Before super middleweight titleholders Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler could finalize that their much-anticipated rematch would be a unification bout for the sanctioning organization belts they each hold, Adonis Stevenson was in the way.
Stevenson (19-1, 16 KOs), the humongous puncher from Quebec, is the mandatory challenger for the IBF version of the title that Froch holds and the fight was due no later than April 27. Stevenson won an official title eliminator in October by stopping Donovan George in the 12th round.
However, after much wheeling and dealing -- and who really knows what went on behind the scenes -- Yvon Michel (Stevenson’s promoter), the Froch and Kessler camps and the IBF worked out an agreement that will allow Kessler-Froch II to take place as a unification fight May 25 in London.
However, and it’s a big however: While Kessler-Froch II will be allowed to go forward as a unification match, the winner will vacate the IBF belt after the fight, so it’s a hollow unification bout. And then Stevenson will fight the IBF’s leading available contender for the vacant title in June. Even if Kessler-Froch II is postponed, cancelled or ruled a draw, Froch has agreed to vacate to allow Stevenson to fight for the belt, according to Michel.
“The unification was a must for Froch-Kessler for British TV and for the prestige of their encounter,” Michel told ESPN.com. “We also were in accord that this fight was great for the super middleweight division and for boxing. Their target date was May 25 to optimize the promotion and maximize the revenues. The IBF had ordered the fight to be done by April 27 and the winner had to confirm his intention of fighting the IBF mandatory contender (Stevenson) next. We knew the winner had no real intention of fighting Stevenson for now. Since the IBF does not allow interim titles (except in the case of injury) we had to find a solution to please everybody within the IBF rules.
“We proposed to the IBF to grant the unification fight on May 25. In return, Froch and Kessler have confirmed they will vacate the IBF title immediately after the unification title fight. Everybody is happy.”
So Stevenson will get his title shot but doesn’t want to sit and wait until June. So Michel has set up a fight for him -- a rematch with journeyman Darnell Boone (19-20-3, 8 KOs) on March 22 at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Boone has a horrendous record, but the fight still figures to generate some interest because Boone pulled a huge upset by knocking Stevenson out in the second round in April 2010.
Stevenson has won six fights in a row since the loss and might as well take this window he has to gain revenge before his title shot. Boone has fought everyone -- Stevenson, Andre Ward, Enrique Ornelas, Jean Pascal, Curtis Stevens, Brian Vera, Erislandy Lara, Sergey Kovalev (twice), Edwin Rodriguez, among them. He’s a professional opponent (with three losses in a row and losses in five of his last seven fights) but he has one knockout of Stevenson, so maybe, just maybe, he can do it again (even though it’s probably doubtful).
Michel re-signed Stevenson to a promotional contract in 2011 after they had a brief split. Since Stevenson re-signed, Michel said, “He has asked me one big favor -- to eventually provide him the opportunity to avenge his only loss against Darnell Boone. The timing was never good before and since I believe he will be world champion by June, the timing will be bad also after. So we have contacted Darnell Boone, who has agreed to give a rematch to Stevenson.
“Stevenson will carefully prepare for the fight and will move to Detroit next week with (trainer) Javan Hill to hold his training camp. We all know this is a risk because if he loses the fight he would be out as mandatory contender, but we believe it is a calculated risk and we are in a business of perpetual risks.”