Monday, May 23, 2022

Elvis Garcia: From Umatilla to Heavyweight Prospect

The first thing that someone needs to understand about Elvis Garcia is that he grew up in Umatilla, Oregon, a town in northeast Oregon with a population of 7,000, and almost a third of that is made up of prisoners at the state correctional facility. Umatilla was once considered so expendable that the Army Corps of Engineers forced the residents to abandon the town because the construction of a new dam took precedence. The town was rebuilt from 1965-68, but the original settlement is gone forever. Now it's just a nature preserve. Today, Umatilla is known for its apples and cherries. One in four lives in poverty and the median income is 40% less than the Oregon state average. 

Perhaps it is in this environment, with poverty and few attractive employment opportunities for young people, where a boxing gym might thrive. But that is not the case. There's no boxing gym to be found in Umatilla, or anywhere near it. 

In fact, it is in Tacoma, Washington, more than five hours away, where Elvis Garcia first learned the sport and where he would eventually take to it. But his journey wasn't a simple move from a small town to the bigger city. He worked weekends at a Walmart distribution center back home. Every Monday he would hightail it to Tacoma, perhaps sleep at a relative's house, or maybe in his car, and then every Friday he would make the punishing return journey. But as Elvis, a self-professed "fat kid" said, he needed the gym to get in shape, to find a purpose.   

Elvis Garcia (left) and Anthony Joshua
Photo courtesy of DiBella Entertainment

Elvis was a belated competitor in many respects, but don't be fooled by his late starts. He didn't pick up wrestling until his senior year in high school, but won a state title. He was already 23 when he started boxing, yet he still made it to the U.S. national amateur championships within a few years. He also boxed for Team Mexico in the amateurs (he was born in Mexico and spent his first few years there). 

Eventually he would relocate to the Coachella Valley in Southern California where he turned pro with little fanfare. He got work sparring in Joel Diaz's gym. Even though he was still raw, Diaz was impressed with what he saw and later agreed to train him. Garcia's reputation for giving heavyweights good work started to grow. Anthony Joshua utilized Garcia as a main sparring partner for his rematch with Andy Ruiz. Recent super heavyweight Olympic gold medalist Bakhodir Jalolov sparred with Garcia as well. News traveled fast and eventually Garcia signed with promoter Lou DiBella. He is still used as a top sparring partner for Frank Sanchez and Robert Helenius. 

Garcia (12-0, 9 KOs) makes his ShoBox debut on June 10th against fellow undefeated fighter Alante Green (10-0-1, 7 KOs) in what DiBella calls "a real fight." And as fast as Garcia has risen in the sport, he knows that he still has a lot to learn. His experience in Joshua's camp taught him a lot about professionalism. 

"Everything he [Joshua] did was scheduled to perfection," said Garcia. "All those little details, I had to absorb it. There were things that I learned, like when it came to diet and nutrition. He had everything perfectly aligned. Even when he didn't want to train, he still did it because it was scheduled. That discipline is one of those things that I learned from him."

Garcia's weight remains an area of focus. He wants to stay below 225, where he could compete in the WBC's bridgerweight division, but as recently as 2020 he weighed in at over 250 lbs. Garcia also has learned about the dangers of overtraining. In 2019, he fought Hugo Trujillo to a majority decision. Garcia said he was exhausted in the dressing room and felt he had very little that night.

Green, Garcia's upcoming opponent, also competed in U.S. amateur national tournaments, but Garcia doesn't know much about him, nor is there much tape on Green available to study. Garcia's main concern is focusing on himself, making sure that he's staying in shape and improving in the ring. Garcia knows that when he's at his best that his movement and angles can give opponents a lot of trouble. He loves his overhand right and thinks it's his best punch, but he's continuing to make progress in becoming more well-rounded. 

"My combinations have improved," said Garcia. "My head movement has improved a lot too. Just adding a couple of little things here and there. I think I'm a little faster as well." 

The clock is ticking on the 32-year-old Garcia, but he will have solid opportunities if he continues to win and looks good doing so. 

