Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
It's going to take a lot of time and care to unpack the sordid details of the Stevenson/ Kovalev/Showtime/HBO saga of the past week, but let's give it a shot.
First, here's what we know.
On Jan. 23, per Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, Yvon Michel (Stevenson's promoter) and Kathy Duva (Kovalev's promoter with Main Events) agreed to the financial terms for a bout between the fighters later in the year.
The next day, HBO agreed with both parties that Kovalev would face Agnew this past Saturday, and Stevenson would face Andrzej Fonfara in May, with the two—should they win—moving on to a fall showdown.
Michel says he advised Stevenson to sign the contracts, but he declined.
In mid-February, Stevenson inked a contract with powerful boxing advisor Al Haymon, who now exclusively does business on the Showtime side of the network divide after HBO cut ties with him last year.
And this is the point where the story goes off the rails, and we devolve into he said and she said.
HBO never got pen to paper on the contracts, but the network claims that Stevenson attempted to renegotiate the terms of their agreement, per Iole, seeking more money for the Fonfara fight and no commitment to face Kovalev in the fall.
When HBO refused to renegotiate, Showtime swooped in and snatched Stevenson's next fight and, potentially, his future ones as well.
Showtime Sports executive vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza acknowledged the deal was currently for just the one fight, but the structure of the deal allows for further fights to be added on.
That should be read to say that Stevenson, should he beat Fonfara, will face Bernard Hopkins, should he beat Beibut Shumenov on April 19, with three of the four light heavyweight belts on the line.
Obviously, that's a significant fight, but it's not the one fight fans seem to want. Stevenson vs. Kovalev was a potential matchup of two huge power punchers, and it had excitement and intrigue written all over it.
Now, nobody can, or should, blame Stevenson for doing what's in his best interests financially. He's 36 years old, and it's his obligation to make as much money from boxing while he still can. That's a sentiment he echoed to Lem Satterfield of The Ring Magazine last week during the firestorm.
But the reality here is that this situation is multifaceted.
Stevenson can be both given credit for making a smart business decision—how many people out there wouldn't chase the bigger bucks—and criticized for ducking Kovalev.
It just seems to be a perfect confluence of events for the WBC champion.
He was never—at least if you view his public statements—sold on the idea of facing Kovalev. Whenever his name was mentioned, Stevenson brought up other fighters and money instead.
No, Stevenson never wanted any piece of Kovalev.
And now he doesn't have to face him, and he makes some extra money in the process.
That's what they call the best of both worlds.