Adonis Stevenson has not fought a mandatory challenger in over five years and has been on the receiving end of much-deserved criticism, but not on this night.
Stevenson, who was gushing blood from his nose and his mouth, was on wobbly legs following a powerful flurry from Badou Jack in the waning seconds, but refused to hit the canvas and retained his WBC and lineal light heavyweight titles in a majority draw Saturday at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Ringside observers and fans, many who predicted that the fight would not go the distance, instead, were treated to a potential Fight of the Year candidate. FightNights.com saw the battle slightly different from the judges, giving a 115-113 edge to Jack.
Stevenson (29-1, 24 KO's), a Haiti native based in Quebec, suffered his only blemish on his professional resume in April 2010, when he was knocked down and stopped by American journeyman Darnell Boone. Although Stevenson got the KO he wanted in an eventual rematch, there were still many questions regarding his chin, and if he could weather the storm against a young, hungry, and proven champion.
It was not an easy task, but Stevenson pulled through.
It took a while for the actual fight to go into effect, but when it did, the crowd came unglued, and naturally, so did the combatants.
Jack (22-1-3, 13 KO's), 34, a Las Vegas-based Swede, was unwilling to trade with Stevenson in the earlier part of the fight, wary of his signature, pulverizing left hand that has left many opponents motionless on the canvas. Furthermore, Jack had difficulty finding his range, which allowed Stevenson to establish himself with his authoritative jab, and mount a lead on the scorecards.
Stevenson, fighting in his adoptive backyard for the 29th time, continued to score to the body in the sixth round, as the crowd chanted "Superman!" Superman!" Jack looked to ride out the storm as the crowd chanted "Superman!"
Stevenson seemed to complain of a low blow in the seventh, when Jack got Stevenson's attention with a combination of punches, driving the champion back. This time Stevenson looked to hang on.
But like the weather in Canada, Stevenson caught a little cold in the seventh round. Jack connected on a low blow, and followed up with a combination as he put his arsenal into gear.
Jack found more success in the eighth, but also drew a warning from referee Ian John Lewis, after nailing Stevenson below the belt again. The champion was given time to recover, but Jack rocked him with another stiff right hand when the bout resumed.
Jack continued to mount a rally in the ninth with hard uppercuts and thudding shots to the body, but lacked an eraser that could have given him a stoppage victory. This allowed Stevenson to find that second gear and come back with an impressive 10th round, which reignited the chants of "Superman! Superman!"
The slow start for Jack likely cost him the fight, but we will have to wait and see if a rematch will take place. Stevenson turns 41 in September, and although his speed and reflexes looked very solid for a fighter his age, he clearly did not exhibit the snap from previous bouts with Andrzej Fonfara, Thomas Williams Jr., and Chad Dawson.
One year could make a significant difference, and that would give an edge to Jack.