Adonis Stevenson survived a knockdown to retain his WBC light heavyweight title with a unanimous decision over Andrzej Fonfara on Saturday.
Canadian southpaw Stevenson, who was born in Haiti, put his explosive power on display in the first round.
Poland’s Fonfara came out on the attack, but was sent to the canvas by a Stevenson straight left to the chin in the opening frame.
Stevenson battered Fonfara for the remainder of the round, but the challenger was able to regroup over the next three rounds before Stevenson sent him down again in the fifth with a punishing body blow.
Fonfara began to turn things his way in the eighth against an apparently tiring Stevenson, and sent the champion down with a right hand in the ninth.
Stevenson stepped up his attack to the body in the 10th and held on for the victory that took his record to 24-1, with 20 wins inside the distance.
Ringside judges John McKaie and Jack Woodburn scored it 115-110 for Stevenson, while Richard DeCarufel saw it 116-109 for the champion, who said he hurt his left hand in the second round.
“It was a good fight. I hurt my left hand, so I used my head and boxed him,” Stevenson said, adding that he was hurt when a punch found an elbow.
He said he was impressed by the 26-year-old Fonfara.
“He’s a tough guy,” said Stevenson, 36. “I told everyone he was strong. I did not overlook him. He came here to be the world champion.”
Stevenson said 49-year-old world champion Bernard Hopkins could be next.
“Bernard? He can be next,” said Stevenson, who has bolted from broadcaster HBO to Showtime, apparently with an eye toward a unification fight against Hopkins later this year.
That move sparked a lawsuit by Main Events, promoters of Sergey Kovalev, who said there was already a deal in place for a Stevenson-Kovalev bout this year.
Hopkins unified the WBA and IBF light heavyweight titles by dropping Beibut Shumenov in the 11th round en route to a split-decision victory on April 19.
The ageless American improved to 55-6-2 with 32 knockouts and said he wanted Stevenson and the WBC belt next.
Fonfara fell to 25-3, with 15 knockouts, but insisted he was not discouraged.
“I have the heart to fight,” he said. “Tonight, Stevenson was better, but I’m still young. I’ll train hard and one day I’ll be world champion.”