The travelling roadshow known as Premier Boxing Champions came to Quebec City’s Videotron Centre last night, the main attraction a showdown for the lineal light heavyweight crown between Montreal’s Adonis Stevenson and American Thomas Williams Jr. In keeping with PBC tradition, this was not an eagerly anticipated match with serious divisional implications, but it did unfold as a televised bout should, its precarious, dramatic buildup ending in conclusive violence.
On the undercard, Montreal heavyweight Oscar Rivas stopped the woefully overmatched Jeremiah Karpency in four rounds. Americans Immanuwel Aleem and Demond Nicholson fought a tightly contested match that ended in a majority draw; initially too tepid for action-oriented Quebecois fans, the fight opened up as the rounds compiled, rousing the frustrated crowd. Skilled prospect Custio Clayton was customarily sharp and won an easy unanimous decision over Sylvero Ortiz.
The card’s main supporting event saw light heavyweight contender Eleider Alvarez, whom it appears boxing powerbrokers are prepping for the elite, earning a unanimous decision victory over Robert Berridge. His opponent was a stand-in for the injured Chad Dawson and Berridge boxed with the bravery of a man who takes a difficult fight on short notice. By bout’s end, the red blotches blooming on his sagging white face evidenced the beating he’d taken.
Dawson, of course, played a key role in the ascendancy of Stevenson. Three years ago, Adonis landed a jackpot left hand on Chad’s ear after just 70 seconds of action, a punch that both won him the lineal light heavyweight title and signalled the end of Dawson as a serious force. Stevenson has been champion ever since, his lasting ‘success’ in no small part a function of the dearth of truly formidable competition he’s faced.
Boxing fans in Quebec still haven’t warmed to the Montrealer. Each time he was shown on the big screen during the undercard, his visage was met without enthusiasm. Fans are annoyed with Stevenson, both because he hasn’t fought the other potent force in the division, Sergey Kovalev, and because most of his title defences have been against the likes of Dmitry Sukhotsky, Tommy Karpency or super middleweight Sakio Bika.
As a relative unknown on the elite boxing circuit, Thomas Williams was not the name they’d been waiting for. The American is not Andrej Fonfara or Jean Pascal, nor do his abilities approximate Sergey Kovalev’s or Andre Ward‘s. But, luckily for PBC’s (or, for that matter, boxing’s) remaining fans, he possessed enough game and guile to mount a serious challenge.
There were few subtle moments in a slugging battle that saw Stevenson score a dramatic first round knockdown. But, rather than melt away, Williams gathered himself and bravely fought back, tagging Adonis with combinations, at various points taunting the champion by pointing to his own chin. Williams’ suggestion, of course, was not that he wished to endure another flush shot under the mouth, as it was a declaration of his own moxie. This obstinacy revealed itself again in the second when, after mounting an impressive barrage that shook the champion and swelled the crowd, Williams performed an electric shake as he walked back to his corner at the end of the round. This drew more applause from a crowd whose allegiances were split between supporting “Superman” and taking in a spectacle. Might an upset unfold in what had been staged as a showcase?
Sadly for the American, the same flaws that allowed Stevenson to pierce his defense in the first proved his undoing in the fourth. The champion’s body attack in round three had taken its toll, and then a lightning fast left hand connected directly on the challenger’s naked jaw, and this punch–so clean, forceful and true–delivered the result most fans had expected to witness. As Williams bestrode both sides of consciousness, Stevenson celebrated.
It was, in the end, an exciting action fight, but will it advance any of the stagnant light heavyweight narratives? Adonis proved that his reflexes and power remain intact, but also that he’s vulnerable to combination punching. He can also still mount an exciting show when a favourably-styled foe stands in front of him, but what is the point of speculating on future opponents when discussion of this topic long ago exhausted itself? Who he fights next is unknown, and, perhaps by design or just incompetence, the broadcast interviewer didn’t even ask him about it during the post-fight interview-cum-press release. Serious boxing fans are tired of the charade, and even wondering seems a misguided use of one’s energy.
Premier Boxing Champions is a boxing show on television that exists only as a boxing show on television. It is not a self-contained universe, created by intelligent design, in which each fighter has a role to play in some grander, cosmic scheme. It merely veers from mediocre to serviceable, and too infrequently features content of true importance (ie. Thurman vs Porter). It won’t reignite the sport in America in its current incarnation, because, like a sitcom that only occasionally broaches sensitive topics, it doesn’t take itself seriously enough to accomplish the task.
PBC is merely something to watch: a program on television, presented free of narrative. When that program is lucky, as it was last night, it is just entertaining enough to warrant tuning into. But naturally, serious boxing fans want more. Would football fans be content with a season that didn’t lead to a Super Bowl? It’s past time Al Haymon started making truly meaningful matches. And in the light heavyweight division, that means Stevenson vs Kovalev.
— Eliott McCormick Photos by Jeff Lockhart.