The 36-year-old Stevenson (23-1-0, 20 KOs) laid his claim as the world’s No. 1 light heavyweight with an exceptional 2013 campaign that included knockout victories over Chad Dawson and Tavoris Cloud, earning him The Ring Magazine award for “Fighter of the Year.” The 26-year-old Fonfara (25-2-0, 15 KOs), of Chicago by way of Warsaw, Poland, is the No. 3 contender in the WBC and holds victories over three former world champions in his last five fights. Fonfara has won 15 fights in a row, 12 by knockout, and has never been defeated as a light heavyweight.
In co-featured fights this Saturday, May 24, on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING, power-punching, world-ranked Montreal middleweight David Lemieux (31-2, 29 KOs) meets Fernando Guerrero (26-2, 19 KOs) of Salisbury, Md., in a 10-round bout, and Houston’s unbeaten rising star Jermell Charlo (23-0, 11 KOs) takes on Japan’s Charlie Ohta (24-1-1, 16 KOs) in a 12-round junior middleweight match.
On SHO EXTREME (7 p.m. ET/PT) from the Bell Centre, Julian “J-Rock” Williams (15-0-1, 9 KOs), of Philadelphia, faces Michael Medina (26-4-2, 19 KOs), of Modesto, Calif., in a 10-round junior middleweight scrap and world-ranked Eleider Alvarez (14-0, 8 KOs), of Montreal by way Colombia, collides with Alexander Johnson (15-1, 6 KOs), of Washington, D.C., in a 10-round light heavyweight bout.
Here’s what the participants had to say on Tuesday’s call:
Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President & General Manager, SHOWTIME Sports:
“This event is a long time coming, at least for us here at SHOWTIME. We’ve wanted Adonis to fight on SHOWTIME for quite a while. Personally, I became interested a few years back when Emanuel Steward first mentioned Adonis to me. We had Adonis scheduled to fight on SHOWTIME back in 2012 until some bad luck intervened. So, we’ve been waiting for Superman, if you will, for some time.
“Andrzej is not someone to look past. He is a very good puncher. He is a very good boxer and I think his boxing skills are underrated. I believe this Stevenson-Fonfara main event is going to be a lot tougher than many of you may think. I said it about Matthysse-Molina a couple of weeks ago. And I said the same for Mayweather-Maidana. I expect a very competitive fight in our main event.”
Q: How devastating would it be if Adonis was to lose this fight?
“I don’t think devastating is the right way to describe it. My sense of Adonis is that he’s got his own motivation; whether it’s losing the title or a unification fight, that’s all secondary. He wants to win because he’s used to winning and he wants to keep winning. … No one should be ashamed in losing this fight. This is a well-matched, competitive fight. Here at the network, our goal is to televise a title unification fight eventually. We don’t have any particular preferences on who the titlists are. We would just like to be able to televise and bring to the fans a fight that would result in a unified light heavyweight title. I will say that a good amount of the fascination with Adonis and his popularity is that he is such a big puncher and he has these highlight-reel knockouts. That’s something that’s not going to go away with a loss here or a loss there. It does throw a wrench in his plans for a unification fight, but there’s still plenty of value and interest in Adonis as a fighter.”
Yvon Michel, Adonis Stevenson’s promoter:
“Adonis has won his last 10 fights by knockout. While you progress in the rankings and when you get better opposition, usually the knockout ratio starts slimming down. But it has been the other way around for Adonis. The better the opposition, the more he wanted to win the fight, and the easier it became to get better timing and knock out his opponent.
“(Adonis) is an exceptional puncher with both hands and can hurt you and knock you out with one punch at any time in the fight. Anytime a fighter comes into the fight with a plan, all that strategy goes out the window the very first time he gets hit by Adonis.”
“I’m very focused for this fight. I’m not overlooking him. I know he’s going to be ready and I’m training for just him. I take it one fight at a time and I will take care of business. I’m ready for this fight.
“I’m not here to lose. I’m a champion and I’m here to win. By knockout. That’s it and I’m not concerned about anything else.”
Q: What are your motivations for seeking a path that would lead you to a fight with Bernard Hopkins as opposed to one that was talked about with Sergey Kovalev?
“You know, I want to be a legend and I want to be on par with all the boxing legends so that gives me a lot of motivation to push my body very, very hard and at a high level and keep training and focus fight by fight. I’m very motivated.”
Q: How do you respond to some of the people who look at the decision you made and say, ‘Bernard is a great name and (Adonis) has a tough fight with Fonfara, but he’s ducking Kovalev because of the deal that you accepted.’ How do you respond to those people?
“Those people don’t understand that boxing is a business. That’s our mentality. That we negotiate with the network and we make sure that everyone gets paid. That’s why I took it because I’m working with the best managers in the world and they make sure everything is right with the network, and everything. It’s not about ducking, it’s about business. I don’t have a problem fighting Kovalev. I have a feeling that Yvon Michel will one day make that happen.”
Q: You came up as a fighter who worked with Emanuel Steward. What affect did he have, not only on your professional career, but what impact did he have on you as a person inside the ring and outside?
“You know, Emanuel gave me a lot of advice and motivation. And it’s not just about training. He was a friend to me and we spent a lot of time talking about life. And we talked about boxing and what it would be like to be a world champion. A couple of years ago he didn’t have any money, he didn’t save nothing. And he explained that to me and I took his advice. He told me I was going to be the world champion and that I was going to be a star.”
Q: What is Fonfara’s style, his strengths and his weaknesses?
“I don’t know. I’m gonna knock him out. That’s what I’m going to do. I don’t know his game plan. I’m going to knock him out.”
Q: Is Bernard Hopkins next up for you?
“I don’t care about Hopkins now. Fonfara is in front of me, and that’s it. After the fight we can talk about Hopkins.
“When you used to watch Mike Tyson fight, you knew someone was going to get knocked out. That’s what is going to happen on SHOWTIME. Somebody’s going to get knocked out.”
Leon Margules, Andrzej Fonfara’s promoter:
“Andrzej is a great young fighter and we believe a future champion. We’re not discrediting the year Adonis Stevenson had and we’re certainly not predicting an easy fight, but Andrzej believes, and I believe, that he can win the world title on Saturday night.
“When I first saw Andrzej Fonfara I asked him of all the champions and all the fighters and all the opportunities that you may have, who do you want to fight? Anybody you want. And for any world title you want. And he said, ‘I want to fight Adonis Stevenson for the WBC light heavyweight championship.’ So, he is very, very excited and I know he’s thrilled to be on SHOWTIME because it will be his first experience on premium television.”
“Everything is going right. My training camp is almost ended. We trained for a couple of weeks in Chicago and then we flew to Big Bear in California. We trained in Abel Sanchez’s gym in Summit for like three weeks and then we came here. I’m ready for this fight and I’ve had good sparring partners and have had good preparation.”
Q: Do you think you’ve been overlooked by Adonis, and if so how is that beneficial to you?
“No. I don’t think like that. This business is like that and you must think about your next fight. Adonis should think about his next fight. I want to focus on this fight and it’s not a problem to talk about that. It’s normal.”
Q: What is your game plan?
“I don’t want to say it here. You will see when I get into the ring. I don’t want to say anything about my plan.”
Q: Is there a different preparation or approach you have to take when facing a guy with the knockout power as Adonis Stevenson?
“No. We do the same preparation as always. We change a little bit because he’s a southpaw and he has a different style. We have good sparring partners and I am ready physically and mentally.”