Let's assume for argument sake that everything we've heard and read is true. And that WBC light heavyweight title holder Adonis Stevenson 23-1 (20), really did agree to meet WBO title-holder Sergey Kovalev 24-0-1 (22) later this year. Let us also accept the fact that Stevenson has jumped the HBO ship to come aboard Showtime and instead of fighting Kovalev, he's going to fight IBF title holder 49 year old Bernard Hopkins 54-6-2 (32), who now fights exclusively on Showtime. With that Stevenson has in essence reneged on fighting Kovalev in what would surely have been one of the more anticipated light heavyweight title clashes since the Roy Jones vs. Antonio Tarver rematch back in 2004.
If by chance you are a true died in the wool boxing fan and observer, that really stinks. Because a showdown between Stevenson and Kovalev would've been something to get excited about and look forward to. Mainly because a very strong case can be made supporting either fighter to win since both guys seem to be fighting at their best.
In addition to that, both fighters are heavy handed and would be looking to win by knockout, which of course would insure that boxing fans would be treated to a thrilling and action packed fight, while it lasted.
Oh well, so much for that, at least for the immediate future.
Stevenson, 36, made a business decision that is smart on his part, but not really ethical. Which in itself is funny because Floyd Mayweather has been making business decisions like that, which hurt the fans and boxing on one hand, but enhance his wallet and prolong his career, for the last decade. Yet there's a faction of boxing/Mayweather advocates around who insist at every turn that Floyd has never walked away from one fight so he can make another one that is less compelling, but the better business decision for him.
Sure, we don't like what Stevenson did, but that's boxing. It's the dirtiest business around aside from partisan politics. However, if you can be intellectually honest, it was the smartest move Stevenson could have made. What he's done is probably set himself up for two fights/paydays instead of taking on Kovalev, where he was at least 50-50 to lose. At this stage Stevenson would get more credit and attention for beating Hopkins (although not by much) than he would beating Kovalev and he'd make more money for it too. If that weren't enough, he's also less likely to be knocked out or embarrassed if he lost to Hopkins, as opposed to Kovalev. And if he happens to get lucky enough to win by kayo, he calls the shots in the Kovalev fight. Granted, he's not a lock to beat Hopkins; at worst Hopkins makes him look like a novice, but he won't get hurt at all. And one of these days Grandpa Hopkins is going to come up empty, and it could just as well be against Stevenson as against anyone else.
For Stevenson, fighting Hopkins before fighting Kovalev makes perfect sense every way you look at it and plus, it takes Hopkins off the table as far as Kovalev fighting him. Had Stevenson gone ahead and fought Kovalev first and lost, obviously Sergey would've most likely fought Hopkins in his next bout thus leaving Stevenson with no legend to fight along his road back to redemption. Now, it's Kovalev who has to wait for Stevenson and Hopkins to take care of their business, and under the best case scenario Kovalev only gets to fight the winner. And if by chance Stevenson-Hopkins is really close or ends controversially like the first Dawson-Hopkins bout, Stevenson and Hopkins would probably fight each other again immediately, thus leaving Kovalev out in the wilderness a little longer.
In a perfect world Stevenson would go ahead and fight Kovalev, who is more than willing to face him, but boxing is perfectly imperfect and what the fans want never is the first order of business. Think of it like this, if Floyd Mayweather were managing Adonis Stevenson and calling the shots regarding who he fights and when, what do you think he would advise Stevenson to do? Ya damn right...Floyd would nudge Adonis to fight the nearly 50 year old legend Hopkins for more money and then call the shots against the young Lion Kovalev afterwards, when Stevenson's profile and marketability is at it's pinnacle. Yes, that's exactly what Mayweather would advise Stevenson to do. So if you're a Mayweather fan and think that he can do no wrong, you better tip your hat to Stevenson for pulling a Mayweather-esque type move and robbing the fans of the most anticipated fight in the light heavyweight division in years, one that even quasi boxing fans would look forward to watching.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@gmail.com
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