Fear, Self-Loathing, and Adonis Stevenson



Fear, Self-Loathing, and Adonis Stevenson


I take no pleasure in this. Every word written here is a sad one. 

Last Saturday Adonis Stevenson’s 5 1/2 year run atop the light heavyweight division was ended in dramatic fashion by Oleksandr Gvozdyk’s brutal 11th round TKO. After the bout, Stevenson was immediately taken to the hospital where it was discovered he had suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. 

Surgery was performed, and Stevenson currently is in what doctors have called “an altered state of consciousness”, similar to a medically induced coma. The range of possibilities regarding his recovery run the gamut to something akin to a full recovery to possible death.

For those of us who know Stevenson’s pre-boxing history, talking about his condition is not as simple as “thoughts and prayers”. While no one should wish death or demise upon him, the man is simply not a sympathetic figure. Of course, those around him who may care for him deeply, such as his wife, family, and friends will feel differently. 

There’s a horrible truth about Stevenson that is often glossed over when covering his career as a whole as well as his individual fights. Before becoming a boxer, Stevenson was a pimp in Haiti. Which may be a disreputable profession on its face, but it’s the way he treated the women under his charge that is the true horror.

As I wrote in these pages on May 18th of this year just prior to his fight with Badou Jack:

The truth about Stevenson and his days of putting women on the street is particularly grisly. The fact that he kept most of the prostitutes’ money is offensive, but typical. What he did to them when they didn’t make enough is horrifying.

Stevenson beat the women on the regular. Often pulling a knife on them. One escort who went by the name of Roxanne, revealed that she attempted to escape Stevenson. 

She was unsuccessful.

For her trouble, she was beaten. Terribly beaten. Roxanne claims that Stevenson broke her arm and nose, as well as fractured her jaw.

The next day, he beat her again.

So, what do I as a human being do with that information in conjunction with Stevenson’s current state? Let me be clear, I do not wish what happened to Stevenson on anyone. Even him. Boxing is a brutal game. One that I have a love/hate relationship with. On the one hand, I love the skill, ferocity, and drama of it. There is nothing else like it in sports. Two athletes asking every measure of each other while standing toe-to-toe with nowhere to hide. I also think that those who find the game too brutal to exist have a point. But that’s a topic for another time and perhaps another article.

This is about Adonis Stevenson. A man who brutalized and enslaved women. Served four years of time for it and has carried on his life to a good measure of fame and fortune without ever admitting what he has done or showing remorse for it.

I don’t know if the #MeToo movement will ever make it to boxing. Even with all my love for the game, I am aware that the sport is made up of hard people. Not just those in the ring, but outside of it. Respect for women, if you are looking for it, is not easily found here. 

But it seems to me, that the papering over of Stevenson’s past by many a publication is not only sloppy, but irresponsible. Because if we are being honest, what happened to Stevenson Saturday night is not all that different from what he did to women he put on the street. Well, there is one major difference. Stevenson chose to take the risk of getting hurt. Of being beaten. And he did so against someone his own size. The women he abused were not afforded those options. 

In watching the terrible result of his 11th round defeat at the fists of Gvozdyk, I was momentarily horrified. It was clear from the second Stevenson hit the canvas he was more than hurt, or even injured. He was at risk. I suppose that was the best part of me reacting to what happened to him in the ring. As the moment passed, I remembered what Stevenson had done. And while there was no joy in it for me, there was something else. Something that I have trouble reconciling.

You see, I am not a religious man. I do not believe in karma or fate. I believe that we are born and then we die. In between, if we are lucky, more good things happen to us than bad.

But I’ll be damned if it didn’t cross my mind looking at Stevenson’s crumpled body on the canvas that some sort of cosmic justice was being delivered unto him.

I have to live with that feeling. And it makes me sick.