The price of doing business
In front of a rather sparse gathering at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Sergey Kovalev made his Las Vegas debut by dispatching the over-matched Nadjib Mohammedi – an alphabet soup mandatory who was very reminiscent of some of the more forgettable title defenses at light heavyweight for Roy Jones Jr. in his heyday – in three short and one-sided rounds.
For Kovalev, Main Events and HBO (and everyone else involved), this fight was the price of doing business.
The “Krusher,” as he is called, has made it very clear that his goal – like Gennady Golovkin at middleweight – is to consolidate his division and gain possession of all four major belts. Currently he has the WBO, IBF and WBA belts around his waist (and no matter what anyone says, the belts are extremely important in this business – especially to the fighters). The WBC strap belongs to Adonis Stevenson and we all know the difficulties involved in making this fight. The Kovalev/Main Events/HBO- Stevenson/Al Haymon/Premier Boxing Champions situation highlights, more than any other fight, the fractured nature of the current marketplace.
It’s easy to point fingers and claim boxers are “ducking” one another but anyone with an ounce of intelligence and capable of looking at things in a nuanced manner (yeah, try and get THAT on most boxing message boards and forums) can discern that it’s never that black and white.
Earlier this year, Main Events, after so much drum beating, had to bow out of a WBC purse bid for this fight for fear of Haymon’s Waddell & Reed-deep and enforced pockets winning its rights to this fight and then putting them in a position to go on Showtime or another network in the PBC Universe. HBO has been an important partner in the development of Kovalev since 2013 and this hard-hitting Russian isn’t just Main Events’ clean-up hitter; he’s their lead-off man, ace starter and closer. In essence, he’s the straw that stirs this drink, which is why Kathy Duva decided to sign Kovalev to an exclusive multi-fight deal with HBO.
So what if the WBC called for another purse bid; would they participate?
Duva stated clearly at the post-fight press conference, “That’s not going to happen. We asked to be them mandatory, we sincerely hoped to have made the fight. It was not possible to make a voluntary deal. They pushed the purse bid way ahead of schedule, refused to negotiate and then managed to turn it around and take the position [that] we were running away.
“We were not going to destroy our relationship with HBO over a fight that might not even happen. So if they want to fight Sergey, at the moment, there’s an offer on the table; 50/50, we’ll go to Canada. But as he grows, becomes better and becomes more and more dominant, that offer’s not going to be on the table forever.”
Some won’t like this answer but Duva has been very consistent. Main Events’ alliance with HBO (and its ability to bring more fighters to them in the future) will trump a Stevenson fight under the current circumstances.
– For HBO, this certainly wasn’t one of its strongest fights of 2015. The bookies had Mohammedi as high as 100-1 (think about that: That’s more than twice what Buster Douglas was versus Mike Tyson in 1990) but the bottom line is when you get into exclusive deals with any fighter – especially those with multiple belts – you will find yourself in a position of having to televise mis-mandatory fights. That was certainly the case with the aforementioned “RJ,” who certainly had no problems dominating one overmatched No. 1 contender after another while the lineal champion, at the time, was actually Dariusz Michalczweski.
HBO is clearly in the Kovalev business, which means that, for every fight against a Jean Pascal or Bernard Hopkins, they have to put up with some Cedric Agnew and Blake Caparello offerings.
– Duva, heeding the advice of Horace Greeley, decided to go west with Kovalev and plant their flag at the Mandalay Bay (which is so criminally underused as a host hotel for boxing nowadays) and there was no doubt that, given the time of year and dance partner, this was going to be a tough sell and this crowd was papered in a scaled-down Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Hey, Rome was not built in a day.
“We had an attendance of 4,351 people,” said Duva, who explained, “Y’know, back when they had the Sports Pavilion at Caesars Palace, it held about 4,000 people. Some of the greatest fights of all time took place there. That’s a nice size. Not every fight is a mega-fight. This did about 4,000 people. That’s a good start. It’s really good. I don’t think were too far from doubling and tripling those numbers.”
– So what’s next for Kovalev?
Duva says they intend to have him fight on Thanksgiving weekend in Russia and will offer to the fight to Artur Beterbiev (who is advised by Haymon, so take this with a grain of salt).
Duva explained, “We’re going to Moscow, Egis [Klimas, Kovalev’s manager], Sergey and I during the second week of August, and we’re going to finalize everything but I have the arena on hold right now. That’s the plan.”
The hope is that Kovalev, like a Gennady Golovkin the past year or so, can be busy, work in volume and steadily build his fan-base. One way to do that is to have a foreign market to stage fights with or without HBO. As for HBO’s participation on this upcoming fight, “We hope it’s HBO. They have the right to do it. It’s really up to HBO to give us their final approval,” said Ms. Main Events.
– There is a lot of talk of a rematch between Kovalev and Jean Pascal (who engaged in an entertaining scrap back in March) but raise your hand if you thought Yunieski Gonzalez did more than enough to beat Pascal in the HBO opener this weekend. Yeah…that’s what I thought. In my opinion, the gritty Cuban boxer (and there’s a phrase I don’t type out often) simply out-hustled and out-fought Pascal for much of the night. The large majority of press row had Gonzalez winning but all three ringside arbiters had Pascal up the score of 96-94.
You wonder if this outing from Pascal doused any interest in a second go-round with Kovalev, for the time being.
But you had to feel for Gonzalez, who was extremely emotional and inconsolable in the ring after the decision was read.
“I am so sad,” he said afterward. “That was taken from me. He did not win; I did. I am the real winner.”
Many agree with him.
I’ll have more on this later this week but, yes, the Gennady Golovkin-David Lemieux bout has been consummated for Oct. 17 at Madison Square Garden in New York…Speaking of which, Brian Viloria scored a first round KO of Omar Soto on Saturday night. Here’s hoping he faces Roman Gonzalez (who is slated to be on the Golovkin-Lemieux pay-per-view undercard) next. In my opinion, it’s the best of the most realistic fights that can be made for “Chocolatito”…Speaking of the Mandalay Bay, I hear it’s emerged as a serious option to host the Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez fight on Nov. 21…Football training camps are juuuuuuust around the corner…So the Mayweather-“Petro” fight may end up on pay-per-view after all? That’s funny but not in a “Ha-ha” way…Yeah, so “Hulkamania” is no longer running wild?…I can be reached at email@example.com 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.