Curtis Stevens sat in the corner of his congested Madison Square Garden locker room repeatedly cursing to himself in his clouded head, “What the f— happened, what the f— happened, what the f— happened!” Minutes after being stopped by the murderous-punching Gennady Golovkin back in November, it’s the only recourse Stevens had.
The 28-year-old Brooklyn native was angry. Frustrated over not doing the things that he normally does to win, although “GGG” had a little something to do with that. But mostly, “Showtime” blamed himself. So he sat there, looking down at his taped, swollen hands and wondering why they didn’t work. Stewing over weapons he usually never had to think about, because they were always there at his disposal.
Just over two months after being stopped in the eighth round by Golovkin, Stevens (25-4, 18 knockouts) will be back in the ring Friday, featured in a 10-round middleweight attraction against Patrick “The Machine” Majewski (21-2, 13 KOs) on NBC Sports Network’s Fight Night from Atlantic City.
Stevens wants to bring himself back to the fighter that he used to be. He says he learned a great deal from his dustup with WBA champion Golovkin (28-0, 25 KOs). Mainly, to stay cool and don’t let the situation dictate what to do. Stevens needed to control the situation.
There was a disconnection. Stevens wanted to throw his jab. His left hand wouldn’t move. He trained two months for Golovkin. His feet wouldn’t move. Nothing would move. He had to think about what to do, instead of doing it.
Stevens tormented himself even more by going over a replay of the fight. He found himself sluggish, never advancing, not letting his hands go.
“I saw what I was supposed to do, and I saw the shots in my head, but they weren’t coming out in my arms," Stevens said. "During live action, I didn’t react. All I had to do was keep pressing Golovkin.
“I wanted that fight, and still want it. I know what I did wrong and what I have to do better. If that opportunity presents itself again, I know what not to do. After Friday, we’ll see what happens next. I have to get back to the jab, because I abandoned it against Golovkin.
“I wanted to knock his ass out so badly that I thought I could win using brute force. I was looking to land that one big shot instead of going in there and punching. I had to think about what I wanted to do. I’ve never had to do that before in a fight. That was my first world championship fight. I made it hard trying to correct my incorrections. I thought too much.”
Stevens has recouped well from the setback, starting that very Nov. 2 night. He returned to his hotel, showered, spent time with his family and friends and then chilled at a local strip club. He took a few weeks off so his body could recuperate and he could clear his head.
Then he spoke to Main Events about getting back into the ring as soon as possible.
“Why wouldn’t I be mad at myself [after Golovkin],” Stevens said. “Remember, I was off for two years [from 2010-2012], so you want me to take another five months off? After Golovkin, I had to get back in there and get things right again. The biggest thing I need to do against [Majewski] is to relax and let my hands go. It’s really that simple.”
Stevens may have the perfect foil in the 34-year-old Majewski, who’s 6 feet tall to Stevens’ 5-foot-7.
“This is a great opportunity for me, I couldn’t say no,” said Majewski, who’s coming off a 12-round unanimous decision loss to undefeated Patrick Nielsen in September 2013. “Stevens is shorter, but he’s dangerous when he’s close. He’s considered a knockout artist and he has some speed, too, so this will be a pretty interesting challenge. I know of course that Stevens is going to come at me strong, but I have two hands, too, and I can punch. We’ll see what the outcome will be.”
Majewski ruled out any possibility that Stevens will be overly aggressive. He feels "Showtime" is too smart and experienced to let the emotional baggage of the Golovkin loss creep into his mindset for this fight.
“He won’t make that mistake,” Majewski said. “He’s going to make me try to adapt to his style and I have to make him adapt to my style. I think that’s the key for me.”
The key for Stevens is returning to the form he once had.
“The real Curtis Stevens will be back and I have to show people that Friday night,” Stevens said. “I’m going in there, letting my hands go and having fun.”
Photo by Naoki Fukuda