Kovalev vs Stevenson: The Big Fight That Wasn’t

And so we now hear that talks for an Adonis Steven vs Sergey Kovalev showdown (provided of course that Kovalev gets past Jean Pascal tonight) have indeed fallen through, yet again. Reportedly, the sticking point this time was that Superman’s team insisted that a Kovalev vs Stevenson fight not only be aired on pay-per-view, but that it also be a joint HBO-Showtime production. But here’s the thing: while Kovalev is indeed legally bound to HBO, Stevenson has no such ties to Showtime.

It’s true that Stevenson’s connection to Al Haymon may have soured HBO to the whole thing, as HBO generally won’t work with Haymon these days, but it’s hard not to assume that team “Superman” is at fault here. Stevenson’s people could have easily pointed fingers at HBO’s unwillingness to deal with Haymon if that were the case, but that’s not what team Stevenson reportedly did. Instead, it insisted on a joint promotion when there was no need for one.

Familiar story: one of boxing's best matches may never happen.
Familiar story: one of boxing’s best matches may never happen.

Look, I’m no Stevenson hater. He seems like a cool guy in interviews and I’m assuming he’s repented for past heinous deeds and is now a decent and productive citizen. Boxing, it should be noted, has long been a breeding ground for redemption. But even with that in mind, it’s hard for me to shake the idea that Stevenson is avoiding a chance at greatness here. Or that he’s allowing those around him to keep him from taking it.

In other words, he’s either being manipulated or is outright (how I hate to use this word) ducking the powerful Russian. Nothing else makes sense at this point.

You have to act like a champion to truly be one
Is “Superman” afraid of “Krusher”?

Before I come across as self-righteous, however, let me make clear that I do not believe that Stevenson fears Kovalev, or anyone else for that matter. As Teddy Atlas recently said, boxers just aren’t cowards. If they were, well, they wouldn’t be boxers. At it’s very essence, the sport requires courage.

No, I think Stevenson, or his team, or Haymon, decided some time ago that plenty of money could be made with soft touches, so much money in fact, that it could compensate for Stevenson not facing Kovalev, Hopkins, Pascal or anyone else who might be a real threat. It isn’t that team Stevenson fears losing, but that it must be paid ridiculous and impractical sums of money in order to take a genuine risk.

In the end, it’s business. At least that’s how I’m looking at it right now. But frankly, it’s still bullshit. Stevenson, like so many others in boxing these days, acts like an employee who won’t hold a door open for someone if it’s not required in a contract to do so. Too many boxers have reduced their entire profession to this level.

Haymon: Maybe this guy is the problem.
Maybe Haymon is the problem.

And the sad thing is, they can get away with it, as a number of top pugilists have shown over and over again. Exhibit A has to be Floyd Mayweather taking on Andre Berto for his farewell fight, and guys like Danny Garcia, Andre Ward, Leo Santa Cruz and Deontay Wilder are guilty of pursuing the same business model. And as long as they can keep cashing big checks, it’s going to be hard to stop this. Indeed, it looks to me like Stevenson will never fight anyone again who stands more than a moderate chance of beating him, unless he’s somehow forced to.

And as far as the morality of the whole thing goes, I’ve grown a bit tired of the tisky set and its bellyaching there, too. Those who say it’s immoral to want Stevenson to risk getting hurt against Kovalev should take a good hard look at what he does to his less-than-stellar opposition. Heck, I actually give Stevenson a good chance of beating Sergey. As for those who point to the fact that Stevenson is simply trying to support his family, I once again point to the opponents he’s been facing. Don’t those guys have families? I’m guessing they’ve been getting paid a lot less than Stevenson. What about them?

A Stevenson-Fonfara rematch might be as good as it gets from here on in
Sad thought: A Stevenson vs Fonfara rematch might be as good as it gets.

The sad fact is we’re now living in a Kardashian world where people can get fame and fortune without really earning it. While Stevenson certainly worked hard to become light heavyweight champ, he hasn’t done much since. Nor does he, or his team, apparently intend to. The man got paid. That and that alone, I suppose, is what matters to Adonis. Again, this is the Kardashian era, an age of easy fame and fortune – but certainly not of glory.

Indeed, I could be wrong about all of this. What you’re reading here is an opinion piece, not verified fact. Truth be told, I wish I could be proven wrong and that a Kovalev vs Stevenson battle happens as soon as possible. As a boxing fan, I want Stevenson to challenge himself, show some ambition, and at least try to leave his mark before retirement. But until I stand corrected, I’ve got to call it like I see it.        — Sean Crose

2 thoughts on “Kovalev vs Stevenson: The Big Fight That Wasn’t

  • January 30, 2016 at 4:30 pm
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    The “Kar-dash-i-an era” I like it. Can’t like that guy Stevenson but personal resentment aside, I absolutely hate this boxing as a business model as well. It basically means that no modern fighter will ever be thought of as “better” or “greater” than the warriors (boxers as fighters and entertainers) of eras past. From now on present day boxers must be referred to with the phrase “as athletically talented as any fighter before him”.

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  • February 1, 2016 at 8:04 am
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    “And as long as they can keep cashing big checks, it’s going to be hard to stop this.” This brings up another question. How long can Al Haymon sustain this type of practice. He’s paying purses of 2-3 million dollars to showcase his fighters against nobodies, and as far as the PBC series, he’s paying the networks for air time, not the other way around. He has to be losing money on these shows. I understand that he is playing with investor money and sooner or later you have to think those hedge fund guys are going to want to see a return. Not to mention the Top Rank and Golden Boy lawsuits could put a huge dent in his war chest, depending on the results of those.

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