Regardless of what happens next month against Green, Elvis has defied the odds to even make it to this point. Fighters from places like Umatilla, Oregon are supposed to be "opponents," brought in to lose; they shouldn't be the ones with futures in the sport, especially those who don't even take up boxing until 23. But Garcia doesn't look at himself with self-satisfaction. Yes, he has persevered, but he doesn't believe that he has made it yet. He still has dreams and a singular objective to accomplish in boxing. "My goal is to become a world champion. I don't see myself as anything less." 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook. 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Opinions and Observations: Charlo-Castano 2

When a fighter puts it all together, it's a joy to watch. In Saturday's rematch against 154-lb. titleholder Brian Castano, Jermell Charlo demonstrated a breadth of talent that only the elite in the sport can hope to possess. The adjustments that Charlo implemented from fight one to fight two are proof of his extraordinary boxing aptitude. It wasn't just a single change that he made, but several major ones, and he did so in just one fight camp. In a complete and comprehensive performance, he stopped Castano in the 10th round to become undisputed champion at junior middleweight.

Before delving into Saturday's rematch, let's do a quick recap on where things went sideways for Charlo in the first Castano fight (where Jermell earned a disputed draw). This will provide some context for his improvement in fight #2. Charlo was far too knockout happy in the first bout, loading up on his counter left hook and taking scores of unnecessary shots waiting for opportunities to throw. He also languished on the ropes, leaving Castano with ample opportunity to get his work in and score points. Although his corner pleaded with him to use his boxing skills more, Charlo kept his jab holstered far too often and didn't have a strong work rate. He was able to hurt Castano a couple of times, but he was outhustled throughout most of the fight and in my estimation didn't do enough to beat Castano. 

Charlo's left jab was a big factor in the rematch
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Trapp

Coming into Saturday's rematch, I had concerns about Charlo's mindset. In pre-fight interviews, he was doubling down on the knockout, and I didn't think that more of the same would be sufficient to defeat Castano. 

Well, Charlo did score the knockout on Saturday, but his performance was far more than just connecting with a big shot. He put punches together from the beginning of the fight and was determined to stay active and win rounds. The stoppage didn't come out of thin air. It was a result of the damaging shots that he had landed throughout the fight. The left hook that dropped Castano for the first time in the 10th didn't even land fully flush, but Castano still dropped to his knees; Charlo had already depleted him. 

The first sign that things were going to be different in the rematch was Charlo's avoidance of the ropes. Although he did back up through large sections of the fight, he didn't go straight back. He moved in angles, allowing himself room to throw and to evade Castano's onrushes. When he did touch the ropes, he would leap forward to tie-up Castano, which was something I'm sure that Charlo's trainer, Derrick James, had drilled into him for the rematch. Score one point for a successful fighter/trainer partnership!

The next adjustment was punch volume. Charlo was far busier in the second fight, throwing over ten punches a round more than he did in their first encounter. That's a significant improvement. And these weren't throwaway punches either. Charlo would fill dead spaces with his jab and would also follow Castano out with counter punches, not allowing his opponent to rest. It made it harder for Castano to punctuate rounds. Even when Castano would have impressive flurries, Charlo refused to let Castano's momentary success be the determining factor of a given round; he went right back to work to try to win it. It's telling that prior to the 10th, Charlo was up by at least three rounds on each scorecard. He didn't need a late-round comeback similar to the one in the first fight; he was already in the driver's seat. 

Charlo's punch variety was also more pronounced in the rematch. His jab was a real factor. He threw his right hand with more regularity, connecting with a number of pulsating counters. Notably, he started the sequence that led to the first knockdown with a right hand to the body. Charlo also mixed in a few tasty left uppercuts. He gave Castano far more to think about than just his counter left hook. 

Charlo incorporated the best aspects of the different phases of his career to defeat Castano. He showed that he could use his legs, put rounds in the bank with his boxing skills, counter with power, feature multiple offensive weapons, stymie aggression, and punch his way out of sticky situations. He wasn't afraid of combat, but he understood that he didn't have to resort to it at every moment to win the fight. It was a complete performance. 

