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Groundswell Builds to Send the Late Dan Goossen Into the Boxing Hall of Fame

Bernard Fernandez

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Groundswell Builds to Send the Late Dan Goossen Into the Boxing Hall of Fame

In New Orleans, some funerals are never a cause for tearful mourning. The life of the recently departed is celebrated with something called a Second Line, with smiling friends and relatives dancing toward the cemetery to the beat of a jazzy brass band at the front of the festive procession.

The late Dan Goossen wasn’t a New Orleanian, but you’d have to figure boxing’s most cheerful promoter and fun-lovingest guy would have appreciated just such a sendoff. Dan the Man was, in the words of younger brother and noted trainer Joe Goossen, “a gregarious guy, a pleasant guy with a lot of swag. He was larger-than-life even to me, and I’m his brother.”

Dan Goossen was four days shy of his 65th birthday when he died of complications from liver cancer in the early morning hours of Sept. 29, 2014. Now, with the five-year anniversary of his passing fast approaching, Goossen’s ardent supporters, with legendarily upbeat publicist Fred Sternburg as the chief drum-beater, are mounting a grassroots campaign to gain the fight game’s most happy fella enshrinement in the International Boxing Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020. Sternburg worked closely with Goossen when both were with now-defunct America Presents from 1998 to 2002, a professional pairing of jokesters to rival Abbott and Costello.

If Team Dan is successful, and there is mounting evidence that it might be, it would be almost appropriate for the IBHOF organizers to bring the Olympia Brass Band up from the Big Easy to sashay along the parade route in Canastota, N.Y., just prior to the June 14 induction ceremony. If there was anything that Dan Goossen enjoyed as much as promoting world championship fights and fighters, it was making sure that a good time was had by all, including media members for whom he organized low-intensity, high-frolic softball and basketball games a couple of days before his events.

“It (induction into the IBHOF) should have happened when he was alive and able to experience and enjoy it,” said Tom Brown, one of Dan’s brothers-in-law and the president of TGB Promotions, an obvious outgrowth of Ten Goose Boxing, the California-based, family-stocked promotional company that Dan began as a vague notion in 1979 before it became a reality in 1982. “To me, he’s been a Hall of Famer for a long time. He definitely left his mark on the boxing business. Name some of the top fighters of his time and Dan was involved with many of them. He promoted Ray Mancini’s last fight, against Greg Haugen. Roy Jones was on the undercard that night. You can go on and on. And the job he did with James Toney, late in Toney’s career, was phenomenal. James was thought to be mostly done when Dan signed him. Same thing with Glen Johnson. Both became Fighters of the Year after everyone had pretty much written them off.”

Not that every Goossen relationship with fighters ended on a cheery note. There was the unfortunate breakup with Ten Goose’s first superstar, middleweight champion Michael Nunn, which came as close as anything to wiping the near-constant smile from Dan’s face. Goossen had moved on to the presidency of America Presents when he became embroiled in a dispute with Bernard Hopkins, and it was more of the same at Goossen Tutor Promotions when Andre Ward, one of Dan’s two Olympic gold medalists (the other being David Reid), left after a similar falling-out.

In a Dec. 10, 1999, story I authored for the Philadelphia Daily News, Dan admitted to frustration at his occasional inability to satisfy the demands of fighters who, after achieving stardom, were insistent on squeezing out every last perk that went with that status.

“One of the biggest disappoints in my 20 years in boxing is Bernard Hopkins,” he said. “He’s right up there with Michael Nunn. I always felt Michael Nunn had the ability to be one of the greatest fighters ever, and I had that same feeling about Bernard. But Nunn never achieved greatness, based upon his own decisions, and it’s too late for him now. With Hopkins, I wanted to have a good relationship with the guy and to enjoy it, but, well, Bernard is Bernard. I’m not going to get in a war of words with Bernard Hopkins. He isn’t happy with what we did; we are.”

Joe Goossen correctly notes that virtually every promoter with a plaque hanging in Canastota has had a history of tension in dealing with fighters, but that the spats involving his brother stung more because they were never just about business. From the outset, those affiliations were uniformly personal, to the point of being almost familial.

