- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson, returning to the 175-pound division, will defend his title against knockout artist Adonis "Superman" Stevenson on June 8 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, promoter Yvon Michel announced at a news conference on Wednesday.
The fight will be Dawson's first since Sept. 8, when he dropped down to the 168-pound super middleweight division and was demolished by champion Andre Ward, who scored three knockdowns en route to a lopsided 10th-round knockout.
Dawson's light-heavyweight championship was not on the line against Ward and now he is back in his natural division to defend against Quebec's Stevenson, who gave up a shot at a super middleweight world title to move up one weight class and challenge Dawson.
"Adonis Stevenson's goal isn't to only become world champion," Michel said. "Adonis has everything needed to become a major international attraction in professional boxing, but to get there he needed the platform offered to him on June 8, fighting a crafty, dangerous opponent on a prestigious television network (HBO) for world title. The table is set for Adonis; his future is now in his fists of steel!"
Dawson is familiar to Montreal fans. He suffered his first defeat at the Bell Centre in 2010, losing a 10th-round technical decision to hometown favorite Jean Pascal in a light heavyweight championship fight. In his next fight, in May 2011, Dawson fought there on the Bernard Hopkins-Pascal II undercard and easily outpointed another Montreal-based fighter, former titlist Adrian Diaconu.
"I always have concerns about going to Canada, but I'm hopeful the officials that will be appointed will be professional," said Gary Shaw, Dawson's promoter.
Stevenson, who avenged his only defeat by knocking out journeyman Darnell Boone in highlight-reel fashion in the sixth round on March 22 at the Bell Centre, has been the mandatory challenger for super middleweight titlist Carl Froch since stopping Donovan George in the 12th round of their title eliminator in October. However, Stevenson agreed to step aside and let Froch face Mikkel Kessler on May 25 in a unification bout with the promise that the winner would vacate the title after the fight, allowing Stevenson to fight for it in June.
However, when the opportunity to fight Dawson for the light heavyweight title came along, he took it.
"Adonis is a big puncher, but he doesn't possess the boxing skills that Chad has," Shaw said. "I believe that Chad has put the last fight behind him, and I believe that Chad is the best fighter at 175, without question."
Things between Stevenson (20-1, 17 KOs) and Dawson (31-2, 17 KOs) got heated at Wednesday's news conference.
"I respect Chad Dawson for coming to fight me in Montreal but one thing is for sure -- I will win by knockout," Stevenson said. "The last time I was in a decision, it was in December of 2007. It's the other way for Dawson, whose last knockout was in 2007. It's my time and I will be the new WBC champion of the world."
Dawson countered: "Nobody knows who you are. I had to Google you to find anything about you. I'm here for a tune-up to get ready for (a possible rematch with) Pascal. I was hoping to get Pascal but they gave me this bum. Stevenson doesn't have enough against my skills and I'm confident that I will retain my title."
Dawson, 30, of New Haven, Conn., was due to face Pascal in a rematch he was still owed from their original contract from the 2010 fight. But when Michel, who also promotes Pascal, made a deal to match him with fellow Montreal star Lucian Bute, a former super middleweight titleholder who is moving up in weight, he offered Stevenson as a substitute. After weeks of discussion, Pascal-Bute was finalized for May 25 at the Bell Centre and Dawson-Pascal for June 8 at the same arena. Both bouts will air on HBO in the United States.
Stevenson, who is 35 but did not start his professional career until 2006, will be in his first major fight. He mocked Dawson, whose biggest wins have come against older fighters Bernard Hopkins, Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver.
"All of the fighters you beat who you've talked about were 40 or older," Stevenson said. "The one young guy you fought, Jean Pascal, beat you up in Montreal."
Said Dawson, "You're not young; you're an old 35. You're outdated already."
The fight has been signed for the past few weeks, but Michel and Shaw did not make the formal announcement until Wednesday because Michel is also co-promoting Pascal-Bute and that fight was formally announced last week and did not want to take attention away from the May fight announcement.
Even though Pascal-Bute is a bigger fight, Michel said he believes Dawson-Stevenson will also draw a good crowd because it is on the same weekend as the Canada Formula One Grand Prix, which will draw thousands of racing fans to the city who will be looking for evening entertainment that weekend.