Adonis Stevenson continues to say he's not ducking fellow light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev, but the bout is also no closer to happening than it has been, and Stevenson continues to harp on Kovalev's lack of quality opposition and the fact that he doesn't have a big fan base.
"It is just trash talk. Kovalev can keep talking but first off he doesn't have any fan base. Who has he fought? He has just fought ESPN fighters. ... I have no problem fighting Kovalev. If the money is right it is no problem. We just wanted to be compensated fairly."
Stevenson, 36, says Kovalev would be "easy work" for him if the fight does happen, which I don't think many would agree with. But then you never know until the fight actually happens. Stevenson (23-1, 20 KO) did make easy work of Chad Dawson, Tavoris Cloud, and Tony Bellew in his last three fights, and those guys were all considered quality opposition when the fights happened, with Dawson being the reigning champion of the division at the time (though coming off of a one-sided loss a division down to Andre Ward).
The 30-year-old Kovalev's best win came against Nathan Cleverly, a paper champion if ever there was one, but still a top 10 light heavyweight when Kovalev faced him, without question. Other than that, he does have good wins over Gabriel Campillo and Cornelius White, plus a blowout of former top prospect Ismayl Sillakh last time out.
Are there records really that much different? Not as much as Stevenson would have you believe, probably.
However, the real difference is in the fan bases. Stevenson has a good following in the boxing hotbed of Quebec, which supports big fights and top fighters, and Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KO) has gone the more modern route of becoming a TV star in the States, because he doesn't have a local following to really draw from here. In the U.S., it's often more about whether or not the networks will get behind you, and HBO has clearly decided Kovalev is feature-worthy fighter, after Main Events raised his profile on NBC Sports with their series, which has done a good job in elevating some fighters who otherwise might not have garnered much attention. Kovalev, Bryant Jennings, and Curtis Stevens have all received nice HBO slots after making names for themselves on the Main Events show.
The other big roadblock now is Stevenson having signed with Al Haymon. HBO said last year that they were no longer going to deal with Golden Boy or Haymon, but they did wind up bending on the Haymon part when they needed Edwin Rodriguez as an opponent for Andre Ward. Is this a situation where they'll need Stevenson badly enough to work with Haymon and make a major deal for the fight? It could be, given that Kovalev's next HBO fight is on March 29 against Cedric Agnew, an unknown. There's not a ton of depth at 175, and Stevenson-Kovalev is clearly the best fight in the division right now, though either of them facing Bernard Hopkins would potentially be bigger, given Hopkins is more famous than either of them.
Stevenson-Hopkins could happen on Showtime. That's a possibility. Hopkins-Kovalev is another story -- with Bernard not just a GBP fighter but a promoter with the company as well, there's less room to "get around" any Cold War stuff there.
For now, Kovalev has his 3/29 fight, and Stevenson is facing Andrzej Fonfara on May 24 in Montreal. That's where their focuses are at the moment.