Can Adonis Stevenson Become a Big Star Without Fighting Sergey Kovalev?

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2014

Stevenson fights mean, and we like it.
Stevenson fights mean, and we like it.Credit: Stephanie Trapp / Showtime

Light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson faces Andrzej Fonfara this Saturday, May 24, at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada. The bout will feature one of the hardest punchers in the sport and will be televised live on Showtime.

But here’s the thing: Does anybody really care?

Don’t get me wrong. People will watch it, and they should. Stevenson had a good argument last year for being the most outstanding fighter of 2013, and he is the lineal light heavyweight champion of the world.

He’s a skilled fighter with sick power. He’s fun to watch fight.

But the Fonfara bout was supposed to be a promotional buildup to Stevenson taking on Sergey Kovalev sometime later in the year.

If you missed all the hubbub about that, the most salient points were most eloquently put together by Yahoo’s Kevin Iole, who detailed how HBO believed it had a verbal agreement with Stevenson’s team on Stevenson-Kovalev before finding out that it maybe didn’t.

Being a particularly good rival to HBO, of course, Showtime swooped in to grab Stevenson, who might find himself there for the balance of his career.

That spells almost certain doom for a potential Stevenson-Kovalev bout in the near future for several reasons.

First, if Stevenson had a good relationship with HBO, it is most certainly over now. Whatever the truth of what happened during negotiations is, HBO seems to legitimately believe it had agreed to terms with Stevenson before he decided to look elsewhere.

Next, Stevenson hasn’t done well at making friends with Kovalev’s promotional partner, Main Events.

In fact, according to The Sweet Science’s Michael Woods, Main Events CEO Kathy Duva and company are so jazzed up about everything that they’re taking everyone on the Stevenson side of the dispute—including Al Haymon, Showtime, Golden Boy Promotions, Yvon Michel and even Stevenson himself—to court.  

Finally, Duva hasn’t exactly formed an unbreakable bond with Showtime Sports’ head honcho, Stephen Espinoza, and history suggests it will continue.

The two got into an epic Twitter beef long before the actual litigation began, and Duva doesn’t seem interested in moving any of her fighters, Kovalev included, to Showtime anytime soon.

In fact, she told Bleacher Report in March that she was quite happy funneling her big-money fighters to HBO.

“You cannot build a star on Showtime,” said Duva. “It can’t be done. The audience there is not big enough.”

So it’s fair to ask, can Stevenson become the star he and his handlers hope he can be without facing Kovalev?

When I posed the question on Twitter, most people said that he could, but that it comes down to Stevenson beating Fonfara on Saturday and doing the same to Bernard Hopkins soon after.

Joel Stern, a boxing writer for The Sweet Science, concurred. He said Stevenson’s path to stardom boils down to Stevenson facing and defeating Hopkins.

Matt Andrzejewski, a contributor to, agreed a Hopkins win would help raise the fighter’s profile, but said missing the Kovalev bout might still linger on after.

Luckily, boxing fans are used to fights that should’ve happened lingering on forever and ever and ever.

Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao haven’t tussled yet and don’t appear to be on their way to it anytime soon.

While neither Stevenson nor Kovalev has shown anything in his career just yet to make one believe he’ll reach the heights of Mayweather and Pacquiao, both fighters have certainly solidified their positions among contemporary light heavyweights to have fans salivating at the possibility.

Looks like Fonfara has the height advantage.
Looks like Fonfara has the height advantage.Credit: Stephanie Trapp / Showtime

But if Stevenson-Kovalev is the main course of our terrible dysfunctional-family boxing dinner, it looks like we’ll first have to get through the soups, salads and appetizers.  

You know, the Fonfara-type things.

Regardless, something tells me the key players won’t stay at the table long enough together to make it all worthwhile.

So we can talk all we want about the main-course meal, but we’ll probably never actually be able to eat it.