Curtis Stevens has beaten exactly zero elite fighters. He has faced a series of C-level or lower opponents in an up-and-down professional career that has, so far, been mostly a disappointment.
There is little in his resume to suggest he even belongs in the ring with WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, let alone beat him.
Promoter Kathy Duva rescued him from the scrap heap after he had just one fight in more than two years. She expertly moved him into a position he'd expected to be in years ago.
He was once one of the bright prospects in the sport because of an aggressive nature and his ability to punch.
And it's that punching power that at least will give the Brooklyn native a shot to slow the hype train pushing Golovkin.
They will meet in the main event of an HBO card on Saturday in New York in the theater at Madison Square Garden with no less than Stevens' career riding on the line.
If he's knocked out early or beaten in a one-sided manner, his time at the highest level will be over almost as soon as it started. No matter how good Duva is as a promoter, and she's among the finest in the game, not even she will be able to rescue Stevens (25-3, 18 KOs) if he falls flat Saturday.
But an angry Stevens has scoffed at the critics and the oddsmakers, who have made Golovkin a 10-1 favorite or more.
Stevens has waged a war of words against Golovkin, who has mostly smiled and ignored the taunts.
Last week, Stevens posted a photo on Twitter of him at a mock gravesite with Golovkin's initials, "GGG," on the tombstone.
And despite Golovkin's impressive record – he's 27-0 with 24 knockouts – Stevens isn't concerned.
"I feel great, strong as ever," Stevens said. "I'm moving faster. I'm quicker than I expected. I'm just ready. I'm just ready to go in there and destroy him."
Golovkin has resume issues of his own. While he's a 2004 Olympic silver medalist and has rung up 27 consecutive wins as a pro, it's not like he's beaten a who's who of the world's best fighters.
His best win came in his last outing when he knocked out Matt Macklin in the third round. He's struggled in a few fights, notably against a faded Kassim Ouma, and there remains questions about how he'll do when he fights someone who doesn't back down in the face of his pressure and power.
The question is whether Stevens will be able to expose the weaknesses – if, indeed, there are any – in Golovkin's game.
"I'm not sold [on Golovkin]," Stevens said.
Stevens, though, has to prove himself. Just like in football or baseball, where first-round picks continue to get chance after chance despite not living up to the billing, Stevens' power has kept him in the game.
He's likely to storm out of his corner and try to get Golovkin to brawl with him. If he lands one of the haymakers that he frequently throws, he could end things early and create one of the shocking upsets of recent times.
Stevens fought much of his career at super middleweight, but his trainer, Andre Rozier, has always thought of him as a middleweight.
Duva helped convince Stevens the opportunities were there at middleweight, and Stevens has gone 3-0 this year with a pair of first-round knockouts fighting at 160 pounds.
Rozier believes Stevens has carried his power with him down to 168, but he's quicker and more athletic than he was when he was competing at a higher weight and against bigger men.
"A lot of people are underestimating what's going to happen in this bout," Rozier said. "They're underestimating Curtis due to past performances, but at 160 pounds, which is where we have actually wanted him to be, he's an entirely different animal and I think everyone will see that come fight night. "I relish the underdog status at this moment because at this point in time, we don't have anything to prove other than winning the fight and winning it in a spectacular fashion. So the burden of proof is not upon our backs at this point in time, but the completion of success will be, and that's where we're preparing to shine."
It's a big jump from beating up on the likes of Saul Roman, Derrick Findley and Elvin Ayala to doing the same to someone like Golovkin.
Golovkin's trainer, Abel Sanchez, has been dismissive of Stevens and has predicted an early knockout. History would suggest Stevens is going to rush Golovkin and take his chances, but Stevens said he's gifted enough to switch styles when he has to do so.
Golovkin, Stevens said, is one-dimensional and can only fight in attack mode. So Stevens, whose power has always kept him as a prospect even now, nine years into his pro career, insists he'll give Golovkin plenty to worry about.
"I may mix it up and get on my toes," Stevens said. "I may razzle and dazzle his [butt], cut him up. Or I may just go in there and take it to him, move a lot, just beat him down. But it all depends on him. He may come in there and want to fight. He may want to come in there and box. Because he knows I have power, he may be leery of that in his mind.
"Abel says he's going to knock me out. I don't know if Abel is just hyping him up or hyping just to talk in general, but Gennady only fights one way, and it's coming forward. I believe he's going to come meet me in the center of the ring. And if he does, it should be an early night."
If it's an early night in Stevens' favor, he'll patch that gaping hole in his resume and he'll finally fulfill the immense potential he showed early in the last decade.
It's up to him to do that, though. And with a gifted guy like Golovkin standing across from him, it's going to be a lot easier for Stevens to say it than do it.
- Sports & Recreation