By Steve Kim: Last Thursday afternoon, a teleconference was scheduled for the participants of this weekend’s light heavyweight championship battle between Adonis Stevenson and Tavoris Cloud, co-headlining HBO’s (10:15 p.m. ET/PT) split-site doubleheader from the Bell Centre in Montreal. While Stevenson and his promoter were present for this function, Cloud was a no-show.
It turns out he was training (or something like that. The story kept changing according to the publicist who helped organize this conference call) and those at Don King Productions kept giving different reasons as to why they couldn’t at least pretend to participate in this promotion. The usually verbose Don King wasn’t even available to fill up reporters’ notebooks. Since Alan Hopper resigned his position as the lead publicist, DKP isn’t so much a skeleton crew but down to the bone marrow.
The fall of the Roman Empire was much more graceful than this.
But perhaps it was only fitting that Cloud was nowhere to be found in the lead-up to this fight. It mirrors his recent career path which has seen him become less and less of presence in recent years. Like many other boxers who signed with Don King, they have discovered they essentially signed their retirement papers. At one time, King was boxing royalty, who, by sheer force of personality and influence, had the ability to control networks and consistently find work for his clients.
And that’s unlike a Bob Arum, who evolved with the times and the changing landscape of the industry, having a clear plan in place for the future with his stepson, Top Rank President Todd duBoef. DKP has slowly been stripped bare the past several years and the company is down to its last loyalists who still collect a paycheck. Meanwhile, his roster of fighters sits and stagnates for months and years at a time, the sands running out of their career hourglasses. Boxing waits for nobody and while the business has moved forward, King and his boxers have languished into “Bolivian” (as Mike Tyson would say).
Tavoris Cloud is just the most recent example. Since inking a deal with DKP in 2010, he has fought all of five times (performing just once each in 2011 and 2012 during the heart of his physical prime). An anticipated bout against Jean Pascal last year never materialized and Cloud sat out the rest of 2012 after his controversial split decision over Gabriel Campillo. As he faced Bernard Hopkins this past March coming off a 13-month layoff, he looked like a blind man trying to decipher a Rubik’s Cube. For much of the night, he was befuddled by “The Executioner” and the one valuable thing he had, the IBF light heavyweight title, was no longer in his possession.
It wasn’t always this way for Cloud, a rugged, hardnosed fighter, who, at his best, was a fan-friendly fighter who made for good television.
After turning professional in 2004 and fighting on the back roads of boxing early on in his career in locales like Ocala, Florida, Greensboro, North Carolina and Gary, Indiana, he hooked up with 8 Count Productions in 2006 and quickly became a staple in Chicago. The country boy from Tallahassee became a bit of a fan favorite in the “Windy City” and from 2006 to 2008, he fought 10 times for Dominic Pesoli’s outfit. What Wrigley Field was to the Cubs, the Aragon Ballroom and Cicero Stadium were to Cloud. He was slowly but surely developing a following in a city that has shown it will support boxing and local boxers.
Cloud defeated Julio Gonzalez in August of 2008 which positioned him to take on Clinton Woods for the IBF title. It was his last fight with 8 Count Productions as he signed a deal with the short lived Richie Boy Promotions (remember them? Because I sure didn’t…), who staged his title-winning performance versus Woods a year later. Just as quickly, he bolted for King, which brought about this lawsuit and from there, Cloud’s career - despite having had a world title in his possession for a few years - has never fully regained its bearings.