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Stevenson chooses NOT to call out Ward-Kovalev winner

By Jeff Aranow: Light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson took an odd approach last Saturday night after annihilating Andrzej Fonfara in the 2nd round in their rematch by choosing NOT to call out the winner of the Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev II fight. It was odd because it the logical thing for the 39-year-old Stevenson to do, especially given how one-sided his fight was with Fonfara. You have to remember; this wasn’t a fight that the boxing public was clamoring for.

The fans didn’t want to see Stevenson beat Fonfara AGAIN, because he’d already beaten him before. Fonfara had also recently been knocked out in the 1st round by Joe Smith Jr. last year. The fans didn’t want to see Stevenson fight Fonfara again. It was Stevenson and his management that thought it was a great idea to fight Fonfara again.

Stevenson, 39, knocked Fonfara to the canvas in round 1, and pounded away at him until the fight was stopped in round 2. Fonfara, 29, didn’t go down a second time. He showed a very good chin, but he was taking a lot of head shots at the time that his trainer Virgil Hunter signaled to referee Michael Griffin to stop the fight in round 2. The only way that Fonfara was going to make it out of round 2 is if Stevenson punched himself out, and it didn’t look like he was tiring at all.

Stevenson-Fonfara II was televised by Showtime Championship Boxing. It’s unclear if Showtime has any input to the opposition that Stevenson faces on their network. If Showtime does have a say so, it would be good for them to make some suggestions to Stevenson and his manager that he step it up against better opponents in the future. Stevenson could be a very popular fighter if he fought guys that had a fighting chance at beating him.

The guys that Stevenson has been fighting recently – Fonfara, Tommy Karpency and Thomas Williams Jr. – have not been nearly talented enough to make a good fight against him. These fighters never had a chance against Stevenson, because they’re not high quality contenders to begin. The better contenders are fighters like Artur Beterbiev, Eleider Alvarez, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Sergey Kovalev and Joe Smith Jr. Stevenson isn’t fighting them though.

After the fight, Stevenson put on a crown to make himself look like a king, and then he donned a red cape for his post-fight interview with Showtime Championship Boxing interviewer Jim Gray. Stevenson then claimed to be the king of the 175-pound division, and that he didn’t need to call out anyone. Further, Stevenson said he’ll fight whoever his adviser Al Haymon matches him again. We just saw who Haymon matched him against, and it was not a great fight. If this means that the future will bring more of the same for Stevenson, then it’s too bad for him and the boxing fans that watch his mismatches.

“I’m the king. I don’t have to call anybody [out],” Stevenson said. “I’m Superman, baby. Whoever [adviser] Al Haymon puts me with I’m ready, baby.”

Stevenson sees himself as the best at 175, but the boxing pubic appears to view Andre Ward as the best, and Sergey Kovalev the second best. Stevenson is a considered by many boxing as the No.3 or even the No.4 best fighter at light heavyweight behind Artur Beterbiev. No matter how much self-promoting Stevenson does, he’s not going to be able to change the perception of the boxing public. The reason for that is he’s not producing wins against quality fighters.

Either Stevenson or his management has decided take on lesser fighters over and over again. The advantage of Stevenson being involved in so many showcase/mismatch fights is he’s been able to keep his World Boxing Council belt for a long time. Stevenson has picked up a lot of paychecks the easy way. The downside of Stevenson fighting only soft opponents is he’s not increased his popularity in the boxing world with his fans.

The fans don’t see Stevenson as the best because he’s not fighting the best. Stevenson is fighting guys that you would see a normal contender fight, not a champion, who calls himself the best in the division. The guys that Stevenson has been defending his WBC title against have not good enough to increase his status in the 175lb division.

I don’t think he realizes that, which is sad for him, because he’s crippling his own boxing career.

Fonfara’s trainer Virgil Hunter stopped the fight in the 2nd round to save his fighter, who was taking a beating in the corner by Stevenson.

“There was no need to continue,” said Fonfara’s trainer Virgil Hunter. “He was hurt in the first round. He survived, but even when he came back to the corner, he wasn’t all there. ‎I told [him] in the second round, ‘Don’t even throw a punch — just defend until you get yourself back [together].’ But these things happen.”

Fonfara followed the advice from Hunter by not throwing punches in the 2nd round, but he couldn’t keep Stevenson off of him. Fonfara needed survival skills, and he had none. Fonfara should have been holding Stevenson or at least trying to hold him.

