Last month in Quebec, Canada, reigning super middleweight champion James DeGale and Lucian Bute fought in an all action battle with DeGale emerging victorious. Many of boxing’s luminaries were in attendance that evening to take in the action, including Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev and Adonis “Superman” Stevenson.
During the bouts, Stevenson (27 – 1), the current WBC and lineal light heavyweight champion, greeted Kovalev (28 – 0), holder of three titles in the same division. The pair engaged in what appeared to be a cordial conversation and snapped a picture together. From an outsider’s perspective, the Kovalev and Stevenson encounter was nonchalant. However, us boxing fans are well aware of how bitter the rivalry is.
A potential mega fight between the light heavyweight knockout artists is one the fans have been drooling about for the last two years. Originally, they were scheduled to clash on HBO before Stevenson crossed the street to rival Showtime. Most recently, the WBC mandated a purse bid between the two, which was subsequently canceled by Kovalev’s promoter Main Events.
With the new year approaching in a matter of weeks, boxing’s fans remain hopeful these two will duel it out in 2016.
To give us some foresight on what to expect, ThaBoxingVoice’s own Nestor Gibbs interviewed John David Jackson, Kovalev’s head trainer and former champion himself.
“I believe Stevenson wants the fight, champions want to prove to themselves they are the best, Stevenson wants it” said Jackson (who at one point worked with Stevenson). Jackson was also asked if he foresees a better possibility of the a deal being struck now that HBO boxing has new leadership, and while the new charge can be seen as a fresh start for those hindered by the political landscape which does not allow certain fighters to fight for HBO, Jackson was clear about who this fight would ultimately come down to if it is going to happen.
“In the end, it’s going to be what Al (Haymon) decides to do, it’s his call, Sergei wants the fight, he wants the fight bad, listen, I believe Stevenson wants the fight, champions want to prove to themselves they are the best.”
With Kovalev scheduled to rematch Jean Pascal in January in what most think is perfunctory defense, Jackson gave us an assessment of when the potential showdown would occur, “I think by June the fight will be made”. Sounds promising, but let’s quickly look at how realistic the possibility is.
From the evidence gathered from Kovalev’s camp, the fight must happen on HBO. This runs into conflict as Stevenson has been featured exclusively on Showtime and the PBC. Stevenson also has a plethora of options within the Haymon stable such as Andrzej Fonfara, Eleider Alvarez, Edwin Rodriguez, and rising sensation Artur Beterbiev. Kovalev has a contracted mega fight with pound for pound star Andre Ward looming. The point is neither fighter “needs” each other in terms of opponents.
Fight fans typically don’t care about the business aspect of the sport, they want to see the best fighting the best. However, unless HBO offers the Stevenson the equivalent of what he would receive in the canceled purse bid, I can’t see him agreeing. HBO would have to extend their budget way past the threshold usually earmarked for a standard “World Championship Boxing” card to pay the two. And from what we learned from the tepid Gennady Golovkin pay per view numbers, it might be hard to market as a paid event.
Before we end on a sour note, let’s try to remain somewhat upbeat, and hope those involved hear the fans voice. Jackson himself summed it up perfect for us, “it’s definitely a fight the fans deserve, and I’m intrigued to see myself, I want to see who’s the better man” Could not have said it any better Coach.