“The reasons why those situations hit Dan so hard was because he really liked having relationships with guys that went a step beyond,” Joe said. “He always wanted his fighters to feel as if they were a part of our family, and vice versa. He put his heart and soul into it, every time.

“Look, we were raised by a father who was a homicide detective. My dad always said that loyalty and trust were so important. I think he imbued that into all of us kids. So, obviously, it hurts more when you do everything with the best intentions and somebody still turns on you. But Dan was not one to wallow in any sort of misery. He always maintained a positive attitude and if a relationship with a fighter did go south, he took satisfaction in the knowledge that he had done everything he could to keep that from happening. Dan was not one to get down on life because somebody else wasn’t holding up their end of the bargain.”

The group entry into boxing by the Goossen siblings – 10 in all, eight brothers and two sisters of feisty Irish heritage, hence the Ten Goose moniker – would make for an interesting story in any case, but even more so if you peer behind the curtain to get additional particulars. All of the Goossen kids were athletes of varying degrees of accomplishment, the most notable being Greg, now deceased, who was a good enough baseball player to make the major leagues as a catcher. Dan was almost there with him, skilled enough at hoops to allegedly wangle a training camp invitation from the Dallas Chaparrals of the old American Basketball Association.

“We had a huge living room that had to be 40 feet long,” Joe said of a space that was part sporting goods store, part recreational area and perpetual beehive of activity. “We did a little bit of everything in that room, including boxing. Our lives revolved around sports.”

Or at least they did until adulthood forced the Goossen siblings, with the exception of Greg, to stow most of their athletic dreams. Unable to make an ABA roster despite his nice jump shot and sharp elbows in the paint, Dan spent a decade as a clothing salesman, which explained his affinity for high fashion and deal-closing. Deep down inside, however, he retained a competitive itch that peddling pants and shirts could never satisfactorily scratch.

No wonder the Goossen kids – most of whom were then in their 20s, with a couple in their early 30s – found refuge in weekend barbecues and take-no-prisoners Wiffle ball games on a nice-sized piece of property owned by one of the brothers, Tom, in North Hollywood.

“We’d have Wiffle ball tournaments, on a regulation field we had laid out, and it was great,” Joe recalled. “Other people would come over and they loved it.”

One of the frequent visitors to those gatherings was an ex-fighter named L.C. Morgan, who lived in downtown Los Angeles. He asked Dan if it would be all right if he brought some inner-city kids over. Dan said sure, the more the merrier, and the following weekend Morgan pulled up in a van and “six or seven” preteens and teens spilled out. Morgan had brought some pads with him, which the kids and some of the Goossens took turns whacking with gloved fists. As Morgan readied to leave, he remarked to Dan that “wouldn’t it be great?” if the property also included a boxing ring. Dan could have dismissed it as idle conversation, but it got him to thinking.

When next Morgan and his crew showed up they were stunned to find a quickly erected and structurally sound outdoor ring, a surprise so stirring to Morgan that he broke down in tears of joy. Some sparring sessions ensued and, well, things would never be quite the same for the Goossen clan.

“We strung up lights in the branches of a tree that hung over the ring so we could train guys at night,” Joe said, and the seed that was to blossom into Ten Goose Boxing was planted and began to take root. It was something straight out of an old Our Gang episode from the 1930s where Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla and the crew get together and proclaim “Let’s put on a show!,” except that a few years later that backyard show was getting rave reviews on a much grander scale.

“In 1981 we had a gardener from the neighborhood whose name was Nacho something-or-other,” Joe continued. “He was kind of a rough-looking guy and Dan convinced him to try boxing. He was our first `fighter,’ although he didn’t last long. We were recruiting anyone we could. A used-car salesman, Harry Kazanjian, was one of the first guys we actually got a fight for. Harry probably had eight fights for us. I still see him around sometimes.”

