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Stevenson-Kovalev: Now what?

18
Apr
Photo by Amanda Kwok/Showtime

Photo by Amanda Kwok/Showtime

You wanted it. I wanted it. Heck, we still want it.
But it’s seemingly further away than before. It’s like these two light heavyweight battleships are chugging past each other after being on a parallel, then collision courses.
Will the best light heavyweight on the planet, Sergey Kovalev, THE RING’s pick for 2014 “Fighter of the Year,” fight the man perceived by many to be the second-best, Adonis Stevenson, soon?
Or ever?
As of right now, if you get a load of the recent back-and-forth between the principals – and that includes, crucially, the promoters and TV programmers who would (or maybe would NOT) be involved in the super fight showdown at 175 – you get the feeling that this tussle isn’t destined to be made now…or heck, maybe ever.
Ah, but then again, so many folks saw nothing but the darkness, didn’t know the adage that it is always darkest just before dawn, assumed we’d all be dust and bones before Floyd Mayweather Jr. would ever fight Manny Pacquiao. Barring a catastrophic nuclear situation, indeed, all the warring parties will have buried hatchets – with some being buried in backs and skulls of “friends” across the aisle (LOL!) – and we will see “Money” and Manny in a ring together.
So I will hold out hope that we will see “Krusher” and “Superman” colliding to decide supremacy at 175. Then again, maybe I’m a fool for being overly optimistic. Then again, I held on to hope and we’re getting our Super Fight at the MGM on May 2. Anyway, promoter Main Events, who reps Kovalev, and promoter Yvon Michel, who reps Stevenson, along with adviser Al Haymon, have been trading barbs and open letters of late.

Recent history started with Duva announcing earlier in the week that Main Events and Kovalev would NOT participate in an April 17 purse bid put together by the WBC, the sanctioning body whose belt Stevenson currently wears and Kovalev has said he wants.

Duva said Kovalev would forfeit his position as the No. 1 ranked challenger to AdonisÔǪbut she didn’t close the door on a bout, even though all are proceeding with a Kovalev-Nadjib Mohammedi clash in July, with “Mo” being the top-rated challenger by the IBF.

Duva said she is willing to have Kovalev fight Adonis but only on HBO or on HBO-Pay-View, with a 50/50 split for the two fighters.

Michel responded to Main Events, with the following letter




Montreal April 15, 2015

Miss Duva:

This letter is to confirm that we received the correspondence yesterday regarding your offer for a unification title fight between Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev. Thank you very much.

You have informed me that you have exclusive ties with HBO and cannot fight on another network, which is unfortunate because it might prevent this clash from getting the best possible value for a fight of this tremendous magnitude.

You must have done your deal with HBO just recently because you were quoted right after the [Sergey Kovalev vs. Jean] Pascal fight on March 14, 2015, that it was Kovalev’s last fight of your current contract with the network. This is one of the reasons we requested the WBC to hold a rapid purse bid since we believed you could freely participate on what has the potential to be the richest light heavyweight fight in boxing history. You certainly knew that agreeing to a new contract with HBO without having their full support to win the bid was jeopardizing the fight from happening.

You complained to the WBC that we have not communicated with you in terms of engaging negotiations prior to requesting a purse bid. You are correct. Considering our past experiences together, as well as our different network affiliation, we did not believe a negotiated agreement was possible and subsequently requested that the WBC skip this unnecessary phase.

At the last WBC convention, you petitioned to have your fighter become the mandatory contender to Stevenson, requesting a 50/50 split on a purse bid but you failed to specify that, at all costs, the fight had to be on HBO.

In your proposal, you mentioned: “We choose the venue based upon who offers the best deal. Our guiding principle will be maximization of revenues.”

We are totally in agreement with you but don’t understand why this principle cannot be applied on the US television partner as well. We both agreed [we] would not hold the fight in Atlantic City with no guarantees, if we can have a $2 million offer in Quebec City. The same should apply for television.

My feeling is that our television partners are placing a higher value on the fight than yours. Maybe I am wrong but going to purse bid would clarify the situation.
Regarding the popularity of Adonis Stevenson in Quebec, you are making a bold, false statement and have probably been wrongly informed by pretending it is in decline. The fight against [Sakio] Bika on Saturday of Easter weekend was presented live on free network here, in English on CBS and French on TVA Sports. According to Mr. Serge Fortin, Vice President of TVA Sports, ratings for the Stevenson vs. Bika fight were the best in the history of the network for boxing, reaching nearly 400,000 viewers and an 18.5 share of the market. During the fight, TVA Sports was the most watched television station in Quebec, including terrestrial networks!
Now, regarding Stevenson’s popularity in the USA, his April 4th fight on CBS against Bika had an average of 1.7 million viewers, peaking at 1.85 million. This is more than any fight involving Kovalev, including his against Hopkins and the Pascal. Not only was Stevenson vs. Bika held on Easter Sunday weekend, it was against a fighter born in Cameroon who lives in Australia and no connection or fan base in the US market.
You are backing off the purse bid, blaming Stevenson’s popularity, several economic factors and production conflicts. In reality, it seems like you are really afraid of looking bad with your bid. We certainly are willing to put forward the best purse bid ever for the division but, contrary to your pretensions, it takes more than 90 days to get the best economic result when organizing an event. This is a mistake the boxing system forces us to do. In show business, advertisements of sales for an event are placed up to a year in advance. This is how they fill-up stadiums! Here in Quebec, the most profitable boxing event ever was the Pascal vs. [Lucian] Bute fight, in which revenues were nearly $6 million (only $500,000 from HBO). There was a period of 11 months spanning the first press conference to the day of the fight.

