Pepsi Center Card Fizzles

Last night at the Pepsi Center in Quebec City, Showtime put on its last fight card of significance for 2014. It wasn’t even that significant, for although several notable fighters appeared there was only one really compelling matchup, that being the rematch between Kevin Bizier and Jo Jo Dan. The other three televised bouts were perfunctory exercises easily won by the A-Sides, which climaxed with Adonis Stevenson stopping Dmitry Sukhotsky in the main event. Like the pop drink for which the arena is named, the event quickly lost its fizzle and went flat.

In the first fight, Artur Beterbiev (7-0) knocked out Kansas’ Jeff Page (15-1) in the second round. That result, which most expected, was made more entertaining and precarious by Page’s surprising first round knockdown of Beterbiev. The American fought gamely but could not compete with Beterbiev’s superior power. The Russian-Montrealer began the fight slowly, stalking Page around the ring, and didn’t make good use of his power shots in the first round. When Page caught Beterbiev with a precise counter punch, which sent him to the mat, Twitter erupted.

Beterbiev Page
Despite an early knockdown, Beterbiev, right, destroyed Page.

Spurred on by getting dropped, Beterbiev began the second more forcefully, and his urgency made the division in talent more obvious. Seemingly intent on separating Page’s head from his body, Beterbiev dropped him three times in the second before the referee ended the fight. Afterwards, the hyped 175 pounder said that he felt “sleepy,” which led to his slow start. He will have to be in better form once he steps up to stiffer competition, but he still won easily, despite getting caught. Criticisms of his technique, which began on television and made its way to twitter, are overblown.

The second fight, between middleweights Andre Dirrell (24-1) and Derek Edwards (27-4-1) was incredibly boring and uncompetitive. Dirrell won every round of this unanimous decision victory, and save for one final flurry in the twelfth, at no point did Edwards pose a threat. The most entertaining moments came between rounds when Edwards’ corner man profanely upbraided him for not fighting harder (memorably, the trainer said Direll “punches like a bitch”). Edwards didn’t listen, and while he showed a good chin, he refused to fight back and took clean shots throughout. Afterwards Dirrell called out Carl Froch, that he’d been robbed in their first fight and that the “Cobra” is afraid of fighting him again. I doubt Froch is afraid of fighting Dirrell, but I’m afraid of having to sit through it.

Bizier Dan 2
Jo Jo Dan won a split decision over Kevin Bizier – again.

The card’s third fight, a rematch between Quebec City’s Kevin Bizier (23-2) and Romania’s Jo Jo Dan (34-2), ended in a split decision victory for the Ion, who trains in Montreal. This was the night’s most competitive fight, and the one for which the stakes were greatest for both fighters. Bizier knocked Dan down in the seventh round but the Romanian came back strong in the second half, doing enough to convince two judges he’d won. The bout was so important because the winner would earn a shot at England’s Kell Brook who holds the IBF title. The Quebec City crowd was clearly upset the hometown man had lost, and lustily booed Dan during his post-fight interview. The close and hard-fought affair could have been called either way though, and the decision was fair.

The main event was preceded by a tacky ring introduction. After the Superman theme was played, the high definition screen parted and Adonis Stevenson (25-1) emerged between its two halves. He awkwardly posed like Superman flying through the air, as though unsure of whether what he was doing was cool, and then made his way to the ring.

His opponent, Dmitry Sukhotsky (22-3), was a little known Russian who didn’t figure to be a problem. He wasn’t. Stevenson, a faster, sharper puncher with demonstrably better footwork, outclassed him on his way to a fifth round stoppage. In one sense, it was a bit frustrating to watch, because “Superman” could have ended the fight whenever he wanted. He doesn’t come forward with the relentless aggression of his rival, Sergey Kovalev, but is more of a power-counterpuncher who waits for his opportunity to land his huge left hand. Sometimes he waits too patiently.

Stevenson Dmitry 2
Stevenson easily beat the overmatched Sukhotsky.

Stevenson sent Sukhotsky to the mat in the second round and finished things in the fifth. Three consecutive knockdowns ended with a ruthless left that dropped the Russian on the edge of the mat, where he appeared unconscious. Stevenson did a little jig afterwards but it was more sedate than his unrestrained celebration after knocking out Chad Dawson. Sukhotsky, after all, was not the Russian fans wanted him to fight. That Russian is Kovalev.

Stevenson told Jim Gray afterwards that, as the lineal champion, Kovalev must come to him. This might seem rich to boxing watchers, many of whom consider Kovalev a superior fighter with a better pedigree. Kovalev has a March date with Pascal in Montreal. If he wins, and most believe he will, we will finally, hopefully, see the division’s two biggest punchers in the ring together. As Stevenson told Gray: “I’ll let Al Haymon and Groupe Yvon Michel take care of [the negotiations]. Me, my job is to go in the ring and knock everybody out.” Sure, that sounds promising, given Haymon’s track record of making desirable fights. Rather than relying on Haymon and Michel, maybe  “Superman” should use his supernatural powers to assert more control over his career, and in doing so, save the boxing world from more inconsequential fights. Just kidding. That won’t happen.

— Eliott McCormick

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