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After longest layoff, Curtis Stevens returns to boxing for one more run

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Curtis Stevens has had nearly three years to sit around and ponder life. He thought about the sport he has trained and competed in since he was in grade school, and whether he can continue to do so after nearly two decades as a professional.

The 37-year-old from Brownsville, Brooklyn insists he never retired. He says his uncle/trainer Andre Rozier, who first put gloves on him at age 5, told a reporter after his 2019 stoppage loss to Wale Omotoso that his nephew was done with boxing. Without a promoter or manager, the calls stopped coming. 

“That’s my uncle, he cares for me, he wants the best for me,” said Stevens (30-7, 22 knockouts). “But only I make decisions for myself.”

Stevens finally received a fight offer when Erez David, a promoter who trained alongside Stevens long ago at the Starrett City Boxing Club, told him about his upcoming show. That show, set for this Thursday, March 24 at the Melrose Ballroom in Astoria, Queens, N.Y., will be headlined by Stevens in a six-round middleweight bout against Joshua Conley (16-3-1, 11 KOs).

Conley likewise hasn’t fought since 2019, and has lost by stoppage in his biggest step-up fights against Julian Williams and Carlos Adames.

“I only saw one fight of his,” said Stevens. “He tries to survive and throws nice hooks here and there. He throws an uppercut that he tries to get you out of there with. It’s a great comeback fight for me.”

Erez David says he’s been most impressed by Stevens’ dedication to training in this camp, having trained through his birthday earlier this month after an earlier fight date was canceled due to issues matching fights.

He wants to fight so bad. He wants to get it out of his system,” said David, who is promoting his third pro event under his company, One For All Promotions.

Andre Rozier will be in Stevens’ corner for this fight, though he was trained primarily by his cousin Anthony Irons, a 2005 N.Y. Golden Gloves champ best known for training Daniel Jacobs, and long-time assistant Gary Stark Sr.

During the layoff, Stevens began taking steps towards life after boxing. He opened a daycare, Little Libby’s Munchkins, in Queens Village, offering pick-up and drop-off service for working parents who need their young ones looked after.

Still, Stevens hasn’t given up the dream, no matter how far off it seems.

“I still want to become world champion, that’s always the been the goal. Once I do that, God willing, if I do it this time, then I’m out of here,” said Stevens.

Even without a world title, Stevens has had a better boxing career than most. As an amateur, he won the 2002 U.S. National Championships, defeating future light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud in Las Vegas. He turned professional in 2004 as one half of the “Chin Checkers,” a formidable duo of flashy New York knockout artists with close friend Jaidon Codrington.

There have been plenty of high times, like the highlight reel knockout wins over fringe contenders like Elvin Ayala, Piotr Wilczewski and Patrick Teixeira, underlining the explosive, concussive force that made Stevens who he is.

Then there were the valleys, like his tough but unsuccessful challenge against Gennadiy Golovkin in his lone world title opportunity, or his worrying 2017 knockout loss to David Lemieux. In his last bout against Omotoso, Stevens appeared to have little punch resistance remaining after being dropped three times in three rounds. Stevens blames the performance on using epsom salt baths to cut down to 154 pounds, which he said left him physically drained, instead of his standard practice of sitting in a sauna.

“Everything happens for a reason,” said Stevens. “I knocked 22 motherf—hers out. But hey, I caught mine too. I don’t care about any of that. It’s on come Thursday,” said Stevens.

The plan, Stevens says, is that there is no plan. Not in this unpredictable business. But he says that a win on Thursday should let promoters know that he’s active again and ready to take fight offers. He knows he’ll be coming in as an “opponent” for any big fights, and is ready to make one last stand.

“It’s only one phone call away and people just need to know that you’re back in action. They probably call you to use you as a step-up, and then you step whoever the f–k they have down. In boxing, you never know how the ball will turn,” said Stevens.

Trudy Li pro debut postponed

The professional debut of 2021 National Golden Gloves champion Trudy Li has been postponed after failing to secure an opponent for the four-round women’s junior lightweight bout.

Li, of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, won the N.Y. Golden Gloves in 2017, and was expected to make her pro debut this Thursday in Queens.

Other bouts included on the card include Domnique Crowder (11-0, 7 KOs) of Baltimore against Wilner Soto (22-9, 12 KOs) of Colombia in an eight-round junior featherweight bout, plus the pro debut of N.J. amateur standout John Vallejo in a four-round junior welterweight bout against Jerryd Hernandez.

Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler, Vice and The Guardian, and holds a Master’s degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. He can be reached at ryansongalia@gmail.com.

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The post After longest layoff, Curtis Stevens returns to boxing for one more run appeared first on The Ring.

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