Anyway, if you do not believe the potential economic success of this event or you are concern[ed] of not receiving the necessary backing, just sit back and let us take the risk and do the job. Your fighter will make as much money in this single fight then all his other career fights combined.
We believe the Stevenson vs. Kovalev light heavyweight unification title fight is the most anticipated and publicly demanded fight of 2015, ranking only behind Mayweather/Pacquiao [sic]. We also believe it is one of the most important fights in the history of the light heavyweight division. GYM and Adonis definitely want to make it happen. Acting as if you have the best light heavyweight champion is, at best, pretentious. The world will know only when they face each other in the ring. In the end, though, maybe you prefer to avoid it?
I believe the best way to resolve this situation is a purse bid. But in an act of good faith and desire to see this fight happen, albeit it with some adjustments, we are willing to accept your offer of co-promoting the fight together with a 50/50 split and avoid going to purse bid. However, one major point is we have to be able to maximize revenues in all departments, including television. We cannot blindly agree to a deal. We need to know how much HBO is willing to invest in a licensing fee, in comparison to what we can get on our side, in order to choose the best offer.
You have very often publicly stated Stevenson was an ordinary fighter ready to get beat. If it is the case, there is no risk for you; you win and bring Kovalev back on HBO right after.
Please let me know if these terms are acceptable for you. If you need to discuss further, you may reach me on the phone at anytime.

 

Best regards

 

Yvon Michel
President General Manager

 

 

The next day, Main Events faxed this to Michel:

 

Dear Yvon,

I am so happy to hear that you are willing to negotiate. Sergey Kovalev really does want this fight to happen. And I agree that, after Mayweather-Pacquiao, Kovalev-Stevenson is the most important and anticipated bout that could occur.

I am pleased to learn that Adonis is more popular than I had realized. And I wholeheartedly agree that both fighters should maximize their earning potential for this historic event. Just as the year ‘s biggest fight will take place on PPV, the platform that delivers more revenue to fighters than premium cable or broadcast television rights fees, so should Kovalev-Stevenson.

As you are aware, Sergey’s deal with HBO mirrored the one that was offered to Stevenson, last year. Therefore, you are also aware that at the end of that deal, HBO possessed a matching right that was triggered when you arranged for a purse bid to be called prior to the consummation of Sergey’s IBF mandatory. Had you waited for the natural course of events to unfold , we might be having a very different discussion.

This is a small business, Yvon. And during the past two weeks, I have been hearing what I believe to be credible rumors that Adonis might fight Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. this summer. Sergey has had two great fights in a row against two of the world’s best light heavyweights in Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal. So it would be terrific if Adonis would also get a quality win under his belt before meeting Sergey.

It is well-known that Sergey’s next fight will be his IBF mandatory versus Nadjib Mohammedi. Given that you are in a position to know exactly what is being planned for Adonis’ next fight and I am not, it would have been quite unfair of you to try to lock Sergey into a purse for Kovalev-Stevenson on the very day before Chavez Jr. is scheduled to fight. Obviously, you would have been in a position to unilaterally affect the value of the Kovalev-Stevenson fight after the fact.

So I am sure you can understand why we must require a deal based upon a 50/50 split of all revenue in order to consummate this deal.

After taking all of this into consideration , we decided to remain loyal to HBO, the network that has built every major star in boxing during the past 35 years, including Adonis Stevenson. Sergey is an HBO fighter; Adonis is a free agent. Therefore, if Adonis – or anyone else for that matter, wants to fight Sergey Kovalev, they will have to do it on HBO or through HBO’s excellent PPV distribution network.

So I propose that the best solution is for both of us to sit down with HBO, hear them out and try to make a deal that is in both fighters’ best interests. You will find that HBO is most willing to make a variety of impressive commitments in order to assure that this event will be an unqualified success.

Rather than continue to negotiate through the media, I suggest that we sit down at your earliest convenience, hammer out a deal, and make this event happen for Sergey, for Adonis and for the fans.

 

Best,

Kathy
My take: Wow. This is high-stakes poker talk, arguably above my pay grade. Being a Libra, I see good points made by both sides. I also do have to note I have never before seen a situation where a purse bid was called for, for a fight so far in the potential future, with both the principals likely to have a fight in the interim. How could one make a smart bid with so much up in the air? Wouldn’t the bid terms be subject to change if one of the boxers lost in the interim?

I put the onus to decide who gets the “W” here on you all, the masses. In this day and age, with social media platforms making it easy to communicate your wisdom far and wide, arguably, the people have more of a say in such matters than ever before. It’s harder to remain ensconced in a bubble because more information is out there to be digested than ever before. Friends, what are your thoughts? Help Duva and Michel; offer your suggestions on how we can find that proverbial common ground and get this promotion off the ground.

 

 

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