Charlo jubilant after dropping Castano
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Trapp

As for Castano, I don't think that he was a sharp as he was in the first fight, but much of that can be attributed to Charlo, who wouldn't let him have his preferred geography in the ring. When an opponent stands in front of Castano on the ropes, Brian can be a devastating offensive fighter, throwing barrages of power punches from all angles. But those occasions were seldom on Saturday. Castano did feature one new wrinkle on Saturday, a lead right from distance that he landed almost at will. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't able to build on that success consistently. His right was very sharp, but he couldn't put many multi-punch combinations together. I also don't think that his feet were as good as they were in their first fight. He seemed more ponderous in the ring.

Castano was still busier than Charlo on Saturday, but he didn't have the same level of effectiveness. Charlo's punches were clearly heavier and had the more significant impact. And despite backing up, Charlo's counters were easy to see; there were very few exchanges along the ropes where it was tough to tell what was landing, which certainly occurred in the first fight. 


Charlo's road to undisputed did not follow a straight line. He had to learn along the way. He lost the entire first half of the John Jackson bout and took too long to make adjustments, he was flummoxed by Tony Harrison's cagey movement in their first fight, and he fell in love with his power against Castano in their initial meeting. 

Although immensely gifted, he doesn't have the improvisatory genius to cover up for potential shortcomings. He can develop bad habits. He needs to relearn things. A strong corner is imperative for him because strategic and tactical adjustments aren't always easy for him to make. 

But he has demonstrated a fundamental desire to add to his craft, to improve his ring performances, and to be an exceptional student. Mastering textbook fundamental boxing from Ronnie Shields, transitioning to a devastating power puncher under Derrick James, and learning how to put everything together in one performance – it’s his application of his skills that has made him an elite fighter. For Charlo, it's not a question of "skills pay the bills." It's how he applies them and when.

Let's hope that we see the Castano 2 version of Charlo more often. When he fights to the top of his ability level, he is a scary proposition in the ring. He possesses greatness, but he does need reminders about what makes him elite. It's not just his power or his warrior spirit or his perfectly timed counters or his ability to take a shot; it's everything. It's the full menu. Jermell Charlo has it all. We just want to see it with regularity. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook. 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Punch 2 the Face Radio

In this week's Punch 2 the Face podcast, Brandon and I broke down Dmitry Bivol's impressive victory over Canelo. We also previewed this weekend's big fight, the rematch between Jermell Charlo and Brian Castano. To listen to the podcast, click on the links below: 

Apple podcast link:

Spotify link:

I heart radio link:

Stitcher link:

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook. 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Opinions and Observations: Canelo-Bivol

Light heavyweight Dmitry Bivol sent shockwaves throughout boxing on Saturday by defeating Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, the biggest star in the sport and one of its best practitioners. Yet, despite the enormity of the result, the fight offered few heroics or magical moments. It was essentially the same round after round. Bivol's high-energy work rate, dazzling left hand and sublime movement didn't allow Canelo to have many periods of sustained success. Bivol won 115-113 on all three cards, but those tallies flattered Canelo, who more likely won two or three rounds in the contest. 

Bivol's victory was comprehensive. He boxed 12 rounds without facing much duress and he seemed fresh as a daisy at the end of the fight. Although he never seriously hurt Canelo, his hand speed, mastery of distance and punch accuracy defanged Alvarez, who struggled to put punches together and had few answers in the center of the ring, where most of the fight was contested. 

That Bivol won a number of rounds against Canelo wasn't necessarily a surprise, but his chin held up better than many anticipated. Although Alvarez didn't land often throughout the fight, he did connect with a number of signature shots. He landed a scorching right uppercut at the end of the fourth round and a monster left hook at the beginning of the 12th, yet Bivol was unfazed by them. Canelo also got through with a number of hard left hooks to the body, but Bivol didn't wither. 

Bivol's left hand was dominant throughout the fight
Photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland

Canelo's most recent ring style has been predicated on physically intimidating his opponents and scoring knockouts. Ignoring the importance of punch volume, he banked on his pressure and punching power to get the job done. It's a high-risk style when the knockout doesn't come.

