Last weekend’s boxing action in Quebec City highlighted the current prominence of boxing’s light heavyweight division, as WBC and lineal champion Adonis Stevenson defended his belt against Sakio Bika and rising star Artur Beterbiev smashed former light heavyweight belt holder Gabriel Campillo inside of four rounds.
We’re not yet looking at a situation like we had in the early 1980s, when the likes of Michael Spinks, Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Marvin Johnson and Yaqui Lopez prowled the division. But some of the biggest fights this year and next should happen at 175 pounds.
No weight class in boxing is in better position to have a true, undisputed world champion. While Stevenson holds the WBC and lineal claims, Sergey Kovalev has already shored up the WBA, WBO and IBF hardware. In this era of alphabet soup shenanigans, it’s nearly impossible for a weight class to boast a true champion. But a fight between Stevenson and Kovalev would make it happen.
Kovalev traveled to Stevenson’s hometown of Montreal last month and knocked out former champion Jean Pascal inside of eight rounds. Stevenson was ringside for that fight and according to Bernard Hopkins, who was broadcasting the fight for HBO, Stevenson assured him that he would do everything possible to make the unification bout with Kovalev.
Let’s hope he stays true to his word. A 2014 showdown between the two big punchers looked like a sure thing at the end of 2013, when Stevenson and Kovalev were both fighting on HBO. Instead, Stevenson signed with powerbroker Al Haymon and jumped to Showtime. The move was interpreted by many fans as an attempt by Stevenson to dodge Kovalev.
I would make Kovalev a significant favorite over Stevenson. The Russian has shown far more versatility and boxing IQ than Stevenson. But Stevenson’s big left hand and athletic lateral movement make him impossible to write off entirely. Stevenson would have a chance against any fighter he climbed into the ring with.
The emerging star in the division is clearly Beterbiev. On Saturday he improved to 7-0 with seven knockouts. Despite having less than 10 professional fights, he’s already knocked out two former world title holders, in Campillo and Tavoris Cloud. Beterbiev was an amateur standout in Russia, and hold wins over Kovalev at the amateur level. Like Kovalev, Beterbiev is a destructive, combination puncher with calculating patience. A rematch between Kovalev and Beterbiev at the professional level, with the undisputed light heavyweight title on the line, could be a true super fight.