this experience with world champions, he is famous.

''When people see Adonis is working with that guy, they'll think 'he must be something.' If he wins, his name with go everywhere. So it can only be good for him.''

Among others Steward has trained for varying lengths of time are Oscar de la Hoya, Julio Cesar Chavez, Evander Holyfield, Aaron Pryor Sr., Leon Spinks and Jermain Taylor.

Asked to name his favourite, Steward didn't hesitate.

"Tommy Hearns,'' he said of the middleweight great from the 1980s. ''Tommy was excitement.

''He's a quiet kid, but when he was in the ring, you knew it would be exciting.''

The co-feature has impressive light heavyweight Eleider Alvarez (7-0), a Colombian fighting out of Montreal, defending his minor NABO title against American Otis Green (23-9-2).

Montreal-based super-featherweight Arash Usmanee (16-0) of Red Deer, Alta., will face Innocent Anyanwu (21-3-2) of the Netherlands in and eight-rounder.