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The Fight Corner: Adonis Stevenson is showing the spirit of a champion

WBC light heavyweight boxing champion Adonis Stevenson gestures during the weigh-in for his match ag
Adonis Stevenson before his fight against Oleksandr Gvozdyk.
(Jacques Boissinot / Associated Press)

Hi, my name is Lance Pugmire, and welcome to our weekly boxing/MMA newsletter. This newsletter will be delivered right to your inbox every week if you sign up here. Let’s get right to the news.

In the literal fight for his life, former light-heavyweight boxing champion Adonis Stevenson is producing his most inspired performance yet.

After his Dec. 1 knockout loss to new World Boxing Council champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk in Quebec City, Canada, Stevenson lapsed into a coma that lasted six weeks.

“Adonis has come a long way. The doctors didn’t think Adonis would make it through, because he was brain dead the night of the fight, and then they said the same thing a couple of days later,” his fiancée, Simone “Sisi” God, said.

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It was a stunning development given the athletic wonder that the power-punching Stevenson, 41, stood as while winning every fight from April 2010 to May 2018 and wearing the WBC belt from 2013 until that December night.

Simone God said she was warned by physicians that the toll of Stevenson’s brain injury might be so severe that he wouldn’t recognize her or their newborn daughter, who was born Nov. 6 -- or the success of his boxing career.

“They told me it’s not like the movies,” she said as his condition began to stabilize.

Yet, when Stevenson (29-2-1, 24 KOs) opened his eyes and first talked while in the Quebec City hospital, his first words to his fiancée were, “I want to see the end of the fight … .”

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“To see him talk and walk is a shock to all – not to me, particularly – but to the doctors,” she said. “It’s beyond a miracle that he’s alive and able to walk and talk. It’s because he’s so strong, because he’s healthy, mentally strong, doesn’t do alcohol or drugs and because of all the ongoing love he’s received. He’s coming out of it … .

“He was still in love with me. He recognized his daughter. I’m so happy to see this. He’s been the ‘Superman’ he’s nicknamed for. The doctors have said he’s not a normal human being.”

Stevenson was not entirely beloved during his career. A former pimp who served 18 months in prison for crimes attached to that activity, Stevenson balked for years at staging a unification bout against Gvozdyk’s close friend and fellow light-heavyweight champion, Sergey Kovalev of Russia.

“He doesn’t deserve to be celebrated,” one female victim of his criminal case told Montreal’s French-language daily La Presse of Stevenson in 2013. “What would he say if that happened to one of his daughters?”

But Stevenson long expressed remorse for the activities of the younger version of himself and committed earnings to charitable endeavors while counseling troubled youths.

And the outpouring from the boxing community has been sincere and continued. The WBC is assisting Stevenson’s recovery. Stevenson’s manager, Yvon Michel, has been a constant visitor.

Gvozdyk, another former opponent, Badou Jack, WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and Muhammad Ali’s wife, Lonnie, have each checked in to provide healing support, Simone God said.

She added that Stevenson was seriously considering the Gvozdyk bout his final fight before the injury clinched that decision.

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“I always felt Adonis was underrated. He’s shown his true power during this,” she said. “He was leading in this last fight, remember.

“In the boxing community, I felt the people didn’t really know him. Those in his entourage know he’s a people’s person. He’s very humble, is close to his fans.

“So I was grateful and happy to see the love from everywhere – the boxing community, the fans – and see how this touched the whole, entire world. They understood this situation. He’s a good person who gave his life to boxing. And it was a reminder that boxers risk their life, not knowing from the next moment if they will ever again see their family, their children … once they step into that ring.”

Stevenson was transferred recently from Quebec City to a hospital near his home in Montreal, and the ongoing recovery time there is unknown as doctors urge his fiancée to remain patient.

“We had brought our daughter to the fight. He held her the night before the fight,” Simone God said. “So when I brought her to Adonis at the hospital, he said, ‘She’s gotten so big … .’ I said, ‘Yes, you were in a coma, babe.’ He was so in love with her, and he couldn’t stop giving her kisses. Seeing that, the medical team was crying – such a beautiful blessing.

“He’s doing so great. I feel he’s going to make a 100% recovery – something usually not seen following such a traumatic brain injury.”

The hope is that Stevenson can return to his actual home, and resume some of his business interests, including real estate ownership.

“We’ve got through the biggest part of the fight, but there’s still a long way to go,” Simone God said. “We’re blessed to be in this situation and we believe things will progress every day Boxing has saved his life. It was the love and the passion for it that has made him continue this fight.”

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Good news or bad?

ESPN announced strong ratings for heavyweight Francis Ngannou’s knockout victory over former UFC champion Cain Velasquez on Sunday at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.

The 1.1 metered rating was the best-rated UFC Fight Night on cable since San Diego’s Dominick Cruz defeated Orange County’s T.J. Dillashaw in January 2016 to win the bantamweight title on Fox.

But the dud of a fight – Velasquez tweaked his knee before getting finished by Ngannou in only 26 seconds – was a dissuading version of the product to new fans on the cable network who were tuning in -- the polar opposite of the action that attracted masses and helped launch the business to a defining cable deal with Spike TV more than a decade ago.

All those watching Sunday heard Arizona-raised Velasquez repeat words that likely resonate from the UFC bosses: “I’m sorry.”

All how you spin it

The real news about Fury’s signing a co-promotional deal with Top Rank that links him to ESPN and will bring him to the U.S. for two fights per year was actually that the deal likely delays what seemed to be the foregone conclusion that he’d stage a spring rematch against Wilder after their riveting Dec. 1 draw at Staples Center.

But since the news was broken by ESPN, the Wilder angle was downplayed.

I think I can speak for most fight fans in saying they’d rather see Wilder-Fury 2 in the spring then know that Fury and ESPN have a new business arrangement that’s likely going to keep that from happening.

Light week

Showtime will air a boxing card from London on Saturday at 12:45 p.m. Pacific in which Big Bear-trained unbeaten heavyweight Joe Joyce of England meets former heavyweight champion Bermane Stiverne.

Given the Fury development, a victorious Joyce may be closer to fighting Wilder than Joyce’s countryman Fury.

Meanwhile, the WBC earlier this month ordered an interim heavyweight title bout between Southland product Dominic Breazeale and England’s Dillian Whyte. The winner of that bout will be positioned to fight Wilder, whose situation for now remains uncertain.

Until next time

Stay tuned for future newsletters. Subscribe here, and I’ll come right to your inbox. Something else you’d like to see? Email me. Or follow me on Twitter: @latimespugmire


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