As it stands right now, the Light Heavyweight division has two reigning and defending champions, a large talent pool of worthy competitors and no shortages of fights to be made in one of the sneakily deepest divisions in the sport.
Normally, that would be a recipe that leads to big fights around the year which would ideally cumulate in a showdown for all the marbles between champions Andre Ward and Adonis Stevenson. The reality is that the division is stuck in the mud with two timid champions and no clear challenger to them, or at least the ones they’d like to fight anyway.
I’ve already aired my grievances with Ward (which you can read in detail here), but it does go to show that Ward’s current hostage situation with his titles and the will he/won’t he stance of giving a rematch to Sergey Kovalev is putting the Light Heavyweight division in the mud. Though the details are murky, Ward is contractually obligated to a rematch with Kovalev and that will pretty much keep him on the sidelines until a compromise is reached or both parties show a mutual disinterest.
While Ward’s situation sucks—he isn’t half as bad as the reigning, lineal champion Adonis Stevenson.
Stevenson ultimately sidestepped a fight with Kovalev when they were both still HBO fighters, but HBOs inability to actually get a fight done between them and to appease the then popular Stevenson lead him to Showtime as part of the Al Haymon/HBO exodus. Since then, Stevenson has been an active champion against forgettable opponents and perhaps regretting the decision to leave Kovalev at the alter as his career slowly comes to a close under the guise of anonymity.
Stevenson, like Ward, is very particular of who he fights and when. It would seem that a fight between Stevenson and last year’s breakout fighter Joe Smith Jr. was both easy to make and quick to order, but Stevenson’s team was only entertaining talks for a brief period of time until they cut all contact with Smith’s team sometime earlier this month.
By all accounts, Smith is probably the worst match up out there for Stevenson and that is probably why he’ll continue to sidestep him for a more favorable style match up against the surging, but still green Marcus Browne or Lucian Bute if he somehow manages to get past Eledier Alvarez this Friday.
Not all is lost though, because as the champions are fine stagnating at the top, there are plenty of fights that can happen to eventually force a pivotal showdown down the line.
Sullivan Barrera faces off against Artur Beterbiev in a fight that will determine the highly touted Russian’s legitimacy this April, Fonfara will try to rebound from the disaster against Smith against former champion Chad Dawson and the sudden emergence of Oleksandr Gvozdyk are making everything but the top of the mountain look very interesting. Perhaps most promising is the yet to be announced Light Heavyweight debut of Badou Jack, who is sure to not waste time on the sidelines.
With Kovalev and Smith looming for Ward and Stevenson respectively, we can only hope that a division loaded with so much talent will not suffer from the lack of enthusiasm of their reigning and defending champions…and can dethrone them if need be.