In relatively short order, Dan had graduated to staging cards at a country club in Reseda, Calif., which featured such legit fighters as Frankie Duarte and Randy Shields. The young Ruelas brothers, Gabriel and Rafael, were in the pipeline and in time would go on to become world champions.

But the real breakthrough was when Dan showed up at the 1984 Olympics in LA, where he met Bob Surkien, who had Nunn, an Olympic alternate with vast potential. “Dan somehow got Nunn, who was being recruited by Manny Steward, to come to our gym in September and, as they say, the rest is history,” Joe said.

“We weren’t one of the big players in boxing then, not at all. But we had Dan, who was the ultimate go-getter. When Nunn won the (IBF middleweight) title in 1988 – four years after we signed him – by knocking out Frank Tate, the guy that beat him out of the Olympic berth, Dan said, `Tate might have won the gold medal, but I got the gold nugget.’ And he was right. We turned that gold nugget into something really big.”

It also helped to buff and polish the Dan Goossen brand when, during a fight card in Chicago, Top Rank executive Akbar Muhammad was having difficulty striking a deal with a recalcitrant manager of a fighter TR founder Bob Arum hoped to sign. Muhammad asked Goossen inside the office where the negotiations had hit a snag, and less than five minutes later the two emerged, wearing wide grins. That magic touch led to a long and productive run with Top Rank for Dan, whose reputation as a closer was gathering momentum.

By the time he took ill, Dan Goossen had worked with, in addition to bell cows Nunn, Reid and Toney, such notables as Hall of Famers Mike Tyson and Terry Norris, David Tua, Paul Williams, Joel Casamayor and Lance Whitaker. He also promoted two of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s bouts after “Money’s” split with Top Rank.

As promotional resumes go, Goossen’s would seem to pass any eye test for entry into the exclusive IBHOF club. If his name appears on my ballot, I’d give it a check mark. And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be the only voter to do so.

It does make you wonder, though. What if L.C. Morgan hadn’t happened along, opened his mouth and got an intrigued Dan to construct that ring? What if all that open space had just continued to be used for neighborhood Wiffle ball games?

There’s no way of knowing for sure, but my guess is that Dan Goossen would have gone on to become the first commissioner of a pro Wiffle ball league and first inductee into the Wiffle Ball Hall of Fame that didn’t exist then and still doesn’t.

So much pulsating energy had to be channeled into something, right?

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Three Punch Combo: Gvozdyk-Beterbiev Thoughts and More

Matt Andrzejewski

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Three Punch Combo — For hardcore fans, one of the most attractive fights of the year takes place on Friday when undefeated light heavyweight champions Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-0, 14 KO’s) and Artur Beterbiev (14-0, 14 KO’s) battle in a title unification bout. This contest will headline an ESPN televised card from the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, PA. Here are a few subtle things that could play a factor in how this fight plays out.

A Tactical Fight?

Twenty years ago, Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad met in a welterweight title unification fight. It was a super fight between two explosive punchers. Everyone expected fireworks, but as we all know, it turned into an all-out chess match for twelve rounds.

When two big punchers meet, sometimes we get fireworks and sometimes each fighter respects the other’s power so much that they both become somewhat tentative inside the ring.

Keep in mind we have seen in several Gvozdyk fights a somewhat cautious approach. He will take what is given and nothing more. As for Beterbiev, he has typically been a very aggressive fighter (more on that later) but has had his moments where caution has entered his mindset. Just take a look back at his 2017 fight with Enrico Koelling.

I know it is the unpopular opinion but we could certainly see a very tactical chess match between these two on Friday.

Beterbiev’s Defense and Chin

Beterbiev, as noted, is a very aggressive fighter. But with that aggression comes an almost complete lack of focus on the defensive side of the game.

So far, Beterbiev’s offense has been his best defense as many times his opponents have simply been too fearful of opening up. But at times the cracks have shown. Callum Johnson, for example, wasn’t afraid to throw in spots and when he did, his punches landed.

