After systematically dismantling Don George on October 12 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Adonis Stevenson made yet another thrilling and emphatic statement. In registering a 12th-round TKO that included a stunning five knockdowns, Stevenson (19-1, 16 KO) became the official mandatory challenger for IBF super middleweight champion Carl Froch.
Given the plethora of sanctioning bodies in boxing, one would assume that securing an alphabet title shot would be relatively straightforward for a quality fighter. If a boxer keeps winning and scoring spectacular knockouts, major opportunities should follow.
Sometimes, for whatever reason, in-ring success isn’t enough; just ask Stevenson.
Since suffering a shocking TKO loss to journeyman Darnell Boone in 2010, Stevenson has been on a tear. Stevenson is currently riding a six-fight stoppage streak, including the potential Knockout of the Year when he obliterated Jesus Gonzales in the first round of their February fight.
The victory over Gonzales (27-2, 14 KO) affirmed Stevenson’s status as a dangerous contender at 168 pounds. Subsequent wins over Noe Gonzalez Alcoba (29-2, 21 KO) and the aforementioned George (23-3-1, 20 KO) further cemented this legitimacy. With frightening power and a loyal following in Montreal, obtaining a championship fight appeared inevitable.
But is a title shot actually within reach for Stevenson, even if he is Froch’s mandatory challenger?
According to FightNews.ca’s Dave Spencer, GYM’s Yvon Michel (Stevenson’s promoter) is certain that his fighter will get his opportunity:
While the ‘who’ hasn’t necessarily been decided, the ‘what’ is abundantly clear according to promoter Yvon Michel (GYM) as to what is next for hard hitting super-middleweight Adonis Stevenson. “The only thing I know, is that Adonis Stevenson’s next fight will be for the IBF title,” Michel told FightNews by telephone.
Spencer quotes Michel as suggesting that Stevenson will fight for the IBF title by the spring, regardless of whether Froch (30-2, 22 KO) is still the organization’s champion:
It [Stevenson’s next fight] will be against Froch or whoever else if the title is vacant.Hopefully it will be against Froch but we don’t control that. We know he has a rematch obligation with Lucian Bute. We know he will ask for an exemption but the IBF rules are clear that a mandatory will prevail over any rematch. I feel that even if he asks for an exemption, he’s not going to get it and Adonis will fight for the vacant title.
In the above statement, Michel addresses several interesting points. The prospect of Froch-Bute II still holds intrigue, even if a title isn’t at stake. However, a rematch between Froch and Bute (31-1, 24 KO) lost some luster when Bute recently struggled in a decision win over Denis Grachev; conversely, Froch was dominant in stopping Yusaf Mack last Saturday.
Bute’s struggles against Grachev (12-1-1, 8 KO) only magnified the fact that Froch dominated him in their first fight. Froch and Bute’s recent fights offer little evidence that a rematch will yield a different result; so, will the fight even happen?
And more importantly for Stevenson, how will this situation affect him?
Spencer notes that Bute and his team—at this point—appear intent on fighting Froch again. With the return bout contractually obligated to take place in Montreal, there is reason to suspect that Bute could fare better. One loss should not negate all that Bute has accomplished, and he remains, theoretically, a skilled and dangerous fighter.
Stevenson, unfortunately, will simply have to wait until this situation resolves itself. A bout between Froch and Stevenson would certainly be thrilling, and it would surely occur in Nottingham, which would give Froch another home date. Furthermore, Spencer quotes Michel as saying that Froch confirmed that Bute or Stevenson will be his next opponent.
Spencer notes that the only way Froch could avoid a mandatory defense is if both he and Bute officially agree that the winner face Stevenson immediately after their rematch. This, of course, is unlikely. If Froch-Bute II happens, the winner will be looking at fighting the likes of Andre Ward or Mikkel Kessler.
This leaves Stevenson’s immediate future in the hands of Bute.
If Bute opts to forgo a rematch with Froch, Stevenson should get his title shot. This could still work well for Froch. If he defeats Stevenson, he will secure a bout with either Ward (26-0, 14 KO) or Kessler (45-2, 34 KO) and still be the IBF champion. For Stevenson, it obviously gives him the title shot he richly deserves.
However, if Bute decides to fight Froch and Michel’s logic is correct, the alternative for Stevenson could also be interesting. Spencer reports that Stevenson could end up fighting Thomas Oosthuizen for the vacant title; while this fight would have a lower profile than Froch-Stevenson, it would still be excellent.
Oosthuizen (21-0-1, 13 KO) is currently the IBO super middleweight champion and has established himself as an exciting fighter. Given his volume punching and Stevenson’s power, the fight would promise tremendous action.
The prospect of Stevenson-Oosthuizen is also interesting because, according to ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael, Oosthuizen—along with a slew of other fighters—originally turned down a chance to fight Stevenson in an IBF eliminator. If Oosthuizen is now sincere about making this fight, full credit to him.
Stevenson-Oosthuizen is exactly the kind of fight between top 10 contenders that needs to happen at super middleweight. If Stevenson doesn’t get his shot against Froch, fighting Oosthuizen could provide some ranking clarity among the contenders at 168 pounds.
Froch, Bute, Stevenson and Oosthuizen are all exciting and quality fighters. Hopefully this situation will resolve itself in a manner where everyone gets what they deserve.