Although Canelo had moved up from 168 to 175 lbs. for the fight, it wasn't Bivol's physicality or punching power that proved to be insurmountable; it was his length and control of distance. Bivol, mostly sticking to the outside, fired a piston left jab. And as successful as that punch was, his left hook was even better. His hook, tight and thrown with a lot of deception, came from the exact same arm slot and trajectory as his jab. Only at the last moment did he turn the punch over, and he consistently befuddled Canelo with the shot. And it's not just the mechanics of the punch, it's how he utilized it: lead shots, in combination off the jab and as a counter. In addition, he never fell in with the punch. His balance and distance were perfect, which enabled him to limit Canelo's counters. 

But Bivol wasn't a one-handed fighter. He mixed in a number of rapid-fire right hands, usually as part of a combination after a left. The speed of his right was disarming and there were numerous occasions where he hit a completely defenseless Canelo with it. 

Canelo had two plans throughout the fight, and neither worked well. He started off as the stalker, trying to push Bivol back. But Bivol's great feet and punching range didn't allow Canelo to apply successful pressure. Far too often Canelo was following Bivol and getting popped in the mouth. After struggling with Bivol's athleticism, Canelo tried his luck with his back to the ropes, specifically in the fifth, eighth and ninth rounds. And although Bivol complied by coming forward, he maintained appropriate distance, didn't smother his shots and didn't make the types of mistakes that would allow Canelo to counter successfully. Everything was contained and clean.  

Bivol's game plan was masterful and even though it appeared that he was well ahead in the championship rounds, he wisely refused to take his foot off the gas. Even after getting hit with a few menacing shots to begin the 12th, he wouldn't yield or give up the round. He dug in and turned it around. He wound up sweeping the final frame on the judges' cards; and sadly, that was needed to give him the victory. (It shouldn't have been that close.) 

Bivol was well-advised in his preparation for the bout and in the corner throughout the fight. He had a perfect blueprint to beat Canelo and his ability to win rounds cleanly, without getting greedy or sloppy, was laudable. He stayed switched on the whole fight and understood that as the foreign fighter (Russia) going up against the cash king he would be given no favors. Bivol competed all 12 rounds, but did so without succumbing to recklessness, machismo or desperation. He kept a cool head and stayed within himself all fight. And his success led to the quietest Canelo crowd in recent memory. 

Bivol confident before the final scores were announced
Photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland

As for Canelo, many skills that he had displayed in the past could have come in handy against Bivol. Where were the long lead right hands from distance – the ones that dropped Austin Trout and led to the stoppage of Sergey Kovalev? What happened to the guy who used to be able to counter in combination in the center of the ring? For the most part, everything against Bivol was one shot at a time. And when all else failed, why didn't he try to rough Bivol up? Where was the grappling, the hitting in the clinch – the dark arts that can help swing a fight? Canelo seemed convinced that the one-shot knockout would come, and yet he spent so much of the night waiting.  

Bivol has now been a world champion for over four years, defending his title eight times. He has transitioned from an aggressive search-and-destroy fighter to a responsible boxer who doesn't allow many opportunities for his opponents. In his title defenses, only one foe (Craig Richards) has had more than fleeting success.

Bivol no longer cares about knockouts or looking good. He's a perfectionist who wants to win 120-108. Although his style might not create the next generation of boxing fans, his technical mastery is among the best in the sport. And while aesthetics may be great at the box office, Bivol is more concerned about winning. His mastery on Saturday was so complete that he was able to overcome not just the sport's biggest star, but the machinery of the boxing industry. For many years, Bivol has been considered inconvenient, but he will now have to be dealt with, and I bet that few fighters are celebrating that reality.  

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook. 

Monday, May 2, 2022

Opinions and Observations: Taylor-Serrano, Stevenson-Valdez

The undisputed lightweight fight between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano arrived with considerable fanfare and hype. A female fight headlined a sold-out Madison Square Garden, a first, and a significant accomplishment. Furthermore, this was a meeting between perhaps the two best female boxers at the moment. In short, this was a huge spectacle for women's boxing, but it was even more than that; Taylor-Serrano planted a flag that the public has now accepted women's boxing on its own terms. There didn't need to be a gimmick for this fight to sell, just two world-class talents whom the public judged as the real deal. This wasn't a novelty act or some concoction from a brilliant promoter: this was a damn compelling fight. 