In that fight, we saw Beterbiev get hurt and dropped. Beterbiev showed a ton of heart to come back from that moment and later stop Johnson, but his chin is certainly a question mark. And Gvozdyk, aside from carrying one-punch power, is a very sharp and accurate puncher who has shown excellent finishing skills thus far in his career.

Gvozdyk’s Mindset

A little more than ten months ago, Gvozdyk wrested away the title from Adonis Stevenson. But on what was supposed to be the night where Gvozdyk’s dream came true, things almost turned tragic as Stevenson suffered a brain bleed that nearly took his life.

Gvozdyk has had one fight since against journeyman Doudou Ngumbu. Though Gvozdyk won easily, there was something about his performance that just didn’t feel right. Gvozdyk had a fighter in front of him who offered little resistance but seemingly didn’t want to fully step on the gas.

In order to compete with Beterbiev, we have to see the same Gvozdyk that we saw against Stevenson. But has Gvozdyk’s mindset permanently been altered by the events of that evening?

Under The Radar Fight

A pivotal crossroads bout in the welterweight division between Luis Collazo (39-7, 20 KO’s) and Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (16-0, 9 KO’s) is also on Friday’s ESPN broadcast. The winner will be in prime position for a title shot in 2020.

Collazo, a world welterweight titlist back in 2005, is in the midst of yet another career resurrection. After getting stopped by defending WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman in 2015, Collazo has won three straight. And these wins were not against subpar opposition. Two were against up-and-coming young fighters in Sammy Vasquez and Bryant Perrella; the other against fringe contender Samuel Vargas.

At age 38, Collazo has proven he still has plenty in the tank and has clawed back up the rankings in the welterweight division. But to get one more shot at a title, Collazo must find a way to get past another young up-and-comer in Uzbekistan’s Abdukakhorov.

Abdukakhorov, 26, is coming off the biggest win of his pro career this past March when he won a 12-round unanimous decision over former 140-pound title challenger Keita Obara. That win boosted Abdukakhorov into the number one position in the IBF at welterweight and in line to one day be the mandatory challenger for current belt-holder Errol Spence Jr.

Stylistically, I love this matchup. Abdukakhorov is an aggressive boxer-puncher. He will look to press the attack and won’t be afraid to lead looking to land his best punch which is the overhand right. Collazo is a southpaw who is a natural counterpuncher. He will look to make Abdukakhorov’s aggression work against him and should find plenty of opportunities to do so.

I think we are going to get an action-packed, competitive fight. This should serve as an excellent appetizer to Gvozdyk-Beterbiev.

What’s Next For Dmitry Bivol?

This past Saturday, Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11 KO’s) successfully defended his WBA light heavyweight title with a wide unanimous decision over Lenin Castillo (20-3-1, 15 KO’s). Though it wasn’t the most exciting performance, the win keeps Bivol in line for bigger opportunities down the road. So, what’s next for him?

Saturday’s title defense marked Bivol’s second consecutive appearance on the streaming service DAZN. DAZN needs future opponents for its two biggest stars in Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. Clearly part of the reason for DAZN showing interest in Bivol is geared toward him potentially getting one or the other down the road.

Though Alvarez is fighting at light heavyweight in November, this appears to be a one-time appearance for the Mexican superstar in that division. He is likely headed back to middleweight or the 168-pound weight class. As for Golovkin, he has fought his entire 13-year career at middleweight. A move at some point soon to 168 would not be a surprise.

Bivol and his team have made it very clear that he can get down to 168. With DAZN’s two biggest stars hovering around that division, a move down to 168 seems likely.

The WBA champion at 168 is Callum Smith who is slated for a title defense in November against UK countryman John Ryder. Assuming Smith prevails, he would make a logical opponent for Bivol in the spring of 2020.

Smith-Bivol would be a big fight between two young undefeated fighters and the winner would then be in position for a mega fight later in 2020 against either Alvarez or Golovkin.

But what if Smith goes a different direction following the Ryder fight? If that is the case, Bivol may instead just look to dip his toes in the water at 168 with someone like Rocky Fielding.

Fielding is a tough, gritty competitor who is popular in the UK and has name recognition in the US based on his fight last December with Canelo. But as we saw in that fight, Fielding is very limited.

