Monday, March 20, 2023  |



Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev fight unifies more than world titles

The Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev not only unifies three 175-pound titles, it also reunites Golden Boy Promotions and HBO, and ends a lawsuit between Main Events and Golden Boy. Photo by Rich Kane / Hoganphotos-Golden Boy

The Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev fight not only unifies three 175-pound titles, it also reunites Golden Boy Promotions and HBO, and ends a lawsuit between Main Events and Golden Boy. Photo by Rich Kane / Hoganphotos-Golden Boy Promotions


NEW YORK – There were smiles all around the Vanderbilt room at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Tuesday afternoon. They were plastered on the faces of all those in attendance for the press conference who were involved making the Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev light heavyweight unification fight at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Nov. 8.

There was Kathy Duva of Main Events, who declared victory even though she had to drop all of her lawsuits against everyone she alleged had stood in the way of her making a fight between her client, Kovalev and RING/WBC champion Adonis Stevenson after Stevenson fled HBO to sign a deal with rival network Showtime.

There was Ken Hershman, President of HBO Sports, who had stopped doing business with Golden Boy Promotions last year because he didn’t like their business practices and negotiation techniques.

There was Oscar De La Hoya, CEO of Golden Boy who thinks Hopkins-Kovalev is the icebreaker that can lead to a thaw in the frosty relationship between his promotion company and HBO.

There was Hopkins, who took credit for prompting De La Hoya to make the deal with Duva and take the fight to HBO.

There was Kovalev, who finally gets the big event fight that he needs to propel him into stardom.

And if a city could smile, maybe even Atlantic City, which has seen two of its big casinos close their doors this week, forced a weak one from afar with the news that a big fight will bring some needed vitality to the Boardwalk.

Just a few months ago Stevenson was at the center of the 175-pound championship universe. Everyone else in the division, including Hopkins, was circling around him. When Stevenson abandoned HBO, and ostensibly a major unification bout against Kovalev, it seems that he was heading for a big money showdown with Hopkins.

But now that Hopkins, the IBF and WBA champion, is fighting Kovalev, who holds the WBO title, it looks like Stevenson is left out in the cold as far as major fights at 175-pound are concerned.

Duva, believing she and Kovalev had been left at the altar by Stevenson’s defection to Showtime, filed a lawsuit against Stevenson, his manager, Al Haymon, his promoter, Yvon Michel, Showtime and Golden Boy in April.

As soon as the ink was dry on the contract for Hopkins-Kovalev, she dropped the lawsuit.

“The whole theory of my case was they had killed my deal in order to make a fight with Hopkins and Stevenson,” Duva said. “So this (Hopkins-Kovalev) kind of weakens my case. We got to drop the suit and declare victory. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Hopkins said he pulled everyone’s fat from the fire with his decision to fight Kovalev and take it to HBO.

“How did I, out all of the smart people with all these big degrees, figure out three scenarios by making one fight?” Hopkins said. “I must take credit and blow my own horn for this. I believe Al Haymon is thanking me from afar. I believe Richard Schaefer is thanking me from afar.”

Since De La Hoya parted ways with Richard Schaefer, the former president of Golden Boy Promotions, he has been busy mending fences – first with his former promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank and now HBO. Getting back together with HBO – the network that made him a megastar and made him a very wealthy man – is a major move for De La Hoya.

“It’s an indication obviously that Golden Boy is willing to work with anyone who is willing to work with us,” De La Hoya said. “This fight was driven by Hopkins and made by Golden Boy on HBO for the fans. It really is a great indication that whatever obstacles that we have in front of us that if we have to make a fight for the fans who want to see then we’re going to do it.”

Showtime and Stevenson weren’t rushing to make a fight with Hopkins. So Hopkins pushed De La Hoya to make a fight with Kovalev and take it to HBO.

Hopkins said the conversation with De La Hoya played out like this: “He looked at me and said, ‘Are you serious?’ And I said yeah. He asked me three days later and I said, ‘Oscar I’m not going to repeat myself. I’m serious.’

“He laughed and I laughed and it got done. It got done quick. They satisfied my needs and my worth. We satisfied their side. This deal was done in three days.”

De La Hoya said he struggled with having to go to HBO to offer them the deal.

“My first thought was how do we break it to Showtime because we have a good relationship with Showtime,” De La Hoya said. “We do a lot of business with Showtime. We’ve been doing all our major fights at Showtime. I have a great relationship with Stephen (Espinosa). But Bernard Hopkins is Bernard Hopkins and he’s 49 years old and he deserves the very best deal that one can get him. I believe this fight with Kovalev was the perfect fit for HBO, for Hopkins, for everybody involved. We’re happy to be back.”

Hershman didn’t refuse De La Hoya’s phone call when it came in. He liked the fight and thought it was a great fit for HBO’s fall boxing line up.

“From our perspective it was a no-brainer. This is a big fight with a big name, the right price, the right environment, the right time of year,” Hershman said. “It all came together rather quickly and we jumped on it. We thought this was a great way to re-establish our relationship with Oscar and Golden Boy. Where the future takes us, who knows? But we feel very comfortable about this one.”

Now that the ice has been broken between Golden Boy and HBO, could Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez be far behind? Hershman said he will have talks with Cotto and his promoters at Top Rank about their plans for his next fight in December sometime this week.

“That’s an exciting fight down the road if we can put it together. But it’s too far down the road to speculate,” Hershman said.

De La Hoya said Alvarez doesn’t have an exclusive contract with either cable network. He said besides Cotto they are looking at several opponents for Alvarez’s next fight, including James Kirkland, Demetrius Andrade and Joshua Clottey. He is committed to working with everyone to make the fights that the fans want to see.

“There’s too much at stake. The fans have been paying for first class tickets and sitting in coach for I don’t know how long. It’s time the fans get what they deserve,” De La Hoya.