Sergey Kovalev vs. Adonis Stevenson: Inching Closer?
By Hans Olson
For two-plus years, one of the most talked about fights in boxing among hardcore fans has been a proposed meeting between light-heavyweight kings Adonis “Superman” Stevenson and Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev.
As it stands currently, only a super-fight between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin would be more talked about in fight circles.
And we might just be inching closer to the clamored for light heavyweight unification, finally.
“Kovalev’s team would like the fight to be agreed to before the the Jean Pascal fight on January 30,” Stevenson’s promoter, Yvon Michel told RDS reporter Jean-Luc Legendre on Friday.
Michel is in Brooklyn this weekend to watch Deontay Wilder’s heavyweight title defense against Artur Szpilka. He hopes to meet more with Kovalev’s promoter, Kathy Duva of the New Jersey-based Main Events, to discuss a potential deal for a June fight between “Superman” and “Krusher.”
Michel, however, is hesitant to agree to a fight contract before Kovalev’s title defense on January 30th against Canadian Jean Pascal. Anything can happen in boxing, and if Pascal were to upset the reigning champ, any deal for a Kovalev fight would obviously be out the window.
Furthermore, with Michel having recently worked closely with one-time rival Québec promoter Interbox, (Pascal’s current promoter) announcing a fight before Kovalev vs. Pascal 2 would be in bad taste.
If a deal cannot be reached for Stevenson to fight Kovalev in June, Michel’s back-up plan would be for Stevenson to take on Eleider Alvarez, the mandatory challenger to his WBC belt in April. Alvarez, the Montréal based Columbian, is also promoted by Yvon Michel.
“If we have an agreement in June to face Kovalev, Adonis will miss other fights in between. On the other hand, if the fight against Kovalev falls apart, Adonis will make his mandatory defense at the beginning of April.”
Alvarez became the WBC mandatory challenger by winning a unanimous decision late last year over Isaac Chilemba, who is also promoted by Main Events.
Still, many roadblocks to light heavyweight unification need to be overcome.
Stevenson is managed by Al Haymon, the reclusive mastermind behind the Premier Boxing Champions series. More notably, Haymon’s fighters have been barred from HBO, the network that Kovalev has an exclusive contract with, for some time now.
Duva has long maintained that the fight between Stevenson and Kovalev should be a fight on HBO PPV, with each fighter taking 50% of the earnings.
Back in 2013, Stevenson fought 3 of his 4 fights on HBO during a year in which he was recognized as The Ring Magazine’s “Fighter of the Year.” Times have changed. That very magazine has since stripped Stevenson of their imaginary “champion” status due to Stevenson’s dearth of top opposition.
Kovalev, by consequence, has surged in his respect among boxing fans and observers, having defeated the likes of Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal while Stevenson easily knocked out lesser opposition. While Kovalev has fought exclusively on HBO, Stevenson has fought on Showtime, CBS, and Spike, networks who are associated with Haymon and the PBC.
Still, the squabbling in the presses between all parties has not been very productive, to say the least. Some share of the blame can be passed to all involved. Yes, it was Stevenson who left HBO in 2014 for more money to fight Andrzej Fonfara (a win that looks pretty darn good these days). Duva maintains that a deal in principle was in place for Stevenson to meet Kovalev later that year. Although Stevenson consistently said that he wanted the Kovalev fight, his actions proved otherwise.
Then there was the purse-bid debacle. The World Boxing Council, in a rare, but good decision, ordered Stevenson to fight Kovalev last year. Since Michel and Duval weren’t communicating at that point, the purse bid was what everything would come down to. Then, Main Events backed out of the purse bid, citing Kovalev’s deal with HBO, and the uncertainty of the Canadian dollar’s power, among other things.
The hostility between Michel and Duva has cooled considerably since then, with the pair even working together to stage the aforementioned Alvarez/Chilemba title eliminator last November.
The meetings this weekend are another sign of hope that boxing may finally see one of the fights that all agree has to happen.
But will it?
That remains to be seen.