Fielding is just the type of opponent who could bring out the best in Bivol. A spectacular knockout would help erase some of Bivol’s recent lackluster performances. And this would, of course, make Bivol much more marketable for a future date with Alvarez or Golovkin.

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The First Coming of George Foreman: A Retrospective

Rick Assad

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This coming Oct. 30 is the 45th anniversary of the Ali-Foreman fight. Boxing has had its fair share of memorable fights across the decades, but few have been more talked about than “The Rumble in the Jungle.”

The 60,000 fans in attendance watching at the 20th of May Stadium in Kinshasa, Zaire and the record–setting one billion viewers taking it in around the globe, including 50 million who watched via pay-per-view on closed circuit television, will never forget what happened inside the ring.

Foreman, who was recognized as the world heavyweight champion by the World Boxing Association and World Boxing Council, the only sanctioning bodies that mattered, entered with a 40-0 record and 37 knockouts. Ali owned a 44-2 mark with 31 knockouts, but wasn’t the same fighter after being stripped of his titles and missing three-and-a-half years between 1967 and 1970 after refusing induction into the military based on his religious convictions.

Both stood 6-feet-3. Foreman weighed 220 pounds and Ali 216, but the latter was giving away seven years in age, 32 to 25.

The fight commenced with Ali on the offensive, but Foreman, a 4-to-1 betting favorite, rallied to close the gap by the end of the opening frame.

In the second round, Ali allowed “Big George” to bang away at his arms and body, using what he later described as the “rope-a-dope,” which helped tire Foreman out.

As the fight continued, Foreman’s once fierce arsenal was reduced to half its potency and in the eighth round Ali eventually found his range.

Ali now threw punches at will, and when Ali buzzed Foreman with a quick right and knocked him to the canvas, Zack Clayton, the referee, had seen enough.

Having lost for the first time as a professional, Foreman was bitter and even claimed that his trainer and manager, Dick Sadler, put something in his water just minutes before the opening bell.

“It’s not like the water beat me,” Foreman said in writer Jonathan Eig’s biography, “Ali.” “Muhammad beat me. With a straight right hand. Fastest right hand I’d ever been hit with in my life. That’s what beat me. But they put drugs in my water.”

In time, though, Foreman would mellow, saying, “Before that, I had nothing but revenge and hate on my mind, but from then on, it was clear. I’ll never be able to win that match, so I had to let it go. It just wasn’t my night.”

The Road to Zaire

Foreman’s sweet and outgoing personality wasn’t on display when he began his pro career shortly after winning a gold medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

To the contrary, Foreman was a mean and angry young man after spending his childhood in Houston’s tough Fifth Ward.

Growing up with six siblings and without much on the table to eat will create a crusty exterior.

Everyone needs an escape. Football was that for Foreman, who idolized Jim Brown, arguably the NFL’s greatest running back.

But it was boxing that saved him and helped turn his hardscrabble life around.

At 15, Foreman grew tired of high school and dropped out, joining the Job Corps.

This is where he was introduced to boxing and through hard work and dedication went on to earn a berth on the U.S. Olympic boxing team, going on to win a gold medal at the 1968 Summer Games.

This was a turbulent year. It was the year in which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy, a Presidential hopeful, were assassinated. Blacks were rioting in many American cities over grievances including police harassment, the Viet Nam War was raging half a world away and college students were protesting our involvement in that very unpopular war.

This was the ugly backdrop against which the 1968 Olympic Games were being contested.

Two black American track stars, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, were front and center in Mexico City after placing first and third respectively in the 200-meter dash. At the medal stand, Smith and Carlos raised their clenched fists wrapped in black gloves skyward while the National Anthem played, which triggered a chorus of boos from those inside the stadium.

Foreman waltzed through each round of the heavyweight tournament and took the gold medal by stopping Lithuania’s Jonas Cepulis, representing the Soviet Union, in the second round.

Foreman then pulled out a small American flag and walked around the ring, bowing to the crowd.

