Keeping a cool head may be just as important as using his devastating left hand punch when Adonis Stevenson faces Jesus Gonzales in the ring.
Stevenson (16-1, 13 knockouts) meets Gonzales (27-1, 14 KOs) in a 12-round bout Saturday night at the Bell Centre. The fight is on pay-per-view, with the main event starting at 10 p.m. ET.
The 34-year-old Longueuil, Que., resident was caught off guard this week when Gonzales brought up his criminal past, which included 18 months in jail for his activities as part of a Montreal street gang when he was in his late teens.
The taunting carried over to the weigh-in Friday, when the two exchanged words after each easily made the 168-pound super-middleweight limit.
”I'll give him everything in the ring,” said Haitian-born Stevenson. ”He's a redneck racist. I don't like racists.”
He even threatened to take Gonzales to court for suggesting to reporters that Stevenson's crimes included rape. Stevenson was found guilty of managing prostitutes, assault and making threats, but not rape.
Gonzales will wear a patch on his trunks in support of a women's shelter in his home town of Phoenix.
”He tried to play a mind game,” said Stevenson.
It should help that Stevenson will have a veteran presence in his corner in the person of trainer Emanuel Steward, who guided a host of top fighters including Canadian Lennox Lewis to world titles in his long career.
It will be Stevenson's first fight under Steward.
”It's a good thing Steward will be here,” said promoter Yvon Michel. ”He'll say ‘you have to forget that, focus on the fight.’
”I'm sure, because of the respect he has for Emanuel, he will be able to stay on the right track.”
Stevenson holds the NABA, NABO and WBC Intercontinental super-middleweight belts while Gonzales holds the NABF title.
But the real prize is that the winner will be ranked as the No. 2 contender by the International Boxing Federation, which in theory is only a step or two from fighting for the IBF title currently held by Montreal's Lucian Bute. Stevenson is ranked 15th by the IBF while Gonzales is 12th.
Just how much training on and off with Steward over the past two months has improved Stevenson's boxing technique will be seen in the ring. Up to now, he has relied almost entirely on his power punch.
Gonzales certainly has a low opinion of his skills.
”I think he's one-dimensional, flat-footed,” the 27-year-old said. ”I can out-box and out-bang him.”
Gonzales fought most of his career as a middleweight, while Stevenson is a natural 168-pounder and looks like the bigger man.
”I'm confident I'm going to beat this guy,” said Stevenson. ”At 168, he never knocked out nobody.
”You see him, he's fat. I'm going to stop him. My trainer knows him very well. Watch, I'm going to put on a clinic.”
They have one opponent in common and that favours Gonzales, who took an eight-round decision over Darnell Boone in 2006. Boone got off the canvas twice in the first round to hand Stevenson his only loss by second-round knockout in 2010.
Michel sees a close, violent encounter between the two southpaws.
”Gonzales is short (five-foot-10) and has no choice but to come in,” he said. ”Adonis doesn't move away either.
”At some point, Gonzales will have to take risks if he wants to touch Adonis. I believe they'll do damage to each other. The first couple of exchanges will tell a lot about how the fight will turn. Most of the time, Adonis' opponents start brave, but once they get hit, even on the shoulder or the arm, they think ‘whoa, I better not get hit on the chin.“’
Stevenson weighed-in at 165.6 pounds while Gonzales weighed 167.4.
Steward was due to arrive Friday night from Austria, where he has been working with heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.
Trainer Howard Grant was not happy that Stevenson abruptly left him to work with Steward. But Grant will be at ringside — as analyst for the local radio broadcast.
Michel expects to announce the next fight for former WBC light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal early next week.
He also said that middleweight contender David Lemieux's bout scheduled for March 24 against an as-yet undetermined opponent has been postponed. Lemieux had a scan on his injured left wrist and was told to rest it for 4-to-6 weeks.