By Sean Crose
Adonis Stevenson may be the lineal light heavyweight champion of the world, but that may not matter to a whole lot of boxing fans. In case you weren’t on Twitter this weekend, it appears Stevenson’s jump to Al Haymon and Showtime has caused his reputation to take a severe hit. He may not be ducking his counterpart, WBO champ Sergey Kovalev, but it seems to people like he is – and that’s not a good thing.
Perhaps Stevenson doesn’t care. He’s with Haymon now, after all. And besides, Showtime is the network on the rise when it comes to boxing, right? Well, not so fast. Truth is, Stevenson might want to look long and hard at his current situation. First off, he appears weak in the eyes of many right now. Also, he might wonder who else he’s going to fight if and when he defeats both Andrzej Fonfara and Bernard Hopkins. HBO, not Showtime, has the high caliber guys who may want to move up to light heavyweight, after all.
But again, perhaps Stevenson doesn’t care. He’s no kid, remember. Besides, it’s been said he himself was ducked before he finally became champion by knocking out Chad Dawson in the first round. Maybe the guy just wants to sit back, sell out Canadian venues, appeal to a limited fan base, and count the money he earns.
If that’s true, Stevenson might just have something in common with another Haymon fighter, Floyd Mayweather. Thing is, though, Mayweather decided to to take it easy after a long career spent collecting the scalps of big names. Stevenson? He beat Dawson, sure, but Dawson had just lost to Ward. What’s more, John Scully, Dawson’s former trainer, claims Bad Chad wasn’t even as prepared as he should have been to face the Canadian slugger. In other words, Stevenson’s resume, impressive though it is, is nowhere near that of a legend like Mayweather’s.
Or those of former light heavyweight champions Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Roy Jones Jr, and Archie Moore. Yeah, he’s thirty-six, but Stevenson will want to keep building on that fearsome record of his if he wants to have a lasting legacy. Or even if he wants to remain relevant. Stevenson might end up controlling the vast majority of light heavyweight belts, but no one will care if he fights easy opponents while Kovalev battles the likes of Ward, Golovkin and Chavez Jr.
There’s a great moment in the film Miller’s Crossing where Gabriel Byrne tells a crime boss that he only runs the city because people think he runs it. When people stop believing it, Byrne’s character assures the gangster, he’ll stop running it. The same can be said of champion boxers. In the end, they’re basically only champions because people people think they’re champions. When fans stop believing they’re number one, they stop being number one. And all the belts in the world can’t change that fact.
Michael Spinks, for instance, was the man who first beat Larry Holmes. Yet it was Mike Tyson who people saw as the real heavyweight champ when he stepped into the ring to destroy the undefeated Spinks way back in June of 1988. Boxing isn’t baseball or football. The two top rated competitors aren’t required to face each other. That’s why boxing champions are ultimately created by opinion rather than titles.
And the overall opinion on Stevenson is dropping. Sure, Stevenson ranted and raved on Twitter after Kovalev spoke some pretty demeaning words about him in front of the whole world on Saturday night. Does he really, truly want to face the ferocious Russian, though? Time will most likely provide the answer. It should also let the world know how relevant a fighter Stevenson truly is.