Adonis Stevenson survived a late knockdown to outpoint Andrzej Fonfara retaining his WBC light-heavyweight title in Montreal.
The 36-year old came through a tough encounter to win on all three scorecards (115-110 twice, 116-109), but left major doubts about his chin as he was dropped by Fonfara in the ninth round.
"I come back strong so I showed the world that I go down, but I still come back strong because I'm a true champion," Stevenson said afterwards. "I was off-balance, and he caught me."
Fonfara was quietly confident heading into the bout but Stevenson, who recently signed with American adviser Al Haymon, took charge of the ring, bullying Fonfara in the opening round sending him to the canvas with an overhand left.
Stevenson was too quick for his 26-year-old opponent, landing heavy body shots as well as left hands which opened up a cut above Fonfara's right eye.
The champion began to open a wide points margin approaching the second half of the fight and sent Fonfara to the canvas again, landing a straight left downstairs.
Stevenson, who defended his lineal title for the third time since knocking out Chad Dawson in June 2013, continued the assault applying pressure to Fonfara as the round ended.
Fonfara found his feet in round eight, beating Stevenson to the punch, winning a round on the judges scorecards.
The challenger continued to apply pressure and his luck paid off, putting Stevenson down with a right hand after he was caught with a left hand during the build-up.
The Montreal based fighter survived the onslaught and battled through the round as Fonfara went for the stoppage.
Stevenson and Fonfara traded blows for the final three rounds, but the champion held on to win, setting up a unification clash with IBF titlist Bernard Hopkins.
"I accept any challenge, Bernard can be next but I'll let Al Haymon negotiate with that," Stevenson said.
"I have no problem with (Sergey) Kovalev. I don't have a problem - if I fight
him, I fight him. Al Haymon is going to negotiate that with Kovalev
and [Stevenson's promoter] Yvon Michel. I don't have a problem."
Fonfara who was gracious in defeat said: "I survived because I have a heart to fight."
"Every time he hit me, I feel his punch. He is a great fighter. He is a true champion
and is the champ tonight. But I will train more and one day I want to be
a world champion like him."
While Stevenson improves to 24(20Ko)-1-0, Hopkins and Kovalev will be waiting in the wings at a chance to unify the titles.
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