MONTREAL - Adonis Stevenson has piled three titles on the table and Noe Gonzalez has thrown in his WBC Silver belt for a winner-take-all showdown in boxing's super-middleweight division.
The power puncher from Longueuil, Que., and Uruguay's Gonzalez both see victory in their bout Friday night at the Bell Centre as a stepping stone to big-money title fights in the future.
It will also be a first chance to show their skills to an international television audience through ESPN, which will show the fight live (main event at 10 p.m. ET). Executives from U.S. specialty channels HBO and Showtime are expected to watch.
Both fighters badly want to win.
"It's like they're playing all-in," promoter Yvon Michel said Wednesday.
Stevenson (17-1, 14 knockouts) will defend his minor NABA, NABO and IBF Intercontinental titles against Gonzalez (28-1, 20 KOs). It's a battle of knockout artists that no one expects to last the full 12 rounds.
The burly Stevenson is coming off a sensational first-round KO of American Jesus Gonzales on Feb. 18 that was his first bout under the guidance of Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward.
"Adonis' knockouts have been from real power, while Gonzalez's have come from systematically outlasting guys," said Steward. "So we're covering that area to make sure that doesn't happen."
Both the 34-year-old Stevenson and the 32-year-old Gonzalez are achingly close to fighting for world titles.
Stevenson is ranked second by the IBF, which has Lucian Bute of Montreal as its champion. He is also rated seventh by both the WBO and WBA and ninth by the WBC. Gonzalez is ranked second by the WBC and forth by the IBF.
"Because of his age and because we really believe he is genuine and can beat anyone in the division, he'll put all his belts and rankings on the line in order to put himself in a high position," said Michel.
Bute is to defend his title May 26 in Nottingham, England, against Carl Froch and then hopes for a showdown with WBC and WBA champ Andre Ward to settle the debate over who is the world's top 168-pound fighter.
Ward has said he won't fight the WBC's No. 1-ranked contender Anthony Dirrell, his old friend. Michel said Ward may be asked by U.S. television to move up to light heavyweight to fight Chad Dawson, which could leave Stevenson in place to face Dirrell for the vacated title.
In the IBF, Stevenson hopes to take the top ranking and become the mandatory challenger for Bute, raising the possibility of a local derby match for the title.
Gonzalez has similar plans.
"He didn't have to come here," Michel said. "But he knows he needs more visibility for the networks to be willing to buy his fights.
"He's also seeking the rankings Adonis has. So he's playing all-in also."
The southpaw Stevenson is a massive puncher who bludgeoned his way through his first 13 bouts before he was stopped by Darnell Boone in April, 2010.
He rebounded with three more knockout wins, including a ninth-round stoppage of Aaron Pryor, Jr., in December, but he knew he would have to refine his technique and become more than a one-trick pony to get any farther.
A late-starter who was 29 when he turned pro, Stevenson knocked on the door at Steward's famous Kronk gym in Detroit and asked to be taken in. Steward got a look at his punching power and decided he had the makings of a champion.
"We feel he's going to be a superstar," said Steward.
"In the last two or three months that I've been working with him, I saw him become not just a puncher, but be very balanced-out in his all around boxing ability. We do a lot of footwork. Sometimes we go 20 or 30 minutes just dancing, moving in and out. And we got him to shorten up his punches because he's such a hyper type of fighter that you have to watch he doesn't exhaust himself."
Stevenson said he is setting aside the talk of what a win may mean for his future to focus on beating Gonzalez.
"I've seen him on video and he's very aggressive," said Stevenson. "He's very tough and solid, so I will prepare for 12 rounds.
"I'm ready because I know Gonzalez is not coming here just to take a cheque. He's coming to fight.''
The co-feature has Eleider Alvarez (7-0), a Colombia native who Michel calls "the best light heavyweight prospect in the world," against American journeyman Rayco Saunders (22-15-2) in an eight-rounder.
Michel said former WBC light heavyweight champ Jean Pascal is just waiting for Showtime to confirm a date for his proposed IBF title bout with American Tavoris Cloud. Possible dates are July 7 or Aug. 11. Pascal hasn't fought since losing his title to Bernard Hopkins nearly a year ago.