Adonis Stevenson’s people may be looking upon Bernard Hopkins as an old man who could be vulnerable to his thunderous left hand, and they may be underestimating the guile of the 48-year-old champ, but that kind of hubris may pale in comparison to what they are proposing to a man many think is one of the better pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
Bernard Hopkins lost a chance to defend his IBF light heavyweight title when scheduled July 13 opponent Karo Murat fell out over visa problems, and Stevenson would like to fight Hopkins as his first priority.
Yvon Michel of Interbox, a Montreal-based promoter who has been around, has conceded that he wouldn’t mind if his charge undertook to engage in a unification fight against another recognized champion at 175 pounds in Hopkins, but he also appeared ready to offer a unique and ambitious deal to Andre Ward, the WBA “Super” super middleweight champion (which, we assume, must mean that he is REALLY super).
It entails a guarantee of two fights. The first one would be at 168 pounds, in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, with a scheduled September date. Such a thing shouldn’t be impossible for Stevenson to do, considering that he only recently moved from the super middleweight ranks, although it doesn’t seem to allow a lot of time to do it in.
The built-in rematch would take place at a date to be determined, but it would be at 175 pounds, and in Montreal, which is not only where Michel is based but is also Stevenson’s adopted hometown (he is a native of Haiti).
The two-fight series would give each man a chance to fight in their own hometown, where they would put their own belt on the line.
There are glitches with such a thing, however. Perhaps the more prudent way to do it would be to reverse the fights, to ensure that a belt would legitimately be on the line in both. To illustrate, if Ward were to fight the first bout at 175, he would have a chance to win Stevenson’s belt, though his own wouldn’t be at risk. Then, Stevenson would have a chance to drop weight and fight for Ward’s title.
The way these fights have been proposed, if Ward won the first fight at 168, it would take a lot of the starch out of Stevenson’s title, since both men would have been under the 175-pound limit that is required for valid championship contests. It could theoretically, then, be for both titles, and traditionally in boxing, non-title fights have been over-the-weight affairs. But in this day and age of multiple titles with the same governing body in each division, anything apparently goes.
From the standpoint of box office viability, it can be a big winner, since each of the fighters can draw numbers in their respective home areas. And because of Ward’s reputation, as well as Stevenson’s punching power, it should be an attractive and intriguing matchup for television. If Stevenson pulled off another thunderous knockout win, the way he did to wrest the WBC title away from Chad Dawson, everyone would probably want to see the return bout.
Here is the risk: what if the first fight is a dud? Or if Ward, for example, dominated Stevenson so thoroughly that there was little demand on the part of anyone to see a rematch. That is what makes any proposed two-fight deal a dicey one. Michel’s requirement is that the second fight would have to take place, regardless of the outcome of the first fight. In Montreal, one imagines it will sell for paying customers, but if Stevenson looked very bad the first time around, would a television network want to chance presenting something like that all over again?