Emanuel Steward to corner Adonis Stevenson in title fight
By HERB ZURKOWSKY, THE GAZETTE
At the age of 67 and with a successful career as a boxing commentator on HBO, Emanuel Steward can pick and choose the fighters with whom he works. Such is the reward for someone who has trained or offered guidance to more than 40 world champions over his illustrious career.
Adonis Stevenson, left, fighting out of Longueuil, Que., lands a blow to Aaron Pryor Jr., from the United States during their super middleweight bout at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Saturday, December 10, 2011. Photograph by: THE GAZETTE/Graham HughesMONTREAL
Steward, who operates the legendary Kronk Gym in Detroit, could easily have quashed Adonis Stevenson’s recent overture - especially when Steward admits he had never seen the Longueuil super-middleweight fight. Instead, Steward will be in Stevenson’s corner for the first time, Feb. 18 at the Bell Centre, when the southpaw meets Phoenix’s Jesus Gonzales, a similar left-hander, in the 12-round main event.
Stevenson, 16-1 with 13 knockouts, will be promoter Yvon Michel’s headliner for the first time in his career. Gonzales has lost only once in 28 bouts, with 14 KOs.
Stevenson’s the North American 168-pound champion, and also holds the International Boxing Federation Intercontinental title. The bout next month is billed as a voluntary eliminator fight. The winner will be ranked second by the IBF, potentially one more victory away from becoming the mandatory contender for Lucian Bute’s world title.
Michel’s mandate is to have Stevenson, 34, get that title opportunity in 2012. And all the concerned parties believe Steward is the trainer who can take him there.
“It’s not our intention to sneak into a world-title fight,” Michel said. “He wants to earn it, show he deserves it.
“I think (working with Steward) can only add to his confidence and preparation,” the promoter added. “Steward has all this experience. He has a lot of notoriety. He has never worked with a guy who wasn’t world champion - and now he’s working with Adonis Stevenson. If he wins, his name will be (publicized) everywhere. From all aspects, this can only be good.”
Steward was slightly bemused and bewildered when he received a call from a Stevenson associate, notifying him he wanted an audience in Detroit. It’s not generally easy to get in the front door at Kronk, unless a boxer has a name and reputation. But an empathetic Steward figured he’d give Stevenson a cursory look before sending him back to Canada.
“I never heard of him. He came in almost unannounced - and you can’t come in virtually unannounced,” Steward said. “We worked the pads. I didn’t know much about him, but I was impressed by his short, accurate punches. I never saw him fight, but he looked so seasoned and professional.
“He came to the gym and I was so amazed. Seldom have I been this impressed,” Steward added. “Most fighters I get are off-balance and I spend time on their footwork. But his balance is unbelievably perfect. And I like his power. Everyone of his punches is short, accurate and pinpoint. His punching power is tremendous. You don’t see his punches. I like his talent and work ethic. He never stops. He’s totally obsessed with being a world champion.”
Stevenson’s coming off a sensational ninth-round technical knockout last month over Aaron Pryor Jr., coincidentally a fighter Steward formally managed. That certainly assisted Stevenson in his sales pitch.
“It’s a new game and new opportunity. It’s getting serious. I need Emanuel Steward,” Stevenson said. “He’s a trainer with a lot of experience. He’s a great trainer.
“This is my year, and I’m excited.”
While there’s no denying Stevenson’s power and his devastating left hand, he has gone the distance only three times in his career. And as his career potentially continues to ascend, he’s going to meet opponents with similar power who will pose problems with their sound defence, movement and granite chins.
Steward readily admits Stevenson’s technique requires improvement.
“Guys will have movement,” Steward explained. “I’ve worked on having him drop his hands and move around the ring. He needs more technical abilities. He’s got natural talent and got by with his punch. But he’s going to come across someone he can’t KO. No matter how tall and the power you have, you need a jab, power and movement.”
Stevenson’s not ending his association with Montreal trainer Howard Grant. Instead, his plan is to work with Steward in Detroit for as much as a month before pivotal fights. Indeed, Steward said he might bring Stevenson to Austria, where the trainer will help prepare heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko for his March 3 defence against Jean-Marc Mormeck.
Steward recently saw the defection of Chad Dawson and Miguel Cotto from his stable. That, too, likely benefited Stevenson.
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