Many Americans fell in love with Foreman because of that simple gesture of waving the flag.

“I had a lot of flak,” said Foreman years later of the flag-waving incident. “In those days, nobody was applauded for being patriotic. The whole world was protesting something. But if I had to do it all again, I’d have waved two flags.”

Foreman’s professional career began in grand fashion in June 1969 at New York’s Madison Square Garden when he scored a third-round TKO over Don Waldhelm.

The next six fights concluded by knockout or TKO before Foreman triumphed over Peruvian trial horse Roberto Davila by unanimous decision at the Garden in October 1969.

Three more victories followed by knockout or TKO before Foreman registered a unanimous decision over journeyman Levi Forte in Miami Beach in December 1969.

With three more wins coming by knockout or TKO, Foreman was now 15-0.

In his next fight, Argentine veteran Gregorio Peralta extended him the 10-round distance, after which Foreman won 24 in a row inside the distance, including a 10th round TKO of Peralta in a rematch in May 1971 at the Oakland County Coliseum Arena where he grabbed his first championship belt, the North American Boxing Federation strap.

Ten victories followed including a second round TKO over undefeated Joe Frazier in Kingston, Jamaica, in January 1973, where he took away Frazier’s WBA and WBC world title belts.

Foreman then knocked out Jose Roman in the first round in Tokyo, Japan in September 1973 and followed that up with a second round TKO of Ken Norton in Caracas, Venezuela in March 1974. Then it was off to Zaire to meet Ali with the unified title at stake.

Post-Ali

In January 1976 Foreman returned to the ring after a 16-month absence and knocked out Ron Lyle in the fifth round at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in The Ring magazine Fight of the Year. Four more wins by TKO would follow before losing a 12-round unanimous decision to Jimmy Young in March 1977 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In the dressing room after the fight, Foreman, suffering from heatstroke and exhaustion, said he had a near-death experience in which he claimed to have been in a hellish place of nothingness and despair. Foreman pleaded with God to save him.

Foreman said God told him to change his ways and at that moment he became a born-again Christian, dedicating his life to his Lord.

Foreman stopped fighting and became a streetcorner evangelist before opening his own church, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in Houston.

Foreman focused his attention on his family and congregation and opened a youth center in his name

He was only 28 years old when he turned his back on boxing and a decade would pass before he would re-enter the sport.

Second Coming

In November of 1994, twenty years after he lost to Ali, Foreman, now 45 years old, upset Michael Moorer with a 10th round knockout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and became the oldest fighter ever to win a championship.

Regaining the title was a byproduct of Foreman’s desire to raise money for his congregation.

Today, Foreman is a bigger-than-life personality who draws people to him.

Young and old, black and white and everything in-between gravitate to the 70-year-old, two-time heavyweight champion like a magnet.

Boxing did indeed rescue George Foreman who concluded his Hall of Fame career with 76 wins, five losses and 68 knockouts.

old george

“If I hadn’t found boxing, I wouldn’t have been able to fulfill half of my dreams,” he said. “In fact, I didn’t know how to dream until I found boxing.”

Very few fighters rise through the ranks and claim a world championship title. To replicate this achievement after being off for a decade is truly incredible.

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Life After DOOMSDAY: Assessing the Career of “Superman” Stevenson

Jeffrey Freeman

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On December 1, 2018, the five-year reign of Adonis “Superman” Stevenson came to a violent end in the eleventh round of a WBC light heavyweight title fight in Quebec City, Canada. The 41-year-old defending champion was battling to make the tenth defense of the world championship he’d won in 2013 with a shocking first round knockout of “Bad” Chad Dawson in Montreal.

Hammered into defeat so severely by new champion Oleksandr “The Nail” Gvozdyk, Stevenson was hospitalized where he spent six weeks in an induced coma to save his life.

To his haters on Twitter and beyond, this was welcomed as overdue karma—poetic justice. To everyone else, it was seen as a great fight up for grabs before Gvozdyk grabbed the victory.

