By Jake Donovan
Even with the prospect of a bigger fight awaiting with a win in your next assignment, fighters will almost never admit to looking past their current opponent. Adonis Stevenson has talked plenty about the future, but hasn’t had much to say about anything other than beating Andrzej Fonfara, whom he faces on May 24 in Montreal.
The bout marks Stevenson’s debut with American premium cable network Showtime, after having fought three straight times on rivaling HBO in 2013 and was being floated as that network’s franchise fighter. It was believed that Stevenson was on a collision course to face unbeaten Sergey Kovalev, but instead opted for more money being offered by Showtime.
The move was well-timed, with the network securing the rights to his defense versus Fonfara at a time when plans were set for an April 19 light heavyweight alphabet unification bout between Bernard Hopkins and Beibut Shumenov. Hopkins won by a landslide decision, setting the stage for a future showdown with Stevenson should he win this weekend.
But what he if doesn’t?
“Here at the network, our goal is to televise a series of title unification matches, to produce one unified light heavyweight champion,” commented Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President and General Manager for Showtime Sports. “We don’t have a preference as to who holds the titles.”
That said, a matchup between Stevenson and Hopkins is by far the most favorable of all of the scenarios originally posed when the two fights were purchased by the network.
Hopkins did his part in April, schooling yet another fighter more than a generation younger than the 49-year old future Hall of Famer. It’s up to Stevenson to live up to his end and turn away Fonfara (25-2, 15KO) in what serves as the third defense of the lineal light heavyweight crown he emphatically captured with a one-punch 1st round knockout of Chad Dawson last June.
While Showtime is seemingly intent on proceeding with its unofficial light heavyweight tournament regardless of who wins this weekend, there is far greater appeal with a Stevenson victory – even if the network assigns such desire elsewhere.
“[A] good amount of fascination with Adonis is that he’s a highlight reel puncher,” Espinoza acknowledges. “But (A loss by Stevenson) doesn’t throw a monkey wrench into our plans.”
The fact that Hopkins is attempting to become a two-time lineal light heavyweight champion at age 49 is a brilliant storyline in and of itself. In that regard, a fight with Fonfara – should he pull off the upset – could conceivably sell itself to television viewers, if not in the general market.
A win by Stevenson all but ensures a massive crowd piling into a venue of choice in the Quebec region of Canada, with storylines galore. There is Hopkins adding yet another record-breaking performance to his legendary career. There is Stevenson attempting to avenge countryman Jean Pascal’s loss to Hopkins to restore glory for his adopted nation. There is also the prospect of a true 50/50 matchup between crafty veteran boxer and a free-swinging knockout artist, both who continue to prove that – at ages 49 and 36, respectively – age is just a number.
The moral of the story is clearly, there’s a lot to gain with a Stevenson win and quite a bit to lose if…he doesn’t.
Regardless, Showtime doesn’t seem at all fazed by its hefty investment into the series.
“I'm not sure if devastating is the right way to describe,” Espinoza comments on the thought of a Stevenson loss, which actually falls in line with the network’s insistence that this weekend’s headliner is anything but a foregone conclusion. “My sense of Adonis is he has his own motivation. He's used to winning and wants to continue winning.
“On the other side, we have a challenger who is - I repeat, a competitive opponent. This is a well-matched, competitive fight.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America.