As the boxing world collectively waits in hopes of a 2014 light heavyweight summit between division champion Adonis Stevenson and unbeaten titlist Sergey Kovalev, fans have been forced to settle for a war of words that continues to heat up.
The fight, between two of boxing's biggest punchers who simultaneously emerged from obscurity with breakthrough years in 2013, is a slam dunk for HBO, which has featured recent bouts from both. The only holdup appears to be Stevenson's demand to be properly compensated.
Both fighters have interim bouts scheduled for the spring with Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KOs) defending his title against Cedric Agnew (26-0, 13 KOs) on March 29 in Atlantic City, N.J. Stevenson (23-1, 20 KOs), meanwhile, is expected to face Andrzej Fonfara (25-2, 15 KOs) on May 24 in his adopted home of Montreal.
The past few months have featured a series of colorful and insult-driven exchanges between the two on various websites and through social media.
Last week as a guest on ESPN.com's "Making The Rounds," Kovalev responded to a recent Stevenson rant by saying, "He can speak everything. In the ring, you can't speak, you need to fight. He will pay for his answers and he will answer for these words."
This time around it was Stevenson who not only provided a response of his own on this week's "Making The Rounds," he talked to ESPN.com about aligning with power manager Al Haymon and what it's going to take to make a fight with Kovalev happen:
How important is it for you that a fight with Kovalev gets made?
I'm not going to answer nothing about that. Kovalev fought decent fighters but he never fought an "A" fighter and now he is talking he wants to fight me. Al Haymon and my promoter [Yvon Michel] are working on that. If the money is right and the business is good, I don't have a problem. I will fight him.
So if the money is right you will step into the ring with Kovalev, no questions asked?
Oh yeah, definitely. And it will be an easy win for me. [He laughed.]
What does signing with Haymon mean, specifically, for your career?
It's very good for my career and after my career, too. It's very, very good. He is a good manager and it's a good opportunity for me and I'm very glad to sign with him.
Some had initially feared your signing with Haymon, who has strong ties with Showtime, might pull you away from a Kovalev fight. How do you respond to that?
I'll fight [Kovalev] wherever. It doesn't matter for me. I let my promoter and Al Haymon take care of that. For me, it's not a problem. This is Al Haymon and my promoter -- they will work on that with the business and network. My focus is training to be ready for my next fight.
You're expected to make your return against Andrzej Fonfara. What do you like about this fight?
I train hard for this fight because I know Fonfara is very dangerous. He's going to come very hungry so I will be prepared for him because I know he will be ready for me. At this level, I know every fighter will be ready for me. I'm focused and I'm training very hard.
You got off to a late start in boxing, turning pro in 2006, and are now just entering your prime at age 36. Considering your well-documented troubles with the law earlier in your life, what has been the biggest hurdle for you to overcome on your journey to the top?
I have people that have helped me a lot like [late trainer] Emanuel Steward. They helped me a lot with my boxing skills. And [current trainer Javan] "Sugar" Hill, too. He helped me. That's why my boxing ability is better now so I can fight anybody now at this level.
Last week on "Making The Rounds," Kovalev called a fight with you "an easy fight" and said he has the secret to defeating you. Let's ask you the same question: What advantages would you have in the ring against him?
Speed. He doesn't have speed. He's slow. He doesn't have defense and has never been hit by power punchers or a left-handed power puncher. He's talking and talking but he needs money. I saw him in Vegas and he told me the same thing. He needs money because he don't make money. I told him, "It's not a problem. Keep winning and you're going to have money." I know he needs money because who is he going to fight after that? Nobody. You have to fight me if you want to make money. He told me he needs money. So I'm ready to fight him but like I said, [it comes down to] the business. My promoter and Al Haymon are the ones who will take care of that.