At the age of 21, Adonis Stevenson, the future light-heavyweight champion of the world, wasn't boxing.
He was in prison fighting to survive.
Born in Haiti, Stevenson migrated to Quebec when he was eighteen. Within months he was running with a gang. In 1998, he was arrested and convicted of assault, making threats, and procuring prostitutes. In other words, he was a pimp.
Stevenson served four difficult years in prison. Released from jail in 2002, his future looked grim, except for one promising thing. Stevenson liked to fight. He decided to give boxing a go.
Pugilism has historically saved the lives of many young people with troubled pasts. It's all about the discipline. Stevenson liked that.
Regretful of his previous misdeeds, he was also, as he told the Montrealsportsscene.com, "Trying to be a better person."
It was boxing that gave Stevenson the opportunity to reinvent himself.
He won the Quebec amateur middleweight title in 2004. He was the best boxer in Canada in both 2004 and 2005. He turned professional in 2006. The dramatic knockouts came in bunches. His personal life also took on new meaning.
“I’m a fighter,” said Stevenson. “I have two beautiful daughters. I work very hard for my family.”
Stevenson won his first thirteen pro bouts until he ran into the dangerous Darnell Boone in 2010.
Boone stopped him in the second round.
A year later, Stevenson joined up with late Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward. His improvement was obvious - culminating with his winning the light heavyweight belt from Chad Dawson last June. Even Stevenson never dreamed of attaining such heights.
2013 was a great year for boxing. There are many worthy candidates for Fighter of the Year, but Stevenson, a young 36, surpasses them all.
Early in the year he avenged his only loss, knocking out the aforementioned Boone in six rounds. In June, he electrified his hometown fans by stopping Dawson in less than a round. Three months later, he beat the stuffing out of former champion Tavoris Cloud.
And in November, he stopped mandatory challenger Tony Bellew by again showing his hellacious power.
In 2014, Stevenson could face Sergev Kovalev, Bernard Hopkins, and Andre Ward.
Despite his checkered past, Stevenson’s rise to the top of his profession is a testament to his commitment and skill.
He’s a worthy winner of this year’s Fighter of the Year.