Support from within the global boxing community for the wounded pugilist has been positive and encouraging. That same dynamic is happening again on social media for Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr., the welterweight champion injured in a car wreck last Thursday in Dallas, Texas.

Now in long-term recovery while healing from a boxing-related brain injury, the boxing life of Adonis “Superman” Stevenson is officially over. His career is a closed book. Let’s review it.

TRUTH AND JUSTICE

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1977, Stevenson immigrated to Canada with his family in 1984. Writing last year for The Fight City online, author Ralph M. Semien illustrates what followed:

“By 14 he was out of control, spending time on the streets, and soon enough he was part of a violent gang and headed for disaster. Eventually he became involved in an organized sex-for-hire service in Montreal. Stevenson was arrested, tried, convicted and he served his jail time. When released from prison in 2001, he made a pact with himself to turn his back on the street gang lifestyle and everyone associated with it, that he would never again break the law.”

GRAPHIC NOVEL

Five years later in 2006 after a successful campaign in the amateurs where he boxed at middleweight for Canada and won a pair of national titles for his new country, Stevenson turned professional at super middleweight under the promotional guidance of Yvon Michel. His was your typical boxing story of overcoming a troubled past to carve out a brighter, better future.

He ran his record to 13-0 against gradually increasing competition before a 2010 setback TKO against so-called journeyman Darnell Boone. Buzzed late in the opening frame by a sneaky right uppercut and a hard left hook, Stevenson was easy pickins for Boone early in the second round.

A year later, Stevenson returned to the ring; winning six fights and a few minor super middleweight title belts. Most importantly during this transitional period in his career, Stevenson avenged his upset loss to Boone, punishing “Deezol” before knocking him out cold in the sixth.

“He definitely got better and earned his spot,” concedes Boone.

When an opportunity came to fight for the WBC light heavyweight title in 2013, Stevenson took full advantage, putting Chad Dawson down and out with a single, lethal left hook to the chin. The reign of Superman was up, up and away and boxing seemed to welcome its new action hero.

But not so fast, speeding bullet.

American fans and media never let Stevenson forget about his checkered past as a convicted street hustler. And if all that wasn’t enough, soon they were labeling him a “ducker” and a “cherry picker” for his apparent refusal to fight Sergey Kovalev and/or Eleider Alvarez.

Despite the constant negative press painting him as the bad guy, he was actually a very likeable man with a huge smile. Stevenson was also wildly popular in Canada and his title fights were entertaining events where more often than not, he left opponents twitching in a mangled heap.

Unsatisfied with Stevenson’s choice of title challengers, Oscar De La Hoya’s The Ring magazine in 2015 officially withdrew (stripped) its recognition of Stevenson as the “real” World Light Heavyweight Champion. To the Bible of Boxing, Stevenson was an unrepentant sinner.

By that point, Stevenson had made six defenses of his WBC light heavyweight title with wins against Tavoris Cloud, Tony Bellew, Andrzej Fonfara, Dmitry Sukhotskiy, Sakio Bika and Tommy Karpency. That super-fight with “Krusher” Kovalev never happened and it never will.

Who’d have won?

Does it even matter anymore?

I’ll give common opponent Darnell Boone the last word on it. “Kovalev. Because he’s the more sound boxer. Adonis did the same thing in every fight. Paw with the jab, paw with the jab, left.”

“He never really mixed it up,” insists Boone. “Kovalev is throwing combinations. He’s moving, punching off the angles. He knows exactly how to use his height and leverage with his punches. Kovalev keeps you on the outside, away from getting on the inside on him. He fights tall.”

That’s all true but was there more to Stevenson’s game than just predictable one-punch power with the left hand? Trained by Javon “Sugar” Hill, Stevenson was a KRONK fighter. He improved as he got older and deeper into his profession. His southpaw offense was almost always good enough to be his defense. Trading with him was suicidal. And as a body puncher, he was underrated.

In 2016, he knocked out Thomas Williams Jr. with a viciously quick left hook. In 2017, he rematched Fonfara and blew him away in two rounds. In 2018, before the Doomsday loss to Gvozdyk, there was a grueling, disputed draw with super middleweight Badou Jack.

