By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Adonis Stevenson’s promoter feels a fight that hasn’t happened has turned large factions of fans and media against the WBC light heavyweight champion.
Yvon Michel considers Stevenson the best 175-pound boxer in the sport. Not enough people support that theory, according to Michel, because Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev haven’t fought.
Before Andre Ward moved up to 175 pounds and recorded back-to-back victories over Kovalev, Stevenson versus Kovalev was the fight within the light heavyweight division.
The first time it didn’t happen, early in 2014, the majority of fans and media seemed to blame Stevenson.
The second time it didn’t happen, Kovalev drew criticism because his promoter, Main Events, withdrew from a scheduled purse bid in April 2015. Kovalev, who then owned the IBF, WBA and WBO titles, also was the WBC’s mandatory challenger for Stevenson’s title at that time.
Whomever you blame, Michel suspects Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs) isn’t given his just due in large part because the 40-year-old knockout artist hasn’t fought Russia’s Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs).
“They’re underestimating Stevenson,” Michel told BoxingScene.com. “A lot of people, they believe that because it has been impossible to do the Kovalev fight – and Adonis was never afraid of fighting Kovalev. He wanted to have that fight. It was a question of the network, management. So it was against his own wishes [that it didn’t happen]. But because people believe that he was avoiding Kovalev that he’s not as good as he is. He’s the best boxer in the division. He’s the most dangerous boxer in the division. He hits like a heavyweight.”
Inactivity and mostly modest opposition have hurt Stevenson’s title reign as well.
The Haitian-born, Quebec-based champion has defended his title just eight times since he won it by stopping Chad Dawson in the first round of their June 2013 bout in Montreal.
Stevenson will end nearly a one-year layoff Saturday night, when he’ll battle Badou Jack (22-1-2, 13 KOs) at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The strong southpaw is only slightly favored to defeat Jack in their 12-round championship match.
Stevenson-Jack will headline Showtime’s split-site doubleheader, scheduled to start at 10:05 p.m. ET. The two-bout broadcast will begin with Gary Russell Jr. (28-1, 17 KOs) defending his WBC featherweight title against mandatory challenger Joseph Diaz Jr. (26-0, 14 KOs) at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Kovalev, meanwhile, will defend his WBO light heavyweight title against Colombian southpaw Eleider Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs) on August 4 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City (HBO). Alvarez also is promoted by Michel.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.