By Jake Donovan
While Adonis Stevenson and Bernard Hopkins plan for a discussed light heavyweight unification match this fall, Main Events is doing its part to ensure that at least one of its fighters remains in their sights.
A June 21 showdown between Anatoliy Dudchenko and Nadjib Mohammedi headlines the next installment of NBC Sports Network Fight Night series, but the matchup alone isn’t what has promoter Kathy Duva feeling giddy. The bout comes with the prize of the winner earning a mandatory title shot at Hopkins.
“We have a very significant fight here,” Duva insists of the scheduled 12-round title eliminator. “The winner will be the #1 contender in the IBF in a very hot light heavyweight division.”
Whether or not the winner gets next crack at the title depends on several factors.
Stevenson inked a deal with adviser Al Haymon, which led to his fleeing to American cable giant Showtime and with the intention of securing a historic showdown with Hopkins sometime later this year. Hopkins did his part, scoring a landslide decision over Beibut Shumenov in their April 19 light heavyweight alphabet unification bout.
While Hopkins was favored to beat Shumenov, the bout figured to be somewhat more competitive than the perceived showcase of Stevenson’s voluntary defense versus Andrzej Fonfara. Their May 24 clash was anything but a walk in the park. Stevenson scored two early knockdowns, but reportedly injured his hand in round two, and fell apart over the second half of the contest. Fonfara rallied hard, even flooring the lineal light heavyweight champ in round nine, but ultimately came up short.
Still, Stevenson’s stock hardly rose with the win. He remains champion, which is enough to proceed with plans for a unification bout with Hopkins, who will most likely gain an exception from the International Boxing Federation (IBF), who has ordered the June 21 eliminator between Dudchenko and Mohammedi.
Both fighters pale in comparison to Stevenson when it comes to notoriety, but have been on a roll and can change public perception depending on the outcome of their head-on collision.
Mohammedi (34-3, 20KO) carries a 10-fight win streak into next month’s eliminator, which marks his first fight in the United States. The 29-year old French boxer is six years younger than Dudchenko (19-2, 13KO) though lacking the big fight experience and success away from home that the 35-year old Ukrainian has enjoyed amidst a 16-fight win streak dating back to 2008.
There exists the possibility that the winner would have to wait at least one more fight before securing a title shot, but even that comes with major upside.
“While there seems to be the potential for Bernard Hopkins to face Adonis Stevenson, if for some reason that fight doesn't happen, the winner will – by order of the IBF - face Hopkins next,” Duva indicates. “If (a Stevenson-Hopkins unification bout) does happen, the winner will be ordered to face the winner of that fight. The bottom line is that the winner is going to get a shot at a very big 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. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox