Tony Bellew fell short for a second successive world title challenge as he succumbed to Adonis Stevenson in a WBC light-heavyweight championship bout in Canada.
Bellew, who dropped a majority decision to Welshman Nathan Cleverly in his first world title fight in 2011, was stopped after a string of left hooks by the defending champion caused referee Michael Griffin to intervene with a minute left of the sixth round.
Taking to Twitter after the fight, ‘Bomber’ told of his disappointment and thanked those that made the long journey to Canada: “The fans who travelled, I’ll forever be in your debt, I’m truly shocked.
“The better man won, no excuses.”
The 31-year-old challenger, who weighed bang on the light-heavyweight limit during an explosive weight in on Friday, settled into the fight during the early rounds. Clearly his plan was to frustrate the Haitian-born fighter and it worked well as Bellew circled around Stevenson, who planted himself in centre ring.
Bellew flicked his jab out regularly during the first six minutes, negating any attacks from an onrushing Stevenson. The champion constantly searched for opening with his renowned left hook, which was responsible for sending Chad Dawson to the canvas in a first round KO back in June.
Close to the end of round two Stevenson landed the first punch of note, countering a left-hand with a right straight down the pipe which stiffened the Liverpudlian’s legs.
Stevenson then began to take control in round three. Instead of relying on his explosive left hooks, the 36-year-old started using his jab to set up openings for combinations.
Though Bellew caught him with a chopping right hand as a reminder of his own power, the champion landed his first dangerous hook with a minute left in the round, though couldn’t follow up as his opponent bobbed and weaved out of trouble well against the ropes.
With Stevenson clearly winning all three rounds to this point, Bellew came out to trade more and looked to have success as the 36-year-old fell to the canvas after they exchanged shots, though referee Griffin correctly ruled it as a slip. Despite landing more, the Liverpudlian was taking more shots too.
While Bellew continued to come forward, Stevenson always remained in control of the bout. Though being renowned for offensive power, the Canadian evaded most punches that came his way and has hugely credited the late Emanuel Steward for his improvements as an all-round fighter.
Finally, Stevenson caught up with Bellew in round six to devastating effect.
‘Bomber’ was nailed with a sharp left hook early on and dropped heavily to the floor. Despite rising to continue, the champion stalked his pray and fired in two more menacing lefts, taking Bellew’s senses away and Griffin sensibly stepped in before any more damage was inflicted.
Bellew’s first stoppage defeat causes his ledger to drop to 20-2-1. A resurgent Stevenson climbs to 23-1, with his only loss to journeyman Darnell Boone avenged earlier this year.
Light-heavyweight appears to be a thriving division right now and potential Stevenson foe Sergey Kovalev impressed as chief support on the undercard.
Kovalev, responsible for a demolition of Nathan Cleverly in August, dismissed the Ukraine’s Ismayl Sillakh inside a minute of round two, retaining his WBO light-heavyweight title in the process.
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