Retired, former light heavyweight world champion Adonis Stevenson [29-2-1, 24 KO’s], of Montreal, Quebec, continues to rebuild his life after a near tragedy that took place in the ring a couple of years ago against [now retired] former world champion Aleksandr Gvozdyk [17-1, 14 KO’s].
Stevenson had ruled a portion of the light heavyweight landscape over the previous 5 years as the WBC world champion at 175-pounds. But all that changed on the night of December 1/2018.
Stevenson turned pro in 2006, then in his late 20’s, as a super middleweight displaying great KO power. By 2013, at 21-1, Stevenson stopped highly respected Chad Dawson to claim the WBC world light heavyweight title in an impressive, 1st round knockout. Over the next 4 years, Stevenson would go undefeated, making 8 defenses of the title taking him into 2017.
Now in his 40’s, Stevenson would draw with Badou Jack in the spring of 2018 which put the first blemish on his otherwise perfect record. Then 5 months later Stevenson would engage in the bout that would change, and nearly take, his life.
Stevenson was at home in Quebec defending his title for an impressive 10th time against red-hot, undefeated Oleksandr Gvozdyk of the Ukraine. Gvozdyk, under the direction of famed trainer Teddy Atlas, was fighting a very smart fight, making sure to work off a jab, mount up the points and damage, and not get into a slugfest with the power punching Quebec resident.
While Gvozdyk didn’t land any one punch that did damage, his consistent peppering of punches on Stevenson were adding up and taking a toll on the champion. While Gvozdyk himself was considered a good puncher going into the fight, with 13 stoppages in 15 straight wins, he was avoiding trading with the thunderous punching Stevenson who had stopped 24 opponents in his 29 wins.
Then, late in the 11th round, Gvozdyk caught Stevenson with a barrage of punches that left the former champion in a heap in the corner. Stevenson had lost his title, Gvozdyk was a new champion – and then the problems started.
Showering after the fight, Stevenson was overcome by tremendous pain in his head. He was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery to relieve the pressure in his head and to stop the bleeding. The procedure required a portion of his skull to be removed and in all reality, few people, including the doctors, expected the Haiti-born boxer to survive. But Stevenson did survive and after a month in a medically induced coma, using a ventilator to breathe, he awoke and began the greatest comeback of his life.
In a recent chat with Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette, Stevenson, still working to improve on many basic functions related to memory and physical rehabilitation, made it clear that while he has a long way to go, he is simply amazed to be alive and is working each day to take himself as far as he can in his recovery.
“It was incredible,” Stevenson said. “Wow. Two years after. I’m here now, okay? Wow. Two years ago, I was in the hospital, close to dying. Can you imagine that thing? It’s incredible. This is my second life,” he said.
After defeating Stevenson, Gvozdyk made one defense of the world title before himself getting stopped late by Montreal-based Russian, and KO king, Artur Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KO’s). Gvozdyk, having made some money, and also achieving his dream of winning a world title, decided it was time to walk away from the game. After getting stopped late in a fight, against the heavy-handed Beterbiev, one couldn’t help but wonder if what he saw in the aftermath of his title winning effort against Stevenson had an impact on his decision to retire sooner than later.
And so, today, Stevenson, lucky to be alive and (incredibly) making progress no doctor thought was possible, does as he did for so many years in the ring – continues to move forward, looking to win.
And, while many would look at what the sport has cost him, Stevenson chooses to remember boxing for what it gave him.
“I can’t talk bad about boxing, ” he said. “No, boxing saved me. It saved me. I should have died, but I’m here. I’m still alive.”
Stevenson, who fought under the nickname “Superman,” is proving to be just that.
Source: Bill Tibbs