Curtis Stevens determined to realize his potential

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

There is an impatience among boxing people that is hard to figure. After investing time and money in a prospect, all too often he's written off after a disappointing loss or two.

Curtis Stevens is no longer a hotshot prospect promoters are drooling over. He's a veteran who has yet to win a world title or come close to fulfilling the promise he showed as a 19-year-old rookie professional.

Back in those days, Stevens and Jaidon Codrington were hot prospects from New York who were nicknamed "The Chin Checkers." Much was expected of both of them.

Early on, Stevens backed up the optimism: TKO1 in his pro debut. KO1 in his next fight. TKO2 in his third, and then TKO1 and KO1 in the next two. Before he was 20, Stevens was 6-0 with four KOs and never fought past the second round.

He could punch, and the enthusiastic hometown crowds in New York loved watching him.

But it wasn't long before Stevens' star dimmed. He never went on a long losing streak – even now, he's 24-3 with 17 KOs and he's never lost back-to-back fights – yet he seemed to lose the momentum he once had.

"I'm not sure what happened, to be honest with you," Stevens said. "Maybe I took things for granted. Who knows for sure?"

After a stunning 2010 loss to Jesse Brinkley that dropped him to 21-3 and seemed to be the fight that changed the perception of him in the business, Stevens took two years off.

The question is whether he can ever fulfill the promise he once showed. The NBA, for instance, is littered with guys who were high picks who were eventually relegated to the best seat in the house at the end of the bench.

Stevens, though, insists he's not one of those.

The 28-year-old fights Saul Roman in a middleweight bout on Aug. 3 in Uncasville, Conn., in a fight that he believes will reignite interest in his career.

He's in a division where there are plenty of quality and intriguing opponents – Sergio Martinez and Gennady Golovkin are the division's big names, but Peter Quillin, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Daniel Geale, Dimitry Pirog, Matt Macklin, Martin Murray and Marco Antonio Rubio are solid opposition – and he still has that pop.

He also can talk, as he proved when he unloaded on Golovkin. He derided Golovkin for fighting super welterweights and lower-ranked middleweights and said he's mostly a product of hype.

"I'd love to have Golovkin next," Stevens said. "I want to be the guy who stops that little parade of his before it gets out of hand."

Stevens, who fought as a heavyweight several times as an amateur, has taken the unusual step of moving down in weight as he progressed in his career. He turned pro at light heavyweight and fought most of his bouts at super middleweight.

But he's moved to middleweight – perhaps a sign he's taking his job more seriously – and he wants to move up quickly.

He's ranked ninth by the IBF and 10th by the WBC and believes he's good enough to fight for the title now.

But first, he's got to get past Roman, a veteran who is coming off a ninth-round knockout of Jose Pinzon in a Fight of the Year-type bout.

Stevens will be favored, but Roman is no easy out. It's the kind of bout that Stevens needs to win, not only to get the title shot he craves but also to remind those who hopped off his bandwagon why they were on it in the first place.

"I've always fought ferociously, and nothing has really changed, because that's the way I do it," Stevens said. "Moving down from [168 to 160], I'm bringing more power. I've always been fast, but I'm really fast at this weight. And in the gym, we're working more on speed than anything, because with speed comes the power.

"And you know, I'm just trying to have fun. I wasn't having fun before. The Brinkley fight, I was just going there looking for the [one-punch] knockout, instead of having fun and doing what I do. If I relax and go out and have fun, I am at my best."

He needs to remind that to a sea of doubters. A loss shouldn't be a killer in boxing, but for some young fighters, it turns out to be.

Stevens wants to be one of those who puts the issues of his past behind him and proves he can be what everyone once thought he'd be.

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