By Keith Idec
Promoter Yvon Michel is optimistic regarding negotiations for Adonis Stevenson to defend his WBC light heavyweight title against Joe Smith Jr.
The Stevenson fight Michel is discussing with Joe DeGuardia, Smith’s promoter, would take place April 29 at the newly renovated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Smith, who knocked out legend Bernard Hopkins last month, is from Mastic, New York, another Long Island town that’s about a 45-minute drive from Uniondale.
“We’re still talking,” Michel told BoxingScene on Friday. “We’re making progress. We have things we have to take care of, but we’re moving forward.”
Michel emphasized that Stevenson is more than willing to travel to New York to make this title defense. The Quebec-based Stevenson (28-1, 23 KOs) has developed a large fan base in Canada and each of his past 13 fights have been held either in Montreal or Quebec City.
“Stevenson wants to do it,” Michel said. “So we’re trying to find a way that everybody will be happy. Adonis is a team player. He’s working with his manager [Al Haymon] very closely. We work together very closely. He understands. He’s telling us what he wants to do. He’s trusting everybody and that where we wanna go, that it’s the best thing for him. He has no problem going wherever we decide we need to go.”
The 27-year-old Smith (23-1, 19 KOs), a full-time union laborer, finds himself in realistic position for a title shot after back-to-back knockouts of Poland’s Andrzej Fonfara (28-4, 16 KOs, 1 NC) and Philadelphia’s Hopkins (55-8-2, 32 KOs, 2 NC) in 2016. He is the WBC’s No. 5-ranked contender for Stevenson’s 175-pound championship.
“He’s strong, on the way up, very confident,” Michel said. “He’s on the rise, so he’s definitely a dangerous contender.”
DeGuardia acknowledged that he and Michel are still discussing a Stevenson-Smith matchup, but didn’t divulge details. Whomever Smith meets next, DeGuardia emphasized that he wants to wrap up a deal soon.
“It’s certainly a great fight,” DeGuardia said regarding Stevenson-Smith. “We’re exploring some things. I’m working on a bunch of different things and I’m looking to make the best choice for Joe.”
Having Smith headline the first boxing card at the renovated Nassau Coliseum would be a significant step in his career, particularly in a title fight against Stevenson.
“The Nassau Coliseum would be a great place to fight, and if we can make a deal we would,” DeGuardia said. “There are other places, obviously, that are seeking to have Joe on. Fortunately, we’re in a great position. He’s a huge, huge draw for New York. So we have a bunch of different options. And then there’s, believe it or not, a couple other venues that are hot to have him because of the union aspect.
“So we’re in a good position. One of the key factors is when we’re gonna make the deal. We wanna make a quick deal. I wanna make a deal, so we’re looking at which deals are out there, which deals we can make. You make a deal when somebody puts the pen to paper. And that’s what I’m hoping happens, and that’s what we’re working on.”
Michel made it clear that convincing the winner of the WBC light heavyweight elimination match between transplanted Canadians Lucian Bute (32-3-1, 25 KOs) and Eleider Alvarez (21-0, 10 KOs) to wait for the Stevenson-Smith winner won’t become problematic. The Romanian-born Bute and the Colombian-born Alvarez are scheduled to fight February 24 at Videotron Centre in Quebec City, Quebec.
“Without being an insurmountable obstacle, it’s something that we have to address,” said Michel, whose company also promotes Bute and Alvarez. “But if we come to an agreement with Joe [DeGuardia] for the Smith fight, I’m confident that it will not be a roadblock. We have to address it the right way, but it will not be a roadblock.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.