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Why boxer Adonis Stevenson is handling his career all wrong

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports
Adonis Stevenson, left, of Canada, connects with a left to Tony Bellew, of England, in their WBC light heavyweight title fight in Quebec City early Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. Stevenson won the fight

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Adonis Stevenson, left, of Canada, connects with a left to Tony Bellew, of England, in their WBC light heavyweight title fight in Quebec City early Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. Stevenson won the fight. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jacques Boissinot)

It was only 15 months ago that Adonis Stevenson obliterated Chad Dawson in Montreal in their fight for the WBC light heavyweight title, though it seems like 15 years.

Stevenson has blown any momentum he captured with his surprising performance against Dawson.

He's made a series of stupefying decisions and appears much more like Clark Kent rather than the “Superman” nickname he's most definitely not living up to.

With the official word coming last week that the only two other light heavyweights who matter, Bernard Hopkins and Sergey Kovalev, are going to fight Nov. 8 in Atlantic City, Stevenson essentially has been pushed out of the spotlight.

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Adonis Stevenson failed to capitalize on his career momentum. (AP)

Adonis Stevenson failed to capitalize on his career momentum. (AP)

Fortunes change quickly in boxing and in a year's time, much of the negative talk surrounding Stevenson could be forgotten.

The key word here is much. Much of it will be forgotten. Not all of it will be.

Boxing fans and the media have long memories. And they'll remember a guy who blew a potential Fight of the Year with Kovalev. They'll remember a guy who jumped networks seemingly to get a fight with Hopkins, then not making that fight.

They'll remember a guy who seemed much more focused on safe title defenses rather than challenging himself against the best.

The only surprise about Stevenson's victory over Dawson on June 8, 2013, was how quickly it came. Dawson clearly looked like he was nearing the end of the line, and most of those in the know expected Stevenson to handle him.

But that victory, which came before a big audience on HBO, was a breakout performance for Stevenson. The thing to remember is that it came when he was 35 and definitely on the back nine of his career.

Guys in those situations, who haven't had big fights before, usually rush to take advantage of their newfound status. It would have made sense for Stevenson to demand a bout with Kovalev immediately after dispatching Dawson.

He took a bout against Tavoris Cloud, which was disappointing in one sense but understandable in another. Cloud has heavy hands and there was hope that a Stevenson-Cloud fight could become a closet classic, one of those low-profile matches that turns out to be outstanding.

Stevenson blew out Cloud, though, in a performance that was even better than his one-punch job against Dawson. And so, then it seemed we'd get the Kovalev bout.

Instead, he agreed to a mandatory defense with Tony Bellew. It was disappointing, but Kovalev was making a WBO title defense on the undercard, so a future matchup remained promising.

The belief among HBO executives, Main Events executives and Kovalev's team is that after the Stevenson-Bellow/Kovalev-Ismayl Sillakh doubleheader was that Stevenson and Kovalev would fight each other in one of the first big bouts of the new year.

Instead, Stevenson again demanded an interim bout, this time against Andrzej Fonfara.

Stevenson and his team made a number of miscalculations. When Stevenson jumped from HBO to Showtime, it was ostensibly to land a fight with Hopkins.

Hopkins, though, wasn't going to sit around idle. He's going to be 50 in January and doesn't have a lot of time to wait while the guy he wants to fight is taking on a series of inconsequential, low-profile matches.

Hopkins instead went after Kovalev.

While Hopkins and Kovalev fight for supremacy at light heavyweight, Stevenson is left to ponder what might have been. Though he could wind up fighting the winner at some point, his reputation and his bargaining power are vastly diminished. He looks like a guy who is ducking a challenge rather than seeking out the best.

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Does Stevenson really want to face the best competition around? (AP)

Does Stevenson really want to face the best competition around? (AP)

And for a guy who will be 37 when he next fights, he might have blown a significant payday. That's never good.

Had Stevenson taken on Kovalev last year, he would have gotten a big payday for that fight. With a victory he would have been in a strong position to challenge Hopkins in a second, this time even bigger payday.

It still could have worked that way for Stevenson when he jumped to Showtime. If he'd made himself available for Hopkins right away, he'd have gotten a solid check for that fight and been able to get another – with a victory – in a unification bout with Kovalev.

But if Kovalev beats Hopkins – I doubt that – the best that Stevenson will do is get the one payday.

No matter what happens, though, he left himself open for questions about his fighting spirit. That's never a good thing.

Just 15 months ago, he was sitting upon a gold mine. He hasn't lost and has scored two knockouts while winning all three fights since his win over Dawson, but he now needs help to get a mega-bout and his reputation has been diminished.

It's a case of out of sight, out of mind.

If Stevenson wants to proceed racking up wins over B- and C-level opposition, it's his right.

Just as it's our right not to care all that much.

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