Stevenson-Fonfara set for May slate

Light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson's next fight comes as no surprise.

The television network that will air it -- Showtime -- does, after the conclusion of yet another chapter in the HBO-Showtime boxing rivalry Tuesday.

Quebec's Stevenson will make his third title defense when he faces Chicago-based Poland native Andrzej Fonfara on May 24 at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Promoter Yvon Michel has scheduled a Thursday news conference to announce the long-discussed bout.

For months the fight was ticketed for HBO, which put Stevenson on three times in 2013 and made him one of its cornerstone fighters.

Although unsigned, HBO believed it had a multifight agreement in place with him that was to include the Fonfara fight followed by a fall fight against fellow devastating puncher and titleholder Sergey Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KOs), one of the most anticipated fights in boxing.

On Saturday night in Atlantic City, N.J., Kovalev will face Cedric Agnew (26-0, 13 KOs) in what was supposed to serve as his showcase fight before the anticipated fall showdown with Stevenson for 175-pound supremacy.

In November, HBO facilitated a doubleheader in which Kovalev fought on a Stevenson undercard in Quebec City, where both fighters retained their titles with spectacular knockouts to whet the appetite of fight fans for their eventual meeting.

HBO contends it had reached a multifight agreement with Michel in January to continue its relationship with Stevenson. However, Michel, Stevenson and Al Haymon, the powerful adviser who recently signed Stevenson -- and whom HBO won't do business with -- had the right to solicit other offers and got a bigger one from Showtime for the Fonfara fight.

HBO had the right to match the offer until Tuesday's deadline but declined, sending Stevenson to the rival network to fight Fonfara and probably killing the prospect of a Kovalev fight.

HBO said it refused to match the Showtime offer because it believed it already had a deal for the fight. HBO said that it was only after Stevenson signed with Haymon last month that Michel came back to the network seeking to "renegotiate" for significantly more money for the Fonfara fight on top of no longer being willing to commit to the fall fight with Kovalev.

"We had a deal. It changed. It is not the way we do it," HBO spokesman Ray Stallone told ESPN.com.

So now Stevenson (23-1, 20 KOs), 36, will face the 26-year-old Fonfara (25-2, 15 KOs) in the first fight of a deal with Showtime.

"We're thrilled to have Adonis on the network," Stephen Espinoza, the Showtime Sports executive vice president and general manager, told ESPN.com. "He's one of the most exciting fighters in any division. I intended to get in business with him in August 2012. He was supposed to fight on the network on the undercard of the Jean Pascal-Tavoris Cloud fight but Pascal got injured and the card was canceled. It took longer that I expected but we finally got our man and we're thrilled.

"We have a structure in place that will allow us to do the Fonfara fight and whatever big fights become available for him. Should Kovalev [who has a multifight deal with HBO] become available, we'd welcome him at the network if he'd like to fight Adonis."

If Stevenson defeats Fonfara, the fight he will be lined up for will be against the winner of the title unification fight between Bernard Hopkins and Beibut Shumenov (another Haymon client). They headline a Showtime card April 19 in Washington, D.C.

"A unification fight is absolutely the natural progression for Adonis," Espinoza said. "If he takes care of business on May 24 against Fonfara, the winner of Hopkins-Shumenov is the natural fight to make and one we want to do."