So, yes, the table was set, but Taylor-Serrano did more than just deliver. What followed was an epic clash featuring wild swings in momentum and a fighter on the brink of defeat who somehow found a way to rally down the stretch to snatch a victory. The crowd ate it up. Even watching through TV, the noise was deafening. And whether you agreed with Katie Taylor winning by split decision or not, it was a special fight, and a scenario where both boxers helped elevate the sport. 

Taylor (left) and Serrano exchanging left hands
Photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland

Taylor's focus, speed and well-roundedness impressed early in the fight. In recent bouts she had fallen into predictable patterns. She had become left-hand dominant, and used her jab, left hook and feet to box her way to some less-than-authoritative decision victories. But on Saturday, she reintroduced herself to her right hand, and she popped that punch with accuracy and spite. Furthermore, Taylor was a fighter who was often much better when throwing first, but against Serrano, she wasn't afraid to stay in the pocket and counter with some fierce right hands. She had the hand speed advantage, but she used that advantage in different ways. It wasn't just getting in and out. She would often draw out a wide left hand from Serrano and counter expertly with her right. Her sharpness was on point. 

But one advantage that she didn't have was power and it became increasingly obvious that one of Serrano's left hands caused far more damage than anything Taylor could muster. By the fourth round Serrano was digging in consistently with wicked left hands – some straight, some with a loop to them – and that her shots were starting to force Taylor to retreat. 

The most memorable round in the fight was the fifth where Taylor, backed into a corner, decided to go toe-to-toe with power punches against Serrano. And despite landing some good stuff, Taylor was getting worn down by Serrano's thunderous blows. As the round progressed, Taylor was cut up and visibly depleted. It looked as though Serrano only needed another shot or two to end the fight. And here's where only having two-minute rounds really helped Taylor. It's unlikely that Taylor could have survived another minute without hitting the canvas at least once (but don't hate the player; hate the game!). 

For as skilled as Taylor is, and she may be the best fighter in women's boxing, she made a series of mistakes in the fifth round, both strategic and tactical. I'm sure that her team didn't want her trading bombs trapped in a corner for a long period. And as she was taking punishment, she didn't try to hold or tie-up whatsoever. She showed a lack of experience and situational awareness in dealing with duress. However high her ring IQ is, and it is high, it went totally out the window in the fifth, and she was seconds away from losing the biggest fight of her career, in part because of significant errors on her part. 

By the seventh, Taylor started to reemerge in the fight. With her head clearing, she went back to clean boxing. And despite taking enormous punishment earlier in the match, she seemed to be the fresher fighter. 

As the bout went into the final rounds, Serrano succumbed to a couple of traps, some of which were her own doing. She was looking to land big left hands without setting anything up; she became a victim of her own success. It's also likely that she punched herself out to a degree. She exerted a ton of energy trying for the stoppage in the fifth and her energy level, not to mention punch volume, wasn't up to snuff in the final rounds. I don't think that Serrano is going to enjoy rewatching the fight from the seventh round on.  

Taylor was awarded a split decision win and it's one of those fights where it's pretty clear that both won three rounds clearly and it's how you judge those four swing rounds (let's say rounds 2,3,7 and 10) that will most likely determine what your final scorecard looked like (I had Taylor winning 96-94). There's no doubt that Serrano had the best moments in the fight as there can be no denying that Taylor made a valiant comeback. And hey, there's nothing like a rematch to settle the score! 

Finally, let's credit the promoters of this event. It took a large amount of chutzpah to say that these women would sell out Madison Square Garden. It had never been done before and there was a large downside risk. If the event failed, it would have set women's boxing back considerably in the U.S. in my opinion. In addition, there was also another big fight on the same night between Stevenson and Valdez. Yet, they filled the place and helped to deliver a magical evening. Taylor-Serrano will go down as a historic fight for women's boxing. And it's not just the fighters who delivered the goods, but also the people who believed in them. 


I don't think that Shakur Stevenson beating Oscar Valdez by a wide unanimous decision surprised a lot of people, but how he did so was notable for a few reasons. I want to highlight two things that I found special in Stevenson's performance, one on offense and one on defense.

It wasn't long ago that Stevenson could be seen running around the ring. Yes, he was seemingly impossible to hit cleanly, but he was also contact-avoidant. It made some of his fights tedious in that it was clear his legs, hand speed and reflexes were top-notch, but he was leaving food on the table. He could have been doing more offensively; the question was why wasn't he?

