Javan “Sugar” Hill remembers well that night in Montreal when his fighter won and then was lost.
It was June 2013, and Adonis “Superman” Stevenson had just flattened 175-pound champion Chad Dawson with the kind of crushing left hand that doesn’t just cause opponents to see stars, but entire galaxies.
Following his victory, Stevenson and his trainer Hill headed to an after-party.
As they stepped out of their cab, Stevenson was quickly engulfed by fans like a boulder plunged into a sea of people, obscured by the rapidly swelling crowd.
“One guy sees Adonis and he could barely talk,” Hill recalls. “He just started screaming and jumping. By the time we could take 10 steps, there was a big crowd around us. They all surrounded Adonis and were grabbing him. ‘Superman!’ That’s all you could hear. It was so exciting for me to see something like that. The whole country, they take a different pride in their fighters.”
In recent years, the Canadian province of Quebec has become a boxing hotbed known for some of the sport’s most fervent followers.
Stevenson, born in Haiti but raised in Canada, is one of the main beneficiaries of this rabid fandom, regularly packing Montreal’s Bell Centre and Quebec City’s Pepsi Coliseum, where he will take on former 168-pound champion Sakio Bika on April 4 in a fight that will be broadcast on CBS.
Hill, the nephew of legendary trainer Emanuel Steward, who trained Stevenson before he died in 2012, remembers his uncle marveling about how electric the crowds were in Quebec.
Then, Hill got to experience the frenzy firsthand.
“The fans in Quebec City are radical boxing fans,” Hill says. “It’s quite similar to being in Europe, like Germany with Wladimir Klitschko. When you got a Wladimir Klitschko show in Germany, everybody wants to be there. They go crazy. It’s the same when I come to Montreal or Quebec City.”
As popular as Stevenson has been up to this point, his status has taken on added relevance of late.
“Now, in Canada, I am the only champion,” Stevenson says as the country’s sole reigning titlist. “It’s very important for me to keep winning.”