Curtis Stevens was part of an aggressive and exciting movement in boxing in 2005, part of the crew that married the fight game and hip hop. Promoter Lou DiBella, hip-hop entrepeneur Damon Dash and music producer Chris Gotti came together and looked to push Andre Berto, Stevens, Jaidon Codrington, and Gary Stark Jr., who were supposed to be a resurgent NYC wrecking crew. The marriage, great in theory when executed in January 2005, sought to align demographic groups, but didn't flourish as hoped.
Gotti and his brother Irv getting indicted by the Feds for money laundering didn't help, and though they were acquitted in late 2005, the legal woes were a distraction. Prior attempts to give boxing a hip-hoppy push, such as MC Hammer's entry into the management realm, and KO Nation, the HBO entity which featured emcee Ed Lover from "Yo! MTV Raps," flamed up and then out rather quickly. Losses by Codrington (KO1 by Allan Green in November 2005) and Stevens (TKO8 by Marcos Primera in July 2006) dimmed some of the luster, as well. By 2008, the Dash-DiBella union had basically petered out. In June 2007, Stevens suffered another loss, on Showtime, to Andre Dirrell, and his momentum got stuck in the mud. He's fought six times since then, going 5-1, but the buzz was largely absent.
Now it's back. Not to the same degree, no. But Stevens is doing his best to stir it up, get the mojo flowing again. He has a new promoter, Main Events, after falling out with Joe DeGuardia, and gloves up on Jan. 19 against Elvin Ayala at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. (That card is topped by a Gabriel Campillo-Sergey Kovalev light heavyweight scrap, and will run on NBC's cable sports channel.) The Brownsville native sounded like he was brimming with some of the same zest and hopefulness we heard in 2005 while he talked with NYFightblog on Wednesday. "Elvin Ayala is not in my league," said the 27-year-old, who is now living in Queens. "He's in my way right now. When you got something in your way, you got to run it over." Ayala, age 31, is a Connecticut resident with a 26-5-1 record. He is on a six-fight winning streak.
Out of the ring in 2011, fighting just once in 2012, Stevens says the time out of the spotlight helped him. "It matured me, it humbled me," he said. During that time, he helped his mom out at her day care center, Little Libby's Angels, in Brownsville, shuttling the children. "I'm grateful I got another chance to show my skills."
Stevens will fight Ayala at middleweight but is willing and able to go to 154 to git 'r done, he said. "K9 Bundrage, he wants to bully people, I'd like to smash him," Stevens said. "Canelo is looking for super fights but if he wants to get in the dog cage we can do it. Gennady Golovkin, they say he's a big puncher, I'd like to sit him on his ass. I want to be the first guy from Brownsville to win a title since Zab Judah. I don't want nothing easy, I want to take it. I'm ready for anything, I'm ready for war. Two years off, I'm ready. It's no time to play. I'm watching guys with titles get easy fights. That's what boxing is turning into. I'm here to put a stop to that."