The Stand-Off

By Steve Bateson on July 28, 2015
The fight everyone wants to see in the Light Heavyweight Division. Who is number one?

In a sport where catchweights are fast becoming the norm and there are multiple championships and trinkets on offer from the leading organisations; wouldn’t it be nice for boxing fans to be able to sift through the confusing ranking systems and be able to recognise the undisputed best in each weight division?

The best way to do is of course would be for all of the governing bodies to come together and work out a way in which; much like the UFC, we have one major championship and therefore whoever holds the belt would be unquestionably the best fighter in his class. Alas with the money involved in the sport, the constant stand-offs between rival television networks and promoters the chances of that happening are as likely as this mega show in Dubai that we’ve been promised on countless occasions.

The fact remains that unfortunately, more often than not, we will have to use our own deliberation in order to figure out just who the number one pugilist is in each division. In certain weight classes it isn’t particularly difficult, step forward Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Andre Ward, but in others it is more of a case of who you prefer and very much a matter of opinion. However, one of the real qualms for many fans is that there is sometimes an opportunity for opposing sides to get together and thrash out the details in order to leave no doubts as to who number one really is; one particular division in which one fight is all it would take to determine the very best is of course the 175lbs Light Heavyweight class.

Sergey Kovalev (28-0-1 with 25 KO’s) is the current IBF, WBO and WBA Light Heavyweight Champion whilst Adonis Stevenson (26-1 with 21 KO’s) holds the green WBC Championship belt. Between them they hold all the power at 175lbs and the only question that needs answering is; who is the better man?

On Saturday night Kovalev once against dispatched an overmatched opponent in Nadjiib Mohammedi, crushing him within three very one sided rounds. It has become common place to watch Kovalev make such easy work of his opponents, his deadly power and underrated boxing skills make him a truly formidable challenge for anybody the world over but until the Stevenson clash takes place we won’t know for sure if the “Krusher” is number one. He pummeled #3 ranked Jean Pascal and he outclassed the ageing but impressive Bernard Hopkins last year so realistically there is only one true challenge left out there for him before he can turn his attention to the much muted catchweight clash with Super Middleweight kingpin, Andre Ward. Fast rising Artur Beterbiev may have something to say about that, a grudge match with Kovalev in Russia would make big money, but it is unlikely Beterbiev’s handlers will take that route given his high ranking with the WBC.

Adonis Stevenson has just announced that he will defend his WBC strap against Tommy Karpency on September 11th, a very underwhelming fight to anybody with boxing knowledge. Whilst Karpency may have pulled off an upset victory over former 175lb boss Chad Dawson last October the fact remains that he is way out of his depth with this contest, much like he was during his 2012 shutout title challenge against then WBO Champion, Nathan Cleverly. Karpency has neat skills but once he feels the power of “Superman” I’d expect him to wilt anytime after the halfway mark.

Stevenson shot to prominence in 2013 when he demolished Chad Dawson with a ferocious first round KO and he has been seen as somewhat of a dominant force since then. He has five defences under his belt but we are still no closer to finding out if he is the true champion in this division. Matchups with Tommy Karpency are not likely to provide fans with the answers they are looking for.

Much blame lies at the feet of the promotional stables of both camps. Depending on who you choose to believe; one side may be painted out to be more guilty than another but in the main it doesn’t really matter, both could do more to bridge the gap and bring about a contest that fans all around the world want to see, and quite frankly deserve to see.

In November 2013 it looked like we were on the way to getting our wish. Stevenson secured a 6th round TKO over Britain’s Tony Bellew whilst Kovalev destroyed Ismayl Sillah in just two rounds on the same bill in Canada. Both fighters made it known in their post-match interviews that the fight they wanted next was with the other and it seemed as though early 2014 would grant us a date. Adonis Stevenson then signed a managerial contract with the mercurial Al Haymon and jumped ship from HBO to Showtime, putting a block on the fight being made and scuppering any chance of the blockbuster we have been so desperate to see.

Kovalev, managed by Main Events and Kathy Duva, has called out Stevenson on multiple occasions since then, offering a 50-50 split on purses as long as Stevenson agrees that the fight will be screened on HBO. But Stevenson’s camp are unwilling to play ball on that offer, they want purse bids with the highest offer from any network receiving rights to televise; it is hard to argue against that point as in a short career the more money that can be made the better.

It is easy to see the point of HBO as well though, they have ploughed a lot of time and resources into making Kovalev a household name in the States. They would be disappointed to see his biggest fight land on a rival network however the long-term positives of such a deal could outweigh this one negative. If Kovalev was to win he would return to HBO with his stock higher than ever before, a cash cow with the ability to sell even bigger. Especially with a potential superfight against Andre Ward on the horizon. On the flip side defeat could ruin all of their hard work and they would have very little to show for it.

Neither side is painting themselves in glory and it is becoming more and more comical as time proceeds. Stevenson’s title defences seem to be becoming more and more inevitable and inexcusable, seemingly happy to take the multitude of soft options that Haymon throws at him, whilst the stance of HBO is another hampering factor.

One wonders exactly why the two television giants of HBO and Showtime cannot reach a similar agreement to the one which saw Lucas Matthysse and Ruslan Provodnikov go to war earlier this year. The television rights were placed up on the open market with the highest bidder screening the show. HBO won out and fans were treated to a scrap that will contend for Fight of the Year.

Kathy Duva, Main Events, Al Haymon, Yvon Michel and everybody else involved need to sit down and make this fight happen. Remove the obstacles and do what is best for business and for the sport of boxing. It is becoming tedious watching Kovalev and Stevenson walk through challenge after challenge, knowing that their true test is on the other side of the proverbial fence. It isn’t very often that we get the chance to crown an Undisputed Champion anymore but here and now is a great chance to find out who the best Light Heavyweight on the planet really is. It’s ironic how something that is so close to fruition is also so very far away.

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