Adonis Stevenson finally facing some real competition

Adonis “Superman” Stevenson is one of the longest-reigning boxing world champions. He also is one of the least respected.

That’s mainly because in his five years as a light heavyweight champion, Stevenson has defended his belt against a parade of forgettable opponents while dodging more dangerous foes

That ends Saturday night when Badou Jack challenges Stevenson for his WBC light heavyweight title at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Showtime will televise the bout, presented by Premier Boxing Champions as part of a split doubleheader that also features WBC featherweight champ Gary Russell Jr., defending his belt against Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md.

Stevenson is 29-1 with 24 knockouts and viewed as one of the hardest punchers in the sport. The southpaw slugger has won four of his past five fights by knockout as is one of the last fighters trained by the late Emanuel Steward. He should be a star, but Stevenson stays within a comfort zone that irks boxing fans.

The Haitian-born, Canada-based boxer hasn’t fought outside of Canada since 2011 and his recent list of opponents — Andrzej Fonfara, Thomas Williams Jr., Tommy Karpency, Sakio Bika and Dmitry Sukhotskiy — aren’t exactly top-tier talent. What also hurts Stevenson’s legacy is his reluctance to face Sergey Kovalev before the Russian lost back-to-back fights to Andre Ward. It would have been a huge matchup in 2014 but has lost some luster now.

Inactivity has also worked against Stevenson’s popularity. He has defended his title just eight times since stopping Chad Dawson in the first round of their 2013 bout in Montreal.

Stevenson, 40, makes no apologies for his record or the frustration he has sometimes caused boxing fans.

“I know that I’ve accomplished some great things and me and my team plan to continue to do everything we can to stay on top,” he said. “I’m the best fighter in this division, period. When I win, I’ll just be doing my job. People might still talk trash, but I’ll still be the champ.”

Jack (22-1-2, 13 KOs) has more credibility than Stevenson’s past opponents. Born in Sweden and based in Las Vegas, where he’s under the tutelage of Mayweather Promotions, Jack won the WBC super middleweight title before moving up to capture the WBA light heavyweight belt by knocking out former champion Nathan Cleverly in the fifth round last August in Las Vegas. He relinquished that belt for the chance to fight Stevenson.

“I asked for the Adonis Stevenson fight a long time ago and the Cleverly fight got me there,” Jack said. “We’ve been talking to Floyd [Mayweather] a long time about this fight. He always said that I was going to fight Stevenson. Now I just have to take advantage of the opportunity.”

If Jack can endure Stevenson’s punching power, he’ll have a chance to claim his third world title.

“Adonis is definitely my toughest opponent on paper,” Jack said. “But that doesn’t mean he will be the toughest on fight night. He’s definitely a good fighter, but I’m a better fighter.”

Stevenson last went the distance in 2015 and will be looking for an early ending Saturday night.

“I’m always looking for the knockout,” he said. “I’m still ready for 12 rounds, but I want the stoppage every time. I’m hungry for knockouts. If Badou comes in aggressive, this could end very quickly. You have to step into the ring with me to understand my power. If I connect right just one time, that’s it, lights out.”

Meanwhile, Russell (28-1, 17 KOs) will be making the third defense of his title against Diaz (26-0, 14 KOs), a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” Diaz said. “Fighting for a world title against Gary Russell Jr. is a dream come true.”

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