By Sean Crose
Light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson may fancy himself Superman but he reminds me of another fictional character entirely. Bartleby the Scrivener was the central figure in Herman Melville’s 1853 short story of the same name. In the tale, Bartleby shows up to work as a scrivener at a Wall Street firm, only to turn things upside down for all around him.
At first Bartleby is a sound and reliable worker. After a short time, however, he becomes obstinate. Every time his employer asks him to do something perfectly reasonable, Bartleby responds with “I would prefer not to.” What’s more, Bartleby decides he would prefer not to leave the office – even when the business he works for relocates.
In the end the poor man ends up in the asylum, dying because he would “prefer not to” eat. For well over one hundred years, scholars have tried to figure out why Bartleby willfully decided to “prefer not to” do the things in life he was supposed to.
Which brings us to Stevenson. First, he won the lineal light heavyweight title by knocking out Chad Dawson within one round. A hard hitting force to be reckoned with, Stevenson seemed like a man with a bright future indeed, even though he was in his middle thirties – advanced years for a fighter. People figured he could fight men like Sergey Kovalev, Bernard Hopkins, even perhaps Andre Ward at some venture.
Stevenson has decided not to go down that expected path of challenges and glory, however. Indeed, the man clearly prefers not to. First, Stevenson avoided Kovalev by switching networks, from HBO to Showtime. Then he apparently showed little interest (or at least his team did) in facing the ageless Bernard Hopkins in the ring.
Now word is out that Stevenson would prefer not to fight highly regarded fellow Canadian Jean Pascal, as well. At this point the man should prefer not to keep referring to himself as Superman. As far as I know, Superman never acted like every legitimate threat in his path possessed kryptonite.
Stevnson, of course, is an Al Haymon fighter who is clearly marketed to boxing’s new breed of fan; a fan who is indifferent to boxing itself, but who is vicariously thrilled by fighters getting significant checks for little work. Yet there isn’t enough of the new breed out there to make Stevenson truly rich. Nor is the new breed of fan apt to help Stevenson carry on his legacy once he retires.
Those two things can only be achieved by more traditional minded boxing fans, and those fans are not going to tune in to Showtime in droves to see Stevenson pummel has been’s and untested up and comers. At the rate he’s going, Stevenson can expect to be a solid cable draw – at best. That’s all the future the new breed of fan has to offer him. It’s a shame, really. The guy’s future could be so much brighter.
By just facing solid competition, by just ACTING LIKE A CHAMPION, Stevenson could be a huge cable draw and could earn himself quite a pretty penny when all is said and done. He’s in charge of his career, after all, not Haymon. All Stevenson has to do is demand the big, exciting fights which await him.
Sadly, though, the man would prefer not to.
And so here we are, with a champion who’s a champion in name only, an equivalent of a British Monarch who rules but nominally. Perhaps Stevenson will see the error of his ways and finally decide to fight the quality names in his division. Or perhaps he knows deep down that he can’t beat the likes of Kovalev, Hopkins and Pascal and so chooses to remain on the sidelines while the world passes him by.
Stevenson’s achieved a lot in his career. It’s a shame that, at the moment at least, he intends to go out with a whisper rather than with a bang.