Having “tentatively approved” a deal for former RING light heavyweight and middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins to face undefeated IBF 175-pound beltholder Tavoris Cloud on March 9 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the IBF is awaiting the signed contracts from the fighters, according to organization president Daryl Peoples.
“We’re just waiting for the contracts. It’s just a procedural thing. It’s going to happen. But if they they don’t comply with what we ask them to do, then it’s not going to happen,” said Peoples, after having reviewed the documentation received as part of the “formal request” from Cloud’s promoter, Don King.
“We just needed the specifics. They have the dates, and we know who is going to promote the event. We just need the contracts, and, like I said, that’s a procedural thing. So through all of the discussions that we’ve had, once we receive the contracts, then it’s a done deal.”
The fight is likely to be approved providing that the winner of Hopkins-Cloud agree to make his first defense against IBF mandatory challenger Karo Murat (25-1-1, 15 knockouts), of Germany, who is 3-0-1, with two knockouts since, himself, being stopped in the 10th round in September of 2010 by current WBO beltholder Nathan Cleverly (25-0, 12 KOs).
“That’s one of the stipulations,” said Peoples, referring to Murat. “That’s it.”
With a victory over Cloud, Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 knockouts), who will turn 48 in January, would extend his own record as the oldest man to win a significant crown, a feat the Philadelphia native accomplished at the age of 46 with a unanimous decision over Jean Pascal for the WBC’s light heavyweight belt in May of last year.
Hopkins was last in April, where he lost a majority decision to RING and WBC champion Chad Dawson.
Cloud (24-0, 19 KOs), who is 30, is looking to make the fifth defense of his belt and is coming off a controversial split-decision victory over Gabriel Campillo in February of last year.
Thurman is coming off a fourth-round stoppage of former WBO 147-pound beltlholder Carlos Quintana on Nov. 24, scoring his eighth consecutive knockout the day after his 24th birthday.
WILL CARL FROCH FACE ADONIS STEVENSON OR MIKKEL KESSLER?
IBF super middleweight titleholder Carl Froch (30-2, 22 KOs) would be permitted to take a rematch of three-time titlewinners against WBA interim beltholder Mikkel Kessler (46-2, 35 KOs) over a bout with hard-hitting, mandatory challenger Adonis Stevenson (19-1, 16 KOs) if the proper paperwork were submitted and the right conditions met.
But Froch, a 35-year-old Englishman, apparently has and may still be considering each scenario, according to Peoples and Stevenson’s promoter, Yvon Michel.
Kessler-Froch II has been considered by Sauerland Events, which handles Kessler, and Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport, which promote Froch, in regard to a deal that was to offer $2 million for each fighter and was being targeted for April, May or June.
Neither Sauerland nor Hearn could be reached for an immediate comment, but Michel said negotiations between himself and Hearn have been ongoing.
“They’ve sent us an offer by e-mail, and we had a couple of exchanges. I’ve sent them a counter-offer, so they sent us an offer for a May date in England, and I sent them a counter-offer for a March or April date in Quebec,” said Michel.
“My understanding, and he was very honest when we spoke together, he said that he was still trying to get a fight with Mikkel Kessler. I don’t know if the move, as they have done with us now, is a move to try to put pressure on Kessler, but since the purse bid is on procedure now, if he does that, then it will not be for the IBF title.”
“Because [Froch-Kessler] is a unification bout, it takes precedence over a mandatory, so it would be allowed,” said IBF public relations Public Relations Director Jeanette Salazar.
“Information concerning the site and the actual date were still needed. Once all of the information is put forward, certain conditions would be set regarding the mandatory, but it would be allowed because it is a unification.”
Peoples said Froch has requested and received permission for a window in which to complete a deal with Kessler — that deadline date being Jan. 14 — before a purse bid is ordered and a defense against Stevenson truly takes precedence.
“A champion may seek to unify the title without requesting an exception. Such as, suppose Froch and Kessler did come to an agreement all of a sudden, say, in the next 24 hours. That would be permitted. Froch has already requested to fight Kessler. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, but he could,” said Peoples.
“But from what everybody is saying, they’re going to go ahead and start negotiating with Stevenson. So it looks like Froch and Stevenson are going to begin negotiations. But if they can’t come to a decision by Jan. 14, then Lindsay will order a purse bid. We have to notify them of a purse bid in advance by 10 days. So Jan. 25 would be the earliest that we would possibly see a purse bid take place.”
While Stevenson was last in the ring for October’s 12th-round knockout of Donovan George, whom he dropped five times, Froch is coming off November’s third-round stoppage of Philadelphia’s Yusaf Mack before his hometown fans at Capital FM Arena in Nottingham, England.
In facing Mack, Froch returned to the venue where he dethroned previously unbeaten Lucian Bute by fifth-round knockout in May. The win over Bute helped Froch to bounce back from a unanimous decision loss to Andre Ward in December of 2011 for the RING, WBA and WBC belts.
Kessler, of Denmark, scored his fifth straight win and his third consecutive stoppage victory in the third round in December over Ireland’s Brian Magee, against whom Kessler won the WBA’s 168-pound interim belt in Herning, Denmark.
Kessler, 33, returned to Herning for the first time since dethroning Froch as WBC beltholder by unanimous decision in a bloody battle that was part of Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic in April of 2010.
Kessler’s triumph over Froch helped him to rebound from losing his WBA belt by a one-sided, 11-round technical-decision loss to Ward in the first round of the Super Six in November of 2009.
Ward’s victory ended a streak of three straight stoppage wins by Kessler, whose previous setback had been at the hands of southpaw Joe Calzaghe by unanimous decision in November of 2007.
In August of 2010, Kessler had to pull out of the Super Six with an eye injury, canceling a September bout with Alan Green.
Froch won the WBC’s vacant belt by decisioning Pascal in December of 2008, lost it to Kessler, and regained it by dominating ex-middleweight beltholder Arthur Abraham in November of the same year.
Froch faced Bute in Nottingham for the first time since October of 2009, when he split-decisioned Andre Dirrell in the first round of the Super Six tournament, during which he also routed ex-beltholder Glen Johnson by unanimous decision in June of last year before losing in to Ward.
Froch’s 12th-round stoppage of former undisputed middleweight titleholder Jermain Taylor in April of 2009, one bout before facing Dirrell, was the first defense of the crown he won from Pascal.
Froch also owns an 11th-round knockout victory over Magee from May of 2006, while Kessler has fought only five times outside his home country, including the losses to Calzaghe and Ward, and is 43-0 when fighting in Denmark.
Photo by David Martin Warr, Don King Productions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]