- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Chad Dawson had utter contempt for Adonis Stevenson's power heading into their light heavyweight championship fight on Saturday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Dawson called the fight a "tune-up" at the news conference to kick off the promotion in April. He said that he had to Google Stevenson because he had never heard of him. And four days before the bout he said of Stevenson, "If the only thing you can say is he's a good puncher, I feel sorry for him."
But Dawson probably respects Stevenson's power now, don't ya think?
Stevenson, who was fighting at home and moving up in weight from super middleweight to light heavyweight to challenge Dawson, erased him with a single, massive left cross in the first round to win the fight and the light heavyweight championship of the world.
It was a spectacular shot that we'll see replayed for the rest of Stevenson's career and beyond. It was the kind of knockout that makes people jump out of their seat in the arena and off the couch in their living room.
Stevenson is a bona fide knockout artist, something boxing has precious few of these days. But he's one of them, so enjoy it.
"We have just seen the birth of a boxing superstar," Hall of Fame ring announcer Michael Buffer exclaimed as he read the official particulars.
When you can knock out guys like Stevenson can, especially when you can do it in front of knowledgeable and loyal fans like he has in Montreal, it is a great recipe for stardom.
And Stevenson (21-1, 18 KOs), who is 35 but did not turn pro until 2006, did not just claim an alphabet belt. He also won the real title -- the lineal championship. He is now king of the 175-pounders, and by doing it in front of his hometown crowd, he set off a wild celebration in the arena, not to mention among his own handlers, who jumped around with him in the ring like they were giddy children.
It took all of 76 seconds for Stevenson, a southpaw, to rip the title from Dawson. Stevenson, who has turned his life around after a four-year prison stint for pimping and assault -- he was no Mr. Nice Guy -- threw a right jab and then connected with a left cross on Dawson's chin. Dawson had been trying to throw his own right hand, but he never finished the punch as he went crashing to the canvas, sprawled out flat on his back.
"I caught him, and that's a beautiful punch," Stevenson said to HBO's Max Kellerman during his postfight interview.
To Dawson's credit, he managed to get up on unsteady legs at the count of six, but he was in bad shape. When he wobbled backward, referee Michael Griffin called off the fight, igniting the joyous celebration.
"It was a punch I didn't see. He caught me. That's it. He caught me with a good punch," Dawson, who seemed like he was in shock after dropping to 1-2 at the Bell Centre, said.
It was the second straight knockout loss for Dawson, a longtime top-10 pound-for-pound fighter who might want to look for another line of work at this point.
In September, he moved down in weight to challenge super middleweight champion Andre Ward and got manhandled. Dawson said the strain of making 168 pounds took it's toll as Ward whacked him around like a pinata, dropped him three times and stopped him in the 10th round.
But Dawson (31-3, 17 KOs), 30, who is from New Haven, Conn., but moved to Las Vegas a year ago and reunited with trainer Eddie Mustafa Muhammad after firing John Scully in the wake of the loss to Ward, has no such crutch to lean on for what happened against Stevenson, who is most definitely one of the best -- if not the very best -- one-punch knockout artists in all of boxing.
Stevenson's nickname is "Superman," but he might be an even stronger puncher than the Man of Steel. Stevenson's power is that scary.
He has now knocked out eight consecutive opponents, several in highlight-reel fashion, since rebounding from his only defeat. The lone loss was a second-round knockout to journeyman Darnell Boone in 2010, but Stevenson avenged it in violent fashion by stopping Boone in the sixth round of their March rematch, which served as Stevenson's tune-up for his greatest night.
Although the late, great Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward was not with Stevenson in person, he was there in spirit after his untimely death in October. Steward began training Stevenson not long after his loss to Boone.
Now that he's gone, Stevenson still wears the gold, red and blue colors of Steward's famed Kronk Gym in Detroit, at which he still trains under the guidance of Javon "Sugar" Hill, Steward's nephew, who might one day follow in his uncle's footsteps as one of boxing's top trainers. Undoubtedly, Steward would have been thrilled to see how Stevenson polished Dawson off, given that he always espoused his love for knockouts.
According to CompuBox, Dawson landed two of 16 punches while Stevenson landed three of 15. But only one mattered.
"It's a dream come true. I'm world champion, and I'm very happy," Stevenson said.
Stevenson said he wanted to unify alphabet titles and mentioned 48-year-old future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins, who has his own business to attend to against mandatory challenger Karo Murat on July 13, as an opponent he would like to face. He also mentioned fighting Ward, who was ringside calling the fight for HBO and will eventually move up to light heavyweight. And surely, Stevenson could return to his natural division for that fight, too.
Stevenson also accused super middleweight titlist Carl Froch and former titleholder Mikkel Kessler of ducking him. When he could not line up a fight with either of them -- because they fought each other last month -- it was one of the reasons he moved up to light heavyweight and gave up a mandatory title challenger position.
"You know why people don't want to fight me now," Stevenson said.
Dawson did fight him, though, and that is to be respected. But Stevenson is now going to find out that it is going to become even harder to find a top opponent willing to face him and the weapons of mass destruction that he calls fists.