Adonis Stevenson is set to defend his light heavyweight title. (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
• What a mess. What a politically fueled, fan-maddening mess. On May 24th, Adonis Stevenson will defend his light heavyweight title against Andrzej Fonfara. Stevenson’s trainer, Sugar Hill, confirmed the fight to me last week and it was formalized on Monday. HBO–which televised three of Stevenson’s fights last year — planned to televise this one, with an eye towards matching Stevenson in a highly anticipated 175-pound title unification fight against Sergey Kovalev later in the year.
That was the plan, anyway. Then HBO moved slowly executing the contracts, Stevenson signed with adviser Al Haymon and now we have the mess we’re in now: HBO uncertain if it will televise Stevenson-Fonfara and the growing possibility that Stevenson will head to Showtime and attempt to unify the titles against Bernard Hopkins later this year. This could be a potential nightmare for HBO.
And while it’s easy to blame Haymon — HBO has no interest in working with him, believing his business model to be toxic for the network — network executives have to shoulder some of the responsibility. Representatives for Stevenson and Kovalev say the key deal points for a two-fight deal that would have ultimately pitted Stevenson against Kovalev in the fall were agreed to well before Haymon got involved. Stevenson was set to receive the larger share of the license fee, Montreal or Las Vegas were being discussed as possible venues.
From HBO’s perspective, agreeing to deal points and finalizing a deal are two different things, but the delay allowed Haymon to slide in, sign Stevenson and produce more money from Showtime for a Fonfara fight while dangling the carrot of a future Hopkins fight, a fight that was always more appealing to Stevenson. Showtime, which under Executive Vice President Stephen Espinoza has been aggressively pursuing big fights, is now in a strong position to put on one of the biggest light heavyweight fights in recent years.
Over the last few days, HBO executives have been attempting to convince Stevenson to pass on Showtime’s offer, pushing the idea that a long term association with HBO will ultimately be more lucrative. Stevenson hasn’t budged.
If Stevenson bolts, Kovalev becomes collateral damage. Kovalev is scheduled to fight Cedric Agnew on Saturday on HBO. Without Stevenson, Kovalev doesn’t have a natural future opponent. Andre Ward is there, but Ward is embroiled in a contract dispute with promoter Dan Goossen and has not indicated he is ready to move up to 175-pounds anyway. Main Events, which promotes Kovalev, has a handful of rising light heavyweights in its stable (Isaac Chilemba, Lonnie Thompson) but none that belong on HBO right now. What once looked like a big year for Kovalev could be flushed down the drain.
And a fight between Stevenson and Kovalev, the most relevant fight in the light heavyweight division, will be washed away with it.
• In an effort to lure Floyd Mayweather to Brooklyn, Barclays Center executives put together one of the most lucrative site fees in U.S. boxing history: $17 million, according to multiple industry sources. In addition to the cash, Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark was prepared to roll out one of the most aggressive marketing plans in boxing history. From New York-based talk shows to promoting the fight in the financial community and on Madison Avenue, Yormark said the event would have given Mayweather “a platform like he had never had before. We would have made his brand dominant for the six weeks leading up to the fight. It was going to be our Super Bowl.”
Ultimately, Mayweather chose to stay in tax friendly confines of Las Vegas and at the MGM Grand, where he has fought his last eight fights. However Yormark told SI.com he hopes to lure Mayweather to Brooklyn before his career is over.
“At the end, Floyd probably decided the comforts of where he has been were better for him,” Yormark said. “Maybe one day it happens. We feel we gave them a lot to think about.
• Great to see ESPN get more involved in boxing, as they’re set to televise the heavyweight title fight between Chris Arreola and Bermane Stiverne on May 10th from the Galen Center on the campus of USC. The success of ESPN, NBC Sports Network and Fox Sports 1 as boxing friendly outlets is critical to the growth of the sport.
• That Vivian Harris beat Jorge Paez Jr. last week is irrelevant; Harris, 35, shouldn’t be fighting. Harris has been knocked out five times in the last four years, some in absolutely brutal fashion, and recently he was denied a license by the British boxing commission for medical reasons. No respectable commission should ever license him again.
• Amir Khan says he plans to challenge Floyd Mayweather in the ring if Mayweather beats Marcos Maidana next month. Khan’s obsession with Mayweather is just weird. Khan should be focused on his opponent that night, Luis Collazo, a veteran welterweight who is coming off a career defining win over Victor Ortiz. If Khan looks like he did in his last few fights, Collazo will walk all over him.
• Tony Thompson keeps his career going … again. A win over Odlanier Solis last weekend will position Thompson, the heavyweight division’s gatekeeper, for another notable fight. Amazing.
– By Chris Mannix