Because just a week later, it was announced that Kovalev would be facing WBO light heavyweight titlist Nathan Cleverly on August 17th in Wales as part of a split-site HBO tripleheader.
“We had been approached about fighting Nathan Cleverly before after the White fight had been made and it was already scheduled and ready to go,” explained Kathy Duva. “HBO called and said, ‘Could you put him in with Cleverly?’ And we said, ‘Of course, but we’re not going to cancel this fight and he needs to become the number one contender because he needs that protection. He needs to know he can get a title fight one way or the other because if the fight with Cleverly were to fall apart for some reason, he’d be left with nothing.’
“At that point, Murat was fighting Hopkins and we were quite sure that the mandatory in the IBF would never come due at least for another year. So it was sorta like, ‘Well, y’ know what? It’s good. Keep him active.’ We felt very confident he’d beat Cornelius White. Get him in the ring; get more publicity; get him sharper and then to go Wales and fight.”
But late into the process, the dynamic changed after Murat’s shot at Hopkins was nixed.
Duva recalls, “The deal was supposed to be done before the fight happened. As it turns out, it was still being haggled over on the other side and the deal wasn’t completed. So the day before the fight, we find out that Murat has pulled out and now this fight with Sergey and White was to become Bernard Hopkins’ immediate mandatory - not something anyone anticipated. So the IBF made their ruling on Monday; the Cleverly fight still wasn’t done, so I figured we’ve got to explore this. Let me see what’s going on in the event the Cleverly fight couldn’t get made. We certainly had to explore the other alternative.
“It became clear to me very quickly that Bernard Hopkins wasn’t going to fight Sergey despite these statements that he’s made,” said Duva, who picked up quickly on the grandstanding of “The Executioner.” Golden Boy Promotions and Showtime made it clear that for whatever reason, they had no interest in this match-up. “If you look at [the statements] he’s made, if you look at them very closely, what [Hopkins is] saying is, ‘Well, of course, I’ll honor my mandatory and fight him if that’s my only alternative.’ The problem is if the Cleverly fight didn’t get made, Cleverly would’ve fought Hopkins and Sergey would’ve been fighting for a vacant title.”
This much is clear; a fight on HBO versus Cleverly was the sure money. Duva didn’t want to play a game of chicken here. She says, “Rather than fighting a reigning champion on August 17th and becoming champion of the world in two months, Kovalev was looking at the alternative of going through several months as this whole thing would’ve sorted itself out with Hopkins and then moving onto an available contender. Where that’s going to be televised, who knows if that’ll be televised in the U.S. because most of the other contenders were not Americans. As we went through the whole thing, the decision was made on Tuesday: ‘Look, we get a sure title fight on HBO. We should take it and if Bernard Hopkins wants to fight Kovalev, he can do that next.’
“The fight will be a lot bigger.”
The fight versus White was Kovalev’s fourth in the past 12 months (active by today’s standards) and he steadily built his profile on the “Fight Night” series on NBC Sports Network. There’s a lesson to be learned here for boxers: just keep fighting and winning - then ask questions later.
“That’s what we tell everyone when we sign them. If they don’t want to do that, we don’t sign them,” Duva said, laughing. That’s my theory: stay active; get your name out there; let the boxing public know you. If you have an exciting style like Sergey, you can’t really perform too often but who wouldn’t want to see him fight? So he got everybody’s attention. His first fight with us was last September - a highlight with Darnell Boone which got on NBC Sports Network. He fought on NBC after that two more times and already he’s in a title fight less than a year after we signed him. So I think he’s going to be the NBC Sports Network series’ first world champion and we’re really excited about that.
“Without NBC, none of this would’ve been possible.”
In talking to Yvon Michel, who handles the career of WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson (owed a hearty “Thank you” from HBO subscribers for getting rid of Chad Dawson), it looks like “Superman” will be back on their airwaves in the fall months from Montreal. Michel says he hopes to have Stevenson fight one more time in 2013 after that.
It’s clear that HBO is making the 175-pound class a priority. Not only are there some exciting pairings to be had but it theoretically begins the process of creating future opponents for Andre Ward, should he move up in weight (and whenever his career resumes).
Duva states, “Oh, most definitely and this deal that we have with HBO for Sergey is not just for one fight. So that’s my indication and they’ve already made a commitment to Adonis Stevenson; that’s obvious. It’s a terrific division; there’s a lot of excitement. They’ve got Cleverly and Kovalev; obviously, the winner is going to be coming back. There’s people that will move up in weight like Andre Ward and maybe Carl Froch. There’s some incredibly interesting match-ups that can be made. When you get a huge puncher like Stevenson, a huge puncher like Sergey, when you have that kind of excitement in a weight division, this reminds me of when I first became involved in boxing.
“I remember the time of Marvin Johnson and Matthew Saad Muhammad, John Conteh from England. Michael Spinks was a part of that chain, Yaqui Lopez, who never won a title but made a lot of great fights.
And to her, there is a fight that goes right alongside Micky Ward vs. Arturo Gatti I for sheer brutality and excitement.
“I was in the room when Yaqui Lopez fought Matthew Saad Muhammad, which, in my memory, is still the most hellacious fight I’ve ever seen because they were bigger. Gatti-Ward was more exciting in many ways but, boy, Saad Muhammad and Lopez, that was just...I was sitting at ringside and I can’t even describe how hard they were hitting each other. It was just mind-boggling.
“We have a division now that is really exciting and HBO’s really smart, I think, to get on board.”
Not sure if the Cleverly-Kovalev will be aired live or just on tape-delay but as of now, this will be a three-fight telecast on HBO. From Atlantic City, Daniel Geale defends his IBF middleweight title versus Darren Barker and IBF 122-pound beltholder Jhonathan Romero was supposed to have faced Joseph Agbeko. However, Agbeko was pulled from this assignment because he’s promoted by Don King – who, to this day, is still barred from doing business in New Jersey due to his past transgressions with the IBF and never facing the music in front of the state’s gaming board.
OK, good luck to you getting any of these but the tickets for the bout between Floyd Mayweather and Saul Alvarez go on sale soon(Tuesday, June 25 at 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 p.m. PT). Here’s the info (from a Golden Boy press release):
Tickets will be priced at $2,000, $1,500, $1,000, $600 and $350, not including applicable service charges, with a total ticket limit of 12 per person, a limit of 10 per person at the $2,000, $1,500, $1,000, $600 and $350 price levels and a limit of two per person at the $350 price level. To charge by phone with a major credit card, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. Tickets will also be available for purchase at www.mgmgrand.com or www.ticketmaster.com.
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