I had Stevenson up by a point in a war that should’ve garnered more consideration for Fight of the Year honors. Unfortunately, the anti-climactic draw took some of the shine off a classic.

If only the Al Haymon-handled fighter had been more willing to mix it up with the big names, critics would probably be more kind to him today, especially if he’d beaten Kovalev, something that doesn’t exactly look like an impossibility when looking back at the proposed match-up.

Against Ward and Alvarez, Kovalev showed susceptibility to a determined attack, particularly to the body. In his penultimate fight against “The Ripper” Jack, Stevenson put the kind of hurt on Badou’s body late in the fight that may have been very difficult for Kovalev to overcome.

THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN

How should Stevenson be viewed in the light of light heavyweight history? Keep in mind that not everybody was so thrilled to get in the ring with him. Edwin “La Bomba” Rodriguez spoke for years of facing him “in the future” but in the end it was all just talk. After Rodriquez was knocked out by Williams Jr. in 2016, Williams Jr. was knocked out by Stevenson three months later.

Though he’ll never be rated as one of the all-time greats in the weight class, Stevenson should be recognized for what he actually was. Not just a champion, Stevenson was THE champion.

He beat the man who beat Bernard Hopkins. He was a one-punch power puncher, an action fighter, a defending world champion until he could defend that world championship no more.

Along the way, Stevenson picked up a Fighter of the Year award in 2013 while many of his knockouts were considered Knockout of the Year candidates. He was the WBC light heavyweight champion for sixty-six months, an unusually long time in today’s watered-down era of weight jumping and belt dumping. He retained his world title nine times, with only Bika, Fonfara, and Jack going the distance. Stevenson’s final record is 29-2-1 with 24 KO’s.

DOOMSDAY CLOCKED

And so with the Teddy Atlas trained Gvozdyk beating him senseless in the corner last December, boxing’s ultimate kryptonite (time) finally caught up to Superman Stevenson but not before the Haitian sensation made his improbable impact on the modern boxing landscape.

Stevenson Gvozdyk Wescott 770x513

Stevenson’s desire to become a boxing champion probably saved his life while his desire to remain a boxing champion nearly cost him his life. We don’t yet know the final butcher’s bill.

What we do know is that Stevenson has had to relearn how to walk and talk. That’s how unpredictable and ironic this sport is: a PBC fighter supposedly protected by Al Haymon was nearly killed by an undefeated Ukrainian clearly up to the challenge of fighting (and beating) him.

Last week Stevenson uploaded a video on Instagram. He’s seen in the gym, moving on his feet, wearing a pair of pink boxing gloves while lightly working over a heavy bag as fiance Simone God and their new daughter Adonia look on. “I love you,” posted God to her miraculous man.

To review: Stevenson Adonis escaped his dying homeland before it imploded. He then crash-landed in Canada where he was adopted by the Canadian people. He did the crime(s) then he did the time; paying whatever debt he owed to society for his transgressions. He won and lost his battles by the power of his own fists. As a human being, he is truly transformed.

“Superman” Stevenson is dead.

Long live Adonis Stevenson…

EDITOR’S NOTE: After receiving this story, yet another boxer suffered a serious head injury. Patrick Day, a 27-year-old junior middleweight from Freeport, New York, was knocked out by Charles Conwell in the tenth-round last night on the Usyk-Witherspoon undercard and is now fighting for his life in a Chicago area hospital where he has been placed in a medically induced coma. On behalf of the entire editorial staff at The Sweet Science, I’d like to offer our thoughts and prayers for Day’s full recovery.

Boxing Writer Jeffrey Freeman grew up in the City of Champions, Brockton, Massachusetts from 1973 to 1987, during the Marvelous career of Marvin Hagler. JFree then lived in Lowell, Mass during the best years of Irish Micky Ward’s illustrious career. A new member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a Bernie Award Winner in the Category of Feature Under 1500 Words, Freeman covers boxing for The Sweet Science in New England.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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