In fairness to Stevenson, he might have intentionally been mum on wanting to fight the winner of the Ward vs. Kovalev rematch because by him saying he’s interested in fighting one of those two guys, he would be strengthening their hand in the negotiations in the future. In boxing, it’s better sometimes not to come across as needy in anyway. There might be a chance that Stevenson was told not to call out the winner of the Ward-Stevenson fight by his adviser Al Haymon. It works both ways.

You’re still better off in some respects to call out the big name fighters after a victory, because it helps drive interest from boxing fans in a future fight involving you and a big name. If Stevenson had told the fans that he was interested in fighting the winner of the Ward-Kovalev II fight, then fans would be searching for Stevenson’s name more often in the future in looking to see if he’s going to be involved in a big fight with Ward or Kovalev.

Stevenson could have increased his own popularity by mentioning them. But by Stevenson not calling them out, and by simply saying “I’m the greatest at 175,” it doesn’t work as well, because the boxing public aren’t stupid. They saw how bad Fonfara looked last night. They obviously realized that Stevenson beat up an easy mark just like he’s been doing in his last 6 title defenses.

Stevenson has been matches against these guys lately: Fonara x 2, Thomas Williams Jr., Tommy Karpency, Sakio Bika, Dmitry Sukhotskiy, Tony Bellew and Tavoris Cloud. I wouldn’t say those are the worst fighters in the light heavyweight division’s top 15, but they are definitely far from the best. Stevenson could do a lot better than this, but I don’t think he cares. He seems more interested in beating up the guys from the middle of the pack rather than the top fighters.

“I’m the greatest at 175,” Stevenson said. “I’m the champ, baby.”

Stevenson is 39-years-old. He might be able to hang onto his WBC title for a few more years with the kind of match-making being done for him. Sooner or later though, Stevenson will get beaten by someone. He doesn’t fight very often, and he doesn’t seem to take a punch all that well. Even if Stevenson chooses to continue defending his WBC title against lesser contenders instead of the best, he’s going to lose eventually.

Stevenson doesn’t fight all that often, and that’s going to get to him as well. He’s not taking punishment, but he’s also not staying busy. More importantly, Stevenson isn’t fighting good opponents. So when Stevenson has to face his mandatory challenger, it could be a shock for him.

Without a unification fight, Stevenson will now need to defend his WBC title against #1 Eleider Alvarez. He’s been waiting a long time for his title shot against Stevenson, and he’s clearly ready for that fight. Last Saturday night, Alvarez beat Jean Pascal by a 12 round majority decision on the undercard of Stevenson’s fight with Fonfara. Stevenson won’t be able to avoid fighting Alvarez unless he gives him a step aside payment so that he can continue to make voluntary defenses. I think that’s a bad idea for Stevenson. He really needs to show to the boxing world that he’s capable of beating good fighters. If Stevenson doesn’t want to fight the winner of the Ward-Kovalev II fight for some reason, then he should at least fight his mandatory challenger Eleider Alvarez.

Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs) looked good in beating a past his prime Jean Pascal (31-5-1, 18 KIOs) by a 12 round majority decision. It was the second straight win for the 33-year-old Alvarez over an aging Canadian fighter. In Alvarez’s previous fight, he stopped former super middleweight champion Lucian Bute in the 5th round on February 24. Alvarez beat Isaac Chilemba by a close 12 round majority decision in 2015. Alvarez looks like a good fighter, but I don’t think he’s in the same league as Stevenson, Beterbiev, Kovalev, Ward or Gvozdyk. Joe Smith Jr. would be a tough fight for Alvarez. I think he’d have a little too much boxing skills for Smith Jr., but it would be a good fight.

Pascal has lost a lot from his game since his two defeats at the hands of Kovalev. He’s gone from being one of the best fighters at 175 to that of an opponent for an up and comer in Alvarez. It happens in boxing. At one point you’re one of the best in the division. The next thing you know, you’re fighting as the B-side against a rising contender.

“It was a close fight. I think I won the fight, but I have to respect the judges’ decision,” Pascal said. “I think the fans enjoyed the fight, and I’ll try to come back stronger. Right now, I don’t know [what’s next]. I’m going to sit down with my team and see what’s next for me. I would love to have a rematch because it was a close fight.”

Pascal lost the fight to Alvarez, and it was not close at all. There wasn’t any booing from the boxing fans at ringside when the decision was announced. The only booing that was being done was from the fans DURING the fight due to the lack of action at times. It was mostly a boring fight to watch.

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