Perhaps the most notable thing about last weekend’s HBO telecast from the Bell Centre in Montreal was the dust-up that was occurred during the post-fight interview with Sergey Kovalev. Kovalev – who had dispatched the shot Jean Pascal in seven rounds – made quacking noises at Adonis Stevenson, who just happened to be in the ring.
While being held back by his crew, Stevenson threatened Kovalev, who flipped the bird to a guy he thinks is ducking him. HBO’s Max Kellerman was caught up in the (non-) crossfire.
The reality is, for the time being, it might be the only time these two will share a ring or Stevenson will appear on HBO’s airwaves.
For the better part of two years now, this ongoing saga has played out like a low-budget Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao in which an anticipated match-up has been bogged down by the usual politics and machinations that seemingly hinder the sport at almost every turn.
On Monday morning, this reporter got a call from Egis Klimas, who manages the Russian slugger. Klimas wanted to send out the message that perhaps Stevenson was not getting all the pertinent information regarding the negotiations.
So, basically this fight is headed – as Mike Tyson would say – to ‘Bolivian” (again). But Michel doesn’t think so.
“No, not at all,” he said in another conversation earlier this week. “We got an offer; we made an offer. The offer that we made is exactly the same exact proposal except we require – since it’s pay-per-view – Showtime, HBO distribution, instead of just HBO, and the offer is still on the table as long as both are going to be champions.”
Currently, Stevenson holds the WBC title and the linear light heavyweight championship claim. Kovalev has possession of the IBF, WBA and WBO belts, in addition to being the popular choice as the world’s top 175-pounder.
It’s interesting to note the insistence on Stevenson’s side – which includes adviser Al Haymon – that Showtime be included, given he last fought on that network in Dec. of 2014 (last year, in two fights, he appeared on CBS and Spike). To this, Michel replied, “Look, I did Jean Pascal fights from the beginning his career, the last two fights were with Jean Bedard and so he chose to sign with Bedard, that’s the reason he is there. I cannot claim anything because I was with him for most of his career.”
Michel added, “As you know we are on the other side of the fence. All of my guys, Artur Beterbiev, Elieder Alvarez, Oscar Rivas, Kevin Bizier, Lucian Bute – who I do co-promote with Interbox – they all have fought on Showtime in the last 12 months. Same thing with Adonis, he fought twice on Showtime but also CBS, which is a parent company of Showtime. So it’s just that we are on that side, period. What he’s done with HBO in the past is irrelevant at this point and it’s not like someone is asking for a huge license fee. The proposal would be for a pay-per-view with HBO, which then HBO would not invest to do the fight by itself.
“Then on our side, if it’s pay-per-view, (Showtime Sports Executive Vice President and General Manager) Stephen Espinoza said, ‘If it’s a pay-per-view, I’d like to be involved.’ There’s a template, not long ago – and I know it’s not as big as Mayweather-Pacquiao – but there would be a good collaboration between the two networks where the allegiances of the fighters are one group or the other.”
OK, putting all that aside, when HBO and Showtime collaborated in the past, it was for fights/events of the magnitude of Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson and the aforementioned match-up on May 2. These cards set pay-per-view records. Here, you are dealing with a fight that most believe wouldn’t come close to cracking a half-million buys.
And for as good a fight as this is to the hardcore fan, should it really be a pay-per-view?
Michel concedes, “This is a good question. I believe if we put all our resources together – you remember when Mayweather-Pacquiao was finally announced that there was on each PBC event on CBS, NBC fights, three or four advertisements of the fight? So if we have all the strength from HBO, the marketing strength from Showtime – I believe we can make a decent pay-per-view of that.”
Going back to the roster of Michel’s fighters, most of whom are now under contract to Haymon, it’s clear, with this association, they can or will only appear on Premier Boxing Champions or Showtime broadcasts. Main Events has a similar situation with Kovalev – who has a exclusive multi-fight deal with HBO – and some of their other fighters, who have appeared on HBO platforms recently, such as Dmitry Mikhaylenko (who appeared on last weekends co-feature against Karim Mayfield) and Sullivan Barrera, who’s last fight in December was on HBO Latino.
Neither GYM or Main Events are really in a position to go across the street to the other network, given their alliances to them. This begs the question: Is the business of boxing better off without exclusive network contracts and allowing fights to be bid for by various entities?
“OK, this here is one of the problems: Y’ know, I was reading Stephen Espinoza other day. He said, ‘Look, we’re willing to go to bid a number; put it in an envelope and if HBO invests more money, the fight is on HBO. If Showtime invests more money, the fights on Showtime.’ But the problem is Main Events and Kovalev would not be freed by HBO. He has a contract and they absolutely want to be involved, so they don’t want to take the risk to lose it to the other network. So we’re not in a position to go where the biggest offer would be.”
It looks like Main Events will be taking Kovalev to Russia for his next fight in the summer before their proposed fall showdown with Andre Ward. As for Stevenson?
“Look, we have already started talking to his manager about it. We were convinced – Adonis, Stephen Espinoza, Al and myself – that we were going to fight Kovalev in June,” explained Michel. “And it was a requirement when we started negotiating that there was nothing scheduled after January 30th. So all of our focus was on Stevenson-Kovalev. Now we are working on the possibility of Elieder Alvarez; he is the mandatory contender. Maybe a second fight with (Andrzej) Fonfara. When Adonis fought Fonfara two years ago, everybody felt it was a tame performance from Adonis. Fonfara was only 26 at that time. He’s knocked out Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. He won a ‘Fight of the Year’ versus (Nathan) Cleverly. So that would be an interesting fight to do. But I’m saying that to you without having that discussion with Adonis. So we will do it this week.”
Yeah, talk about really being Groundhog Day.
“But Iike I said, our offer is still on the table, maybe if Kovalev’s going to fight in Russia in June, maybe a September date will be better,” continued Michel, who perhaps expects Ward to…well, be Ward and not face Kovalev in November as planned. “I know there are plans for Kovalev to fight Andre Ward but who knows what will happen from now? Six months in boxing is like a lifetime.”
Michel still holds out hope that this fight will indeed come to fruition.
“I really feel the two guys are destined to fight each other,” he says, “Showtime made a move; hopefully HBO will too. It’s a fight Stevenson wants, Kathy Duva wants, Kovalev wants, I want too. I still have hope one day or another they will fight each other.”
After reading Michel’s response to Klimas on BoxingScene.com, Kathy Duva sent a glorious email to me full of fire and brimstone but unfortunately she didn’t want to put it out publicly, believing that too much of this failed process has already been made public. Seriously, to paraphrase Virgil Hunter: She was letting her gifted, manicured hands go on the keyboard.
But I found it interesting that, on Tuesday, with the announcement of Saul Alvarez- Amir Khan (who is also another client of Mr. Haymon) that Main Events (@Main_Events) tweeted this out:
And then they pointed this out:
Huh, well those are some interesting and rather factual points I must say. Another much debated issue was just how much Haymon was actually involved in the Canelo-Khan negotiations.
In the past, as Kovalev-Stevenson was first stalled, Duva labeled Haymon an “obstructionist,” who did his best to scuttle certain fights if they didn’t fit his Machiavellian agenda.
So basically we are now led to believe Haymon gave his complete blessing to a fight in which one of his clients is part of an event promoted by a company that is currently suing him, distributed by a network on which he is currently persona non grata, versus a fighter he tried to woo away (“Canelo”) in a brand-new arena in which they hoped Floyd Mayweather was going to headline their first boxing event?
Geez, maybe now he’s the great facilitator.
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