By Jake Donovan
It’s been a long road to respectability for middleweight contender Curtis Stevens. The Brooklyn-based knockout artist has literally punched his way back into contention, running off four straight wins to earn a crack at unbeaten middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin.
The scheduled 12-round title fight headlines an HBO-televised show on November 2, live from The Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The location of the title fight is relatively close to Stevens’ childhood hometown in Brownsville (Brooklyn), New York, but the dream of ever fighting for a major belt seemed to be a million miles away in the eyes of most observers.
Such skepticism stems from two of the more notable entries on Stevens’ résumé, both of which resulted in career-worst performances while on display for a national audience. His lone previous HBO appearance came way back in 2007, where he dropped an uncompetitive decision to Andre Dirrell in a stinker of a fight where the victor ran for 10 rounds, while Stevens appeared clueless as to how to cut off the ring and neutralize his opponent.
A four-fight win streak followed, only to crash and burn in a landslide decision loss to fringe contender Jesse Brinkley nearly four years ago in their ESPN2-televised headliner.
The lone other loss in Stevens’ career came in a shocking upset, when he was stopped by faded Marcos Primera in eight rounds in front of a local crowd in their July ’06 bout. The loss was avenged, with Stevens taking a decision at the very same Grand Ballroom venue just four months later.
While the bout with Dirrell has rightfully been erased from the memory of most boxing fans, it’s the loss to Brinkley that prompted Stevens to change his mental preparation for fights these days.
“Brinkley was three years ago. It was a learning lesson, I went in looking for a knockout,” Stevens (25-3, 18KO) admits of his last ring loss. “My coach (Andre Rozier, Stevens’ uncle) was giving me the right instructions in the corner. I only had knockout on my mind. I lost the fight myself.”
Stevens has since reeled off another four-fight win streak heading into his showdown with Golovkin (27-0, 24KO), who has become a cult favorite and HBO regular. Reeling off 14 consecutive knockouts and remaining in the public spotlight (the bout marks Golovkin’s fourth title defense this year and fifth inside of 14 months) has won over boxing audiences, as well as bookmakers who have the undefeated Ukrainian as a heavy betting favorite.
A win by Stevens will grant the New Yorker the level of respectability he felt he earned several fights ago, but is prepared to impress once again.
“My redemption came when I knocked Ayala out, and when I knocked Roman out,” Stevens believes. “I’m here to prove people wrong, change people’s mind and let them know I am the most powerful fighter in the middleweight division.
“I don’t care about people thinking I’m the underdog. But I do take issue with people who look past me and think he’s going to just walk through me. I'm gonna walk him through Brooklyn and drop him off in Brownsville.”
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.