Six months ago, Adonis Stevenson was ruling the light heavyweight roost, the biggest and baddest 175 lb. fighter in the world and advisor Al Haymon’s second hottest property behind Floyd Mayweather.
However, with one flick of a pen by Bernard Hopkins, Stevenson instantly became just another big talent, big ego fighter waiting for something big to come along.
When the wily veteran Hopkins signed to face Sergey Kovalev in a light heavyweight unification bout on HBO, Stevenson went from frontrunner to also-ran and is still looking for something relevant to occupy his time while his two fellow belt holders engage in a big stakes bout he should be having.
Some would say that Stevenson as the bride’s maid to a fall unification is pure karma comeuppance.
The speculation among boxing people was that Haymon, on behalf of Stevenson, was looking to rip the IBF belt from Hopkins and put it around one of his own fighters’ waists to set up a Stevenson unification without dealing with Hopkins or Kovalev.
Hopkins was up against the wall at the end of July. He had until the afternoon of August 1 to sign and face IBF no. 1 contender, the pedestrian and unqualified Nadjib Mohammedi, or be stripped of the belt. If that happened, Mohammedi would then be ordered to face no. 2 contender Thomas Williams Jr., who just happens to be a Haymon fighter and would’ve been heavily favored in the pairing, for the vacant title. And, surprise-surprise, Williams just happened to be scheduled to fight on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights that same night, August 1, when it was to be announced that Williams and Mohammedi would fight for Hopkins’ former belt.
The only apparent way out of this scenario was if Hopkins had a unification scheduled. The IBF would allow him to postpone his mandatory if it was in order to make way for a unification. Hopkins had been negotiating with Stevenson for a fall bout, but as his IBF deadline fast approached, Stevenson’s team reportedly stopped negotiating altogether. It’s easy to draw the conclusion that they stopped negotiating in order to force Hopkins’ hand in relinquishing the belt.
However, Hopkins and Golden Boy owner, Oscar De la Hoya, pulled the veteran move of the year by flipping the script and reaching out to WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev and HBO.
The same afternoon Hopkins was to be stripped of his IBF belt, Hopkins announced to the world that contracts were signed to face Kovalev.
With this move, Hopkins’ IBF belt was safe, the plot to undermine him was thwarted, and to add a touch of irony to the surreal day, Haymon’s Thomas Williams would go on to be stopped by light-punching Gabriel Campillo later on that evening.
And all of that left Stevenson out in the cold.
The fight that makes the most sense now (and is actually Stevenson’s WBC mandatory) is against fellow Haitian-born Canadian attraction, Jean Pascal. And while there’s little doubt that Stevenson-Pascal would be a blockbuster in Quebec, Stevenson, by all accounts, has seemed lukewarm about the match-up.
Stevenson’s promoter Yvon Michel of GYM has reportedly set aside the Bell Centre in Montreal on April 4, 2015 for Stevenson-Pascal, although Stevenson plans on making a voluntary defense this December. All reports indicate, though, that talks between Stevenson and Pascal have not advanced much after a squabble regarding the purse split.
Pascal Promotions CEO, Greg Leon, blasted Stevenson after talks broke down completely:
“Now it’s up to Stevenson to grow a pair and accept a major challenge or blatantly duck his third big fight in the last year or so,” Leon told ESPN. “A champion who ducks three big fights in favor of bouts against second tier opponents is a champion nobody respects and is easily forgotten, especially at 36 years old.”
And while Stevenson got to the top of the division on pure merit, Leon’s words ring true, at least in terms of what public opinion will reflect if the Pascal fight falls through and/or Stevenson doesn’t immediately get in the ring with the winner of Hopkins-Kovalev.
Haymon, meanwhile, has been busy building up his light heavyweight presence around Stevenson. Thomas Williams is still a talented prospect, but will need some career rehab. Former two-time world champ Chad Dawson is being pushed forward ever so slightly. Recent signee, Andrzej Fonfara, who dropped Stevenson and gave the champ a much tougher challenge than anticipated in a decision loss last April, is strong and battle-ready.
But at the top of the hill is Stevenson, whose ego and dogged pursuit of bigger and better deals has backfired on him, at least for the time being. “Superman” turned 37 on September 22 and the clock is ticking on his days as a prime, elite-level fighter.
If he had stayed true to his image as the fearless stalker and merciless ring brute, Stevenson’s star might be shining brighter now than it was when he crushed Chad Dawson and seemingly had the world at his feet. Instead, Stevenson, the fighter, gave way to Stevenson, the wannabe leverage-using deal maker, with the end result being nothing but ill will and wasted time.