In January, when Showtime held a glitzy media event in New York to unveil most of the fights on its schedule for the first half of 2018, one of the most significant was light heavyweight world champion Adonis Stevenson against former two-division titlist Badou Jack.
But the fight, slated for May 19, did not have a location set other than that it would be in Stevenson's home country of Canada. Days, weeks and months went by and there was still no announcement of a venue or that the fight was actually official -- until Tuesday, when Stevenson, Jack and their representatives appeared at Toronto's Air Canada Centre, which will host its first world title fight.
Stevenson-Jack will be the second bout of a split-site doubleheader on Showtime (10 p.m. ET/PT) that will also include featherweight world titlist Gary Russell Jr. defending his belt against mandatory challenger Joseph Diaz Jr. at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
The delay in the fight announcement stemmed from Eleider "Storm" Alvarez, Stevenson's longtime mandatory challenger who had yet to get the title shot he earned 2015. He wanted to be paid to step aside to allow Stevenson-Jack to take place, as well as to be guaranteed the next shot at the winner. That is a common practice in boxing, but Alvarez, also a Montreal fighter who shares promoter Yvon Michel and adviser Al Haymon with Stevenson, had yet to make anything for any of the previous times Stevenson had faced another opponent instead of him. Until the situation was resolved, Michel could not finalize Stevenson-Jack.
While discussions were going on as to how to handle the issue, Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs) got an unexpected opportunity to challenge world titlist Sergey Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) on HBO in July or August (date and site to be determined) when Marcus Browne, whom Kovalev was supposed to fight, was dropped following two domestic abuse arrests.
With Alvarez out of the way, Stevenson-Jack was finalized. Although Michel had previously said the fight would take place at the Bell Centre in Stevenson's hometown of Montreal, where he has fought many times, it was unexpectedly moved to Toronto in recent days.
Michel was pleased to finally make the fight announcement at the news conference on Tuesday.
"It is the second time that we will come to Toronto to promote a WBC world championship fight with Adonis Stevenson," said Michel, referring to Stevenson's 2015 defense against Tommy Karpency, which took place at Toronto's Ricoh Coliseum. "Badou Jack is a two-division world champion and an Olympian. He is dangerous and by far the biggest challenge for Adonis since he won the title against Chad Dawson in 2013. We are confident that 'Superman' has what it takes to defend his title successfully for the ninth time."
The 40-year-old Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs), a southpaw, has reigned since winning the title with a 76-second knockout of Dawson in 2013 but has typically taken the path of least resistance by not fighting the best challengers in the 175-pound division. With Jack up next, Stevenson is finally taking a big risk.
"I'm definitely excited and hungry to get into the ring and perform," Stevenson said. "I've trained very hard for this fight against Badou Jack. I'm looking forward to winning this fight by knockout. I'm from the (late Emanuel Steward's) Kronk Gym (in Detroit) and we always look for the knockout. Jack is a good, technical boxer. He was a world champion and he has done very well. He's tough and I won't underestimate him. I'll be prepared for anything he brings in the ring.
"I'm fighting him at home in Canada, so I'm looking to give the fans a good show. I've got power and I've got the best left in boxing. I've got 12 rounds and I just need to touch you once to end it. It's not complicated. I don't need three or four shots. I just need one shot and you're not going to recover. I'm going to finish you."
After Jack (21-1-3, 13 KOs), 34, a native of Sweden fighting out of Las Vegas, fought to a draw in a contender for 2017 fight of the year with fellow super middleweight titlist James DeGale, Jack vacated the title and moved up to light heavyweight, where he knocked out Nathan Cleverly to win a belt in August. Soon after the fight, Jack vacated that title, with the promise from promoter Floyd Mayweather of a much bigger fight. Now he has it.
"Badou Jack has risen to every challenge he's faced in his career," Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe said. "Now, he has an opportunity to become a three-time world champion and that raises the stakes for him. I predict two confident, hard-punching and highly skilled fighters will enter the ring at Air Canada Centre on May 19, both determined to walk away a champion."
The fight with Stevenson is one that Jack has wanted for quite some time and he is happy to finally have it.
"I'm excited to have the opportunity to fight for my third world title against one of the division's best, Adonis Stevenson," Jack said. "I've been asking for this fight for a long time and was willing to fight him anywhere, including his backyard. I know he's good and very dangerous and that's the reason I want to fight him. I'm all about the best fighting the best and come May 19, I'm bringing the WBC belt back to Las Vegas.
"My newborn son, Malik, was born just before training camp, so now I have two children to fight for, which gives me all the motivation I need to get this win."