In a dramatic turn of events that has left the boxing community bewildered, the eagerly awaited November 16 clash between Shakur Stevenson and Frank Martin for the vacant WBC lightweight title has been summarily called off. Mike Coppinger of ESPN was the first to break the news, indicating that the cancellation was precipitated by Martin’s sudden disinterest in the contract terms after it had been sent to his camp for finalisation.
A representative for Stevenson was quick to articulate the fighter’s stance, saying that Stevenson remains “willing to take on any challengers” and that his team is considerably disappointed about the untimely cancellation. This scenario is acutely intriguing, given the financial figures surrounding the fight. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated had reported that Martin was set to make a sum exceeding $1 million for participating in the bout.
Both fighters were to enter the ring with unblemished records—Martin boasting an 18-0 record with 12 knockouts, and Stevenson, slightly ahead, at 20-0 with 10 victories decided by knockout. Stevenson’s last foray into the ring was a knockout victory against Shuichiro Yoshino in April, which marked his 20th career win. Martin, on the other hand, recently defeated Artem Harutyunyan via a decision in July.
The abrupt cancellation has led to allegations, including from Stevenson himself, accusing Martin of “ducking” or strategically avoiding the fight. It should be noted that Stevenson has faced similar obstacles in the past, notably when Devin Haney, the previous champion in the 135-pound category, opted to move up to the 140-pound division rather than face him.
Amid this cacophony of allegations and speculations, Frank Martin, known for his reticence outside of the ring, has been conspicuously silent. Fans and critics alike have been demanding an explanation for his sudden withdrawal. The Detroit native, who isn’t an avid user of social media, has until recently chosen to remain silent, letting Stevenson take to various social media platforms to call him out, even going as far as to say he is “ducking” him.
However, it seems that Stevenson’s pointed remarks, including the placement of duck emojis on his Twitter/X account, finally struck a chord. Martin, having apparently heard enough, broke his silence. He logged into his Twitter/X account and issued a succinct response: “I ain’t duck sh!t,” he stated, though he failed to elaborate on the reasons for his withdrawal or his future plans.
This brings us to the speculative angle of this unfolding drama—rumours are rife that Martin may be gearing up for a mega-payday bout against the most significant star in the 135-lb division, Gervonta Davis. One must ponder: why would Martin face Stevenson for a considerably lesser sum when a Davis showdown could potentially be far more lucrative, possibly enough to finance a lavish lifestyle in an affluent Beverly Hills neighbourhood? If these rumours hold any merit, then Martin’s withdrawal may well be a calculated business decision rather than an act of cowardice.
Stevenson, however, isn’t buying into these rumours. He deems them to be a media-created narrative and remains sceptical about their veracity. Nonetheless, unless Martin has a bigger fight aligned against someone like Tank Davis, the optics do not favour him and the allegations of “ducking” will persist.
This cancellation also comes as a significant blow to Top Rank, the promotion company that had orchestrated this fight. They had strategically chosen the date to coincide with the influx of fans to Las Vegas for the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Further complicating matters is the fact that Stevenson’s ascent in boxing stardom has been relatively slow, largely due to his defensive fighting style that doesn’t resonate well with modern fans who prefer a more aggressive, action-packed approach.
Unless Martin comes forward with a cogent reason for his withdrawal, his credibility stands at risk. For Stevenson, the quest for a worthy opponent continues, and for the fans and the sport, it’s an opportunity lost, at least for now. The situation remains fluid, and the boxing world waits with bated breath for the next chapter in this unfolding saga.