MONTREAL â€” Light-heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson got top billing but there were three boxers who feel they can beat him sitting at the same table during a news conference Friday to announce his long-awaited next fight.
Stevenson (28-1) is to take on Andrzej Fonfara (29-4) in a rematch of their closely disputed 2013 meeting June 3 at the Bell Centre. But the co-feature is perhaps more intriguing with former champion Jean Pascal (31-4-1) up against the opponent Stevenson is supposed to fight _ top-ranked contender Eleider Alvarez (22-0).
Of course, because it's boxing, not much makes sense to anyone other than the promoters and television networks (in this case, the Showtime specialty channel) that carry the fights.
Stevenson, 39, is making the eighth defence of the World Boxing Council title he won with a stunning first-round knockout of Chad Dawson in 2013. The list of victims who have challenged him since is hardly a Who's Who of the division. For a variety of reasons, he has avoided clashes with top light heavyweights like Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward, not to mention Pascal and Alvarez.
His most recent bout was a knockout of unheralded Thomas Williams Jr. last July.
Almost 11 months later, he will face the 29-year-old Fonfara, a native of Poland who gave him perhaps the best run for his money. Twice Fonfara was knocked down early by Stevenson's crushing left hand, but got up and scored a knockdown of his own while winning most of the late rounds. The right-hander was convinced he'd done enough to take Stevenson's belt.
"I know Fonfara, he's a good boxer and he has a good trainer (Virgil Hunter)," said Stevenson. "I'll train really hard for this fight."
Since losing to Stevenson, Fonfara has beaten former champions Dawson, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Nathan Cleverly. But he was also knocked out in the first round last June by unfancied Joe Smith Jr.
The fight card would suggest that the winners would later face off against each other. But Stevenson said he'd prefer to go after a title unification against Kovalev or Ward, even though previous attempts to arrange those bouts have fallen through.
Pascal, who held the WBC title from 2009 to 2011, is Stevenson's opposite. He hasn't hesitated to take on the best in the world and he suffered for it with a crushing loss to Carl Froch in England before moving up to light heavyweight and losing his title to the crafty Bernard Hopkins in 2011.
He also fought and lost twice to Kovalev.
That may be why Pascal keeps getting opportunities. A win over Alvarez will make him the mandatory title challenger to Stevenson, who he has waged wars of words with on social media in a vain attempt to goad the champion into fighting him.
At the news conference, Stevenson put an arm around his fellow Haitian-born, Montreal-raised fighter and reminded him of an offer his camp made that would have paid Pascal 30 per cent of the purse. Pascal reportedly had demanded at least a 50-50 split.
"I'm the cash cow of the division, and I'm also a crowd pleaser," said Pascal. "I always give a great show and I always try to take on the biggest challenge possible.
"Right now my only focus is on Alvarez because he knows me well. His coach (Marc Ramsay) knows me by heart, so if I start thinking about other stuff I might get surprised and we might end up with an Alvarez-Fonfara fight."
Ramsay now trains Alvarez, a Colombian based in Montreal who's coming off a convincing win over former super-middleweight champion Lucian Bute in February.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press