By Jim Dower: After being chased by Sergey “Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) for well over 2 years, WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson (28-1, 23 KOs) could finally be ready to fight him or Andre “SOG” Ward if he can get past his opponent Andrzej Fonfara (29-4, 17 KOs) in their rematch this Saturday night on June 3 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada.
Stevenson, for whatever reason, hasn’t chosen to fight the Russian Kovalev all these years. It’s unknown if it was Stevenson who didn’t want the fight or his manager. Whatever the case, the fight never got made and Stevenson is now 39-years-old, and he probably doesn’t have too much time left in boxing before he starts taking losses. Stevenson’s popularity has failed to grow significantly despite him being the World Boxing Council 175 pound champion for the past 4 years since beating Chad Dawson by a 1st round knockout in June 2013.
Stevenson is partly to blame for that by him electing to take a lot of easy voluntary defenses rather than facing the better fighters that would increase his popularity. Stevenson’s needless rematch against Fonfara is an example of that. Stevenson isn’t going to gain much popularly from beating Fonfara, because he already beat him in 2014 by a 12 round unanimous decision. Fonfara recently knocked out in the 1st round by Joe Smith Jr. last year in June 2016.
You would think that Fonfara getting knocked out in the 1st round by Smith Jr. would be enough to eliminate him as a possible opponent for Stevenson to fight. If this were the NFL, you wouldn’t have a team going to the Super Bowl immediately after they were blown out by another team in their previous game. But it’s possible Stevenson is thinking in terms of Fonfara being better known by the Canadians than Smith Jr., and less dangerous because he doesn’t pack the same kind of wallop on his punches. The threat is less for Stevenson, and that increases his chances of remaining a champion longer.
“My goal is to unify the titles with the winner of Kovalev and Ward,” said the soon to be 40-year-old Stevenson. “I want the unification, but if not I’ll make my mandatory. If Ward wins I want to fight him, if Kovalev wins I want to fight him. I’m ready.”
Stevenson had better get in line to wait on the Ward vs. Kovalev winner, because he’s not likely to get that fight anytime soon. It might be well for Stevenson to hope that Kovalev, 34, wins the fight with Ward on June 17, because Ward has already said he’s not interested in fighting Stevenson. Ward notes that Stevenson had the chance to fight Kovalev in the past, and he decided not to take the fight with him. Ward doesn’t like that. For that reason, he’s not interested in fighting him because he views Stevenson as someone that didn’t want to prove that he was the best at 175 when he had the opportunity.
Kovalev, on the other hands, DOES want to fight Stevenson. Kovalev says it’s still a goal of his to collect all 4 titles at 175, and he wants to have the World Boxing Council title sitting at home on his mantle after he beats Stevenson. However, what’s not good news for Stevenson is the likelihood of a 3rd fight between Kovalev and Ward if their June 17 fight is a thrilling one or if Kovalev wins. Ward isn’t going to just walk away if he loses to Kovalev without wanting to try and avenge the loss immediately in a trilogy fight.
At the same time, the boxing world would definitely want to see a third fight between Ward and Kovalev right away rather than waiting for it to marinate like we saw with the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao. If Stevenson gets past Fonfara, which is likely, he’ll need to defend his WBC light heavyweight title against the winner of this Saturday’s fight between #1 WBC Eleider Alvarez (22-0, 11 KOs) and #12 WBC Jean Pascal (31-4-1, 18 KOs).
Alvarez, 33, is seen as the most likely of the two to emerge as the winner of that fight. Stevenson could be in for a very tough fight against Alvarez if he’s not able to get a unification fight against the winner of the Ward-Kovalev II fight. A unification match would allow Stevenson to steer around the winner of the Alvarez vs. Pascal fight.
The boxing fans want to see Ward and Kovalev square off again, as there was a lot of controversy surrounding their previous fight on November 19 last year, a fight in which Ward won by a questionable 12 round unanimous decision on HBO PPV in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ward had to get up off the canvas in round 2 following a hard knockdown.
The last 9 rounds saw Ward mostly spoiling by holding and mauling on the inside. Ward landed very few telling punches in the fight. Kovalev landed the better shots when he wasn’t being held by Ward. Kovalev-Ward wasn’t gripping stuff, as far as excitement goes, but it made it interesting when Ward had his hand raised at the end rather than Kovalev, because it was so unexpected, given how the fight played out.
It looked to many boxing fans like Kovalev had won a cut and dried 12 round decision over Ward. But when Ward’s hand was raised, it was surprising. Boxing fans want to see if the outcome will be different in the rematch. More than anything, the boxing world wants to see a conclusive winner of the Ward-Kovalev II fight that is generally agreed upon by the majority of the fans rather than just a small amount of fans, which is what we had for the outcome of the Kovalev-Ward fight.
Only a small amount of boxing fans thought Ward deserved to win the fight. It’s obviously not good news for boxing when you have the guy that appeared to lose the fight having his hand raised, but it wasn’t all that surprising. The venue favored the American Ward by it being staged in Las Vegas, Nevada instead of on the East Coast or in Russia. If Kovalev-Ward had taken place in Kovalev’s home country of Russia instead of Ward’s home country of the U.S, it’s quite possible that Kovalev would have won the fight.
Stevenson will be making his 8th defense of his WBC light heavyweight title against Fonfara. Since winning the belt in 2013, Stevenson has successfully defended it against these fighters:
– Tony Bellew
– Thomas Williams Jr.
– Tommy Karpency
– Sakio Bika
– Dmitry Sukhotsky
– Andrzej Fonfara
– Tavoris Cloud
What’s interesting is the lack of risk-taking title defenses for Stevenson. He’s fighting decent guys, but not the really talented fighters at 175. Here are the fighters that Stevenson has NOT faced while the WBC 175 pound champion:
– Sergey Kovalev
– Artur Beterbiev
– Eleider Alvarez
– Jean Pascal
– Oleksandr Gvozdyk
– Joe Smith Jr.
– Badou Jack
– Sullivan Barrera
– Andre Ward
– Dmitry Bivol
– Marcus Browne
Is it an accident that Stevenson hasn’t faced any of those fighters since winning his WBC title or has he been purposefully steered around them? I don’t know. However, the fact that Stevenson is nearing 40 and hasn’t got too much time left as a top fighter might have something to do with his sudden interest in fighting the winner of the Ward vs. Kovalev II rematch.