By Jake Donovan

Quebec City, Quebec, Canada - Adonis Stevenson made the fifth successful defense of his World light heavyweight crown, although forced to go 12 rounds in topping Sakio Bika by unanimous decision Saturday afternoon in Quebec City, Canada.

Scores were 115-110, 115-111 and 116-110 in favor of Stevenson. Bika down in rounds six and nine.

Despite moving up for his first fight against a true light heavyweight, Bika struggled to make weight during Friday's weigh-in. The former super middleweight titlist required two tries to get within the 175 lb. limit. While technically the bigger man at the scales and in actual height, Bika's lack of power at the new weight was apparent, as Stevenson landed the more telling blows throughout the night once he managed to settle in.

A knockdown appeared to have come from a sequence in round five, when Stevenson stunned Bika with a left hand and then scored two more power shots upstairs. Bika was wobbled to the point of clutching onto Stevenson's thigh before falling to the canvas, pulling down the defending champion with him.

The referee ruled it was a tangling of the legs that led to the fall, but the first official knockdown would come one round later when Stevenson connected with a straight left late in round six.

Bika managed to beat the count and surprisingly hold his own in rounds six and seven. According to the close cards, his performance was good enough to make an impression on the ringside judges in an otherwise one-sided affair.

Stevenson took his foot off the gas just enough to allow his wounded challenger back into the fight, perhaps reserving his energy for later in the fight and not make the same mistakes as the last time he was forced to go 12 rounds. That moment came last May in Montreal, flooring Andrzej Fonfara early but stunned and dropped himself late in the fight before taking a unanimous decision.

The bout was Stevenson’s second to go the distance since Dec. ’07, and for much of the second half of the fight looked like a fighter who didn’t know how to contend with such deep waters. The necessary precautions were taken in this training camp, as Stevenson properly paced himself for the long haul.

Just as Bika thought for sure that the worst was over, the Cameroon-born, Australia-based mauler found himself back on the canvas in round nine. Once again, the sequence came courtesy of a straight left hand, Stevenson standing in the pocket and perfectly timing the money shot to floor the veteran.

It was the closest the fight would come to an early ending. Bika recovered and gave a credible account of himself in the championship rounds. Stevenson bore the look of a fighter who knew a knockout wasn’t coming, and was content to outbox his challenger. Bika never quit on himself, throwing punches to the winner end and perhaps even winning over a portion of the partisan crowd who earlier in the night wasn’t shy about letting the fighters know when the ring action wasn’t up to par.

While the finish was admirable, the former super middleweight titlist is now winless in his last three starts. The loss sends Bika’s record to 32-7-3 (21KOs), having not win a fight since claiming a super middleweight belt in June ’13.


Stevenson moves to 26-1 (21KOs) with the win, though the second time in his last three fights in which he has been forced to go the distance. The southpaw often quotes the late, great Emanuel Steward and his “Knockouts sell” mentality, but failed to make good on that promise as he let his foot off the gas on several occasions even after Bika was hurt.

Still, it was good enough for his 13th consecutive victory dating back to April ’11. His lone loss – a shocking 2nd round knockout to Darnell Boone – was avenged as part of a 2013 campaign hailed by many, including as Fighter of the Year-worthy.

It also ran parallel to a breakout year by light heavyweight counterpart Sergey Kovalev. A collision course was planned, only for Stevenson to call an audible early in 2014, pledging his allegiance to Al Haymon and taking his business across the street to Showtime.

The move was poorly received in the court of public perception, as wins over Fonfara and Dmitry Sukhotsky were sparsely viewed and not at all seen as the proper follow-up to a Fighter of the Year campaign.

Appearing on the first edition of Premier Boxing Champions on CBS helped quell some of the criticism levied at Stevenson, as the greater plan for the future now appears to be in place for most of the fighters under Al Haymon’s advisory banner. Stevenson was one of several fighters stuck in a holding pattern in 2014, but big plans are in store for the next 12 months.

What could very well be next is the one light heavyweight fight everyone wants to see. While alphabet belts aren’t at all featured on the PBC series, the one that Stevenson owns – the World Boxing Council (WBC) - comes with a mandatory challenger. That fighter just so happens to be Kovalev, who – despite owning three belts of his own – was granted permission to fight in a final eliminator with Jean Pascal for the right to next face Stevenson.

Kovalev did his part, becoming the first to stop Pascal as he scored an 8th round technical knockout last month in Montreal. His team spent much of 2014 chasing – and suing – Stevenson before moving on to better business.

As talks once again surfaced of such a fight, Stevenson’s team took matters one step further. Promoter Yvon Michel requested to the WBC that matters be expedited to avoid a long, drawn out negotiation period. As such, the sanctioning body has already called for a purse bid hearing to be held on April 17.

The ruling came while Stevenson was still more than a week away from challenging Bika, and while Kovalev has a mandatory challenge of his own to honor. The unbeaten knockout artist from Russia was already on course to defend against Nadjib Mohammedi, who was Bernard Hopkins’ mandatory but who agreed to step aside to allow Kovalev-Hopkins, as well as Kovalev-Pascal to happen.

Mohammedi’s management team has been adamant about being next to face Kovalev, but big business could dictate otherwise. Mohammedi and Kovalev are both promoted by Main Events, a relationship that allowed for the aforementioned bouts to happen.

Of course, a Stevenson-Kovalev fight was on the radar once before, and managed to fall flat when it came time to both fighters signing on for the fight. The insistence this time from the Stevenson camp – which has to assume blame for the previous fallout, whether or not they accept it – is that nothing on their end will prevent such a fight from happening, regardless of the purse bid turnout.

Even in a year where the biggest fight that boxing can make has actually been made, this one remains at wait-and-see status.


Should the biggest fight that can be made at light heavyweight once again fall by the wayside, the viewing audience was presented a terrific alternate future challenge for Stevenson.

In the televised opener, Artur Beterbiev (8-0, 8KOs) was all business in a 4th round knockout of former light heavyweight titlist Gabriel Campillo. Beterbiev floored Campillo in the first minute of the contest and again early in the 4th, the latter prompting an immediate stoppage at 0:37 of round four.

A full recap can be found here .

Both bouts aired live on CBS as part of Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions series.

Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Twitter: @JakeNDaBox