It is a fight where a knockout is virtually guaranteed. But now it looks like the highly anticipated light heavyweight title unification match against Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson won’t happen any time soon.
That’s because Stevenson and Kovalev now fight on competing networks after Stevenson bolted to Showtime a few days before Kovalev fought a tune up against lightly regarded Cedric Agnew. After he dispatched Agnew, knocking him down three times on the way to a seventh round knockout, could barely speak about Stevenson, the WBA champion, in civil terms.
"I don't want to speak on Adonis Stevenson. Adonis Stevenson is a piece of s---. Oh, sorry for my English,’’ Kovalev, who hails from Russia, said following his fight against Agnew in Atlantic City on Saturday night.
“He ran from me. I don't worry. I will have another opponent. I didn't think about Adonis at all."
It’s easy to understand why Kovalev is so upset. A surefire Fight of the Year candidate has been derailed and Kovalev expected to be the one standing over Stevenson with his hands raised.
Both men made a concussive name for themselves in the light heavyweight division, fighting on HBO last year. Kovalev knocked out Nathan Cleverly in the fourth round to take away his WBO title on Aug. 17, and then defended it against Ismayl Silliah with a stunning second round KO on Nov. 30.
Meanwhile Stevenson dispatched Chad Dawson, the WBC and linear light heavyweight champion, and then pounded Tavoris Cloud and Tony Bellew, also on HBO. Kovalev and Stevenson were running on parallel tracks on the cable network, it looked like they were heading for the same destination that would have had them in the ring against each other in an explosive match at the end of this year.
But Stevenson decided to follow the money and signed a lucrative deal with Showtime for fight against Andrzej Fonfara on May 24.
Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events, Kovalev’s promoters, ripped Stevenson and his manager, Al Haymon, for standing in the way of a fight that the fans wanted to see. She said she had already negotiated a deal for the fight on HBO, but Stevenson never signed it. That left the door opened for Stevenson to bolt to Showtime.
"Did (Stevenson) make the ultimate move to make sure the fight wouldn't happen? He probably did,’’ Duva said at a press conference last week. “Who in the world is better at making sure the public doesn't get to see the fight they really want to see than his new manager?
"This is a bump in the road. It's going to work out. I have faith because I am just that stupid, that I think down the line people are going to realize, that being the impediment to making the best fights doesn't make you a genius."
At least Kovalev kept things on track for a possible match against Stevenson by beating Agnew. But it was not without a price. Kovalev suffered two cuts in the fight and will now need two months to heal. So his immediate future is in doubt. If he hadn’t been cut Duva had planned on taking him to Russia for a fight. Duva said she might bring Kovalev back to Atlantic City, the site of his demolition of Agnew, for another fight in late summer.
At a press conference leading up to the fight against Agnew, Kovalev said his goal of unifying the light heavyweight title remains intact even though all of the other title holders fight on Showtime – Bernard Hopkins, the IBF champion, will fight Beibut Shumenov, the WBA champion on April 19.
Kovalev was asked how difficult it would be to clean up the light heavyweight division now.
“It won’t be hard. I’ve already cleaned up the light heavyweight division for HBO because Stevenson has run to another network,’’ Kovalev joked.