Adonis Stevenson-Sergey Kovalev: Wait till next year?
This much is clear: The two marquee names at light heavyweight, Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev will each have one more fight in 2015. It wont be against one another, adding to the dismay and frustration of fans who have been waiting for this fight since the end of 2013 when both were seemingly on an HBO-funded collision course.
Well, we all know that after Stevenson signed with adviser Al Haymon, that plan quickly evaporated as the reigning WBC champion was quickly taken to Showtime and, later, Premier Boxing Champions. Kovalev, who holds the three other major belts in the division, has remained at HBO and has since taken on the likes of Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal.
But as their handlers plan out their next moves, the focus has shifted to a showdown in 2016. Do we dare believe? After all the accusations, the finger-pointing, the machinations – y’ know, the usual boxing business – can the two sides can finally bring this bout to fruition?
Yvon Michel, the head of GYM (which promotes Stevenson) says, “The difference there is that we’re talking. It is Adonis’ wish, ours and Al’s, same thing as Kovalev, [Main Events CEO Kathy] Duva, to do the fight. So we are hoping to find a way to be able to do it some time in 2016. We are aware that the eventual winner of Stevenson-Kovalev fight will be a huge star in boxing.
“So it’s a fight of such magnitude that nobody wants to miss it. So Adonis is pushing hard in that direction for everybody to find a solution. So we’re talking and we’re trying to see if it’s a possibility.”
Back in the spring after Kovalev’s promoter, Main Events, had positioned him as the top contender in the WBC, the company decided to back out of a purse bid for a Stevenson fight for risk of losing it (which would have been financed by the deep pockets of Waddell and Reed) and having to alienate HBO – with whom they soon re-signed to a long-term, exclusive deal prior to Kovalev’s bout with Nadjib Mohemmedi.
Currently, Haymon and his clients are persona non grata at HBO. Can the network situation be worked out and overcome?
“Look, six months in the boxing industry is a lifetime and things can change so fast,” points out Michel. “So at the moment what we’ve been told is HBO will not make any compromise. If the fight is not on HBO, it will not happen. But y’ know, not long ago, that fight was going to have a small license fee on HBO; after Kovalev beat Hopkins it became a major license fee but now we all know that it’s a pay-per-view. So everyday that passes, every win that Stevenson gets or Kovalev gets brings even more interest to the fight. So we hope that, at one point, that interest will be so high that everybody will do what it takes to make the fight happen.”
But you never know what could happen in a given fight. One bad night from either man and interest can dissipate just like that. Who can forget Stevenson – who is 38 years old – getting floored by Andrzej Fonfara in his Showtime debut in May of last year? There is no doubt that this is THE light heavyweight match-up to make but, thus far, has been symbolic of the divide that currently exists in boxing.
Recently, Michel and Kathy Duva, the point person for Main Events, have worked harmoniously to make other bouts in the division. In this particular instance, money is not an issue. “Yvon and I both agree that 50/50 is a fair split,” confirmed Duva, who added, “I hope [Michel] is sincere. I know I am. We can both agree that the 50/50 split is fair. Sergey has a long-term deal with HBO and they’re well aware of it. If they want to make the fight, HBO will distribute the pay-per-view. I do believe it’s reached the point now, especially since Floyd [Mayweather Jr.] has announced his retirement – for whatever that’s worth – and especially as everyone is jockeying for position now.”
It’s not clear just how many buys Stevenson-Kovalev would generate but, like the Gennady Golovkin-David Lemieux bout, it’s in that gray area where a network license fee would no longer be enough to satisfy both sides financially and pay-per-view would be a necessity with the hope that it does 200-300,000 buys.
“I think this fight has enough heart behind it, where you have two monster punchers who genuinely dislike each other,” continued Duva. “I think it’s the kind of fight that can catch fire.”
Recently Main Events wished Stevenson a happy birthday on social media – well, they actually mocked him – but, of course, it was all in good fun, says Duva, who believes there needs to be a sense of urgency to get this done before the end of the year.
“I talked to Yvon the other day and I said, ‘So your guy’s out there saying he wants to make the fight and you’re ready to make the deal…’ in the context of that conversation he agreed that 50/50’s fair and he said, ‘Well, Stevenson wants to fight again this year. We’ll talk to you after the fight,’ and I said, ‘Well, here’s the thing: The pay-per-view schedule, being what it is, is going to fill up quickly. You got Golovkin in the pay-per-view mix; you certainly have the winner of [Miguel] Cotto-Canelo [Alvarez] in the pay-per-view mix – if not the loser too. Manny Pacquiao is coming back next year and most of us believe Floyd Mayweather’s coming back too. If you want to get on the calendar, it’s better to do it sooner rather than later.
“And pay-per-view is the only way this fight can happen now. It’s the only way you can pay both of them and the magic isn’t going to be there forever. When these conversations started two years ago, the split was going to be two-thirds, one-third in Adonis’ favor and now we’re talking 50/50. This 50/50 isn’t going to be on the table forever,” Duva continued. “Sergey’s going to move on, so I think it’s a good time to talk and it’s a good time to plan and I think we can make this happen as early as March if they want to.”
Will this end up being the 175-pound version of Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao, a fight that took an interminably long time to make and took place a bit too late (at least from a physical standpoint)?
Michel laughs at this notion, “Well, when we first spoke about it, it was supposed to happen in 2014. So we are now in 2015. It’s not that long ago. It will not take five years.”
If this fight comes to be, it seems like Montreal – or somewhere – in Quebec would be the most logical host but Duva states, “I think the fight should go where the best deal is. We’ll agree to go there but I think we should also explore Las Vegas because I know the MGM, Mandalay Bay is very interested in the fight.”
Here’s this week’s edition of “The Next Round” with Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly.
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Duva says discussions about Kovalev’s tentative bout with Andre Ward are ongoing…Looks like a bout between featherweights Jayson Velez and Ronny Rios will be added to the Cotto-Canelo undercard….Nicholas Walters is slated to appear on HBO on Dec. 12. Nonito Donaire might be the co-feature…Losing Miles Jack is a huge blow for UCLA…Some key Pac-12 match-ups this weekend…Never count out Lucious Lyon – even from behind prison bars…OK, so should I be happy that Metta World Artest is a Laker again?…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.