Stevenson (left) with success as the aggressor
Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams

In his previous fight against Jamel Herring and on Saturday against Valdez, Stevenson has demonstrated that he has turned a corner in his career. Stevenson is now just as comfortable pressing forward or staying in the pocket as he is with using evasive movement. And while this temperament change is admirable, his considerable skillset as the aggressor has been eye-opening. On Saturday he landed seemingly whatever he wanted: jabs, uppercuts, right hooks, body shots, combinations. Going right at an aggressive fighter, he took the play away from Valdez. So often was Valdez getting hit with flush shots that for points of the fight he stood compliantly at mid-range, frozen, unable to comprehend what to do next. And Valdez had previously been in tough fights and faced an array of styles. Yet, he could do little more than stay in the pocket and get tagged.

Stevenson did score a nifty knockdown in the sixth where he played matador to Valdez's charging bull. He turned Valdez away with a right hook that sent him into the ropes (a knockdown could have been called for that) and then when Valdez turned back around, Stevenson met him with another right hook that dropped him to the canvas. It was a perfect, "make him miss and make him pay" moment and it showed Stevenson's considerable athletic and technical gifts. But as fun as that sequence was, I found Stevenson playing the lead dog in the ring far more compelling.

Stevenson has spent considerable time sparring with a "who's who" of boxing. Recently he's been doing a lot of work with Terence Crawford and Keyshawn Davis, two fighters who are both much bigger than him and possess more natural power. I think that those sessions have helped lead to his growth as a fighter. Stevenson no longer appears to be worried about getting hit (more on this at the moment) and seems comfortable exchanging and trading. Yes, he has developed more strength as he has gotten older, but it's clear that his confidence level is much higher as it relates to his ability to excel in back-and-forth combat.

And this became apparent throughout Saturday's fight, where Stevenson didn't let the fact Valdez could connect with certain shots change his overall game plan. Stevenson didn't get spooked or change to a Plan B.

In fact, I think there was one aspect of Stevenson's defensive construct against Valdez that was masterful. He and his team (Kay Koroma and his grandfather) were determined not to let one punch beat them – Oscar Valdez's left hook to the head. If you observed the fight, you'd see that Stevenson was giving Valdez the lead right, which he landed at points in the fight. He was even willing to let Valdez get off a few hooks to the body. But at no point was Stevenson leaving himself open for Valdez's hook to the head, his money punch.

I don't think that Valdez ever landed his best left hook to the head in the fight and I only remember a couple of ones that grazed Stevenson or landed partially. Stevenson and his team were zeroed in on the punch. Even when Valdez was able to connect with a few punishing left hooks to the body late in the fight, Stevenson wouldn't change his defensive shape. He wouldn't fall for that trap.

Despite losing ten, ten and nine rounds on the scorecards, Valdez connected with 28% of his power punches (according to CompuBox). Although that's certainly not a commanding success rate, it isn't negligible either. However, Stevenson showed a smart boxing brain and considerable poise throughout the fight, even when Valdez had success. Stevenson wouldn't let himself get sucked into a war. He refused to make a specific defensive mistake. He understood what Valdez needed to do to win and denied him that opportunity. 

That Stevenson won with relative ease is the story, but it didn't have to be that way. Shakur neutralized his opponent's best strength. By peppering Valdez with punches all night, Stevenson kept Valdez mostly away from his preferred range. And by maintaining his specific defensive posture, even when Valdez was close enough to be threatening, Stevenson never had to be worried about being hit by the home run shot.

Valdez did land some thudding hooks to the body in the fight and now we do have some answers about Stevenson's ability to take a shot. He didn't wither from those body blows or decide to run around the ring as a result; he continued with his business.

As good as Stevenson looked on Saturday, I still believe that there is room for further development, another level to ascend to – one that involves more spite and an acknowledgement that there’s fun to be had in the hurt business. Stevenson may already be among the best talents in the sport, but if he can add a little more nastiness in the ring, he could become one of the defining fighters of his era. And to beat some of the big names in the division above him, some nastiness will be required.  

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.