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Kathy Duva: Kovalev still the man at 175 pounds, Bivol showdown building for 2019

Sergey Kovalev pops Igor Mikhalkin with a jab. Photo / @HBOBoxing




12
Mar

The New York city area hosted two world-title boxing cards on March 3. At Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, WBC heavyweight beltholder Deontay Wilder faced Luis Ortiz in a Showtime-televised main event. A mere 30 minutes away in Manhattan, at Madison Square Garden’s Theater, Main Events presented a double-header featuring light heavyweight titleholders Sergey Kovalev and Dmitry Bivol.

It appears both events were well supported and appealed to different demographics. Main Events CEO, Kathy Duva, was pleased with her promotion and how both Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 knockouts) and Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs) performed.

“It was a terrific show,” Duva told RingTV.com. “From the first fight on, every fight was competitive and exciting. The real fight fans, a lot of them, show up for the first fight. It was a really good show, really exciting night.

“Kovalev’s still the man to beat. Whoever we put in front of him, he says ‘Sure I’ll fight them.’ This guy [Igor Mikhalkin] presented the problem with being southpaw, which has never been something Sergey’s comfortable with. You notice he has a very wide stance and he ends up stepping on the other guys foot a lot. There’s a lot of feet getting tangled up.

“(Mikhalkin is) a difficult style to fight on top of that. Sergey really had to work to do it, but he broke him down round by round and got the stoppage.

Photo / @HBOBoxing

“I think Bivol showed he belongs, it was something he really needed to do, despite the title. He’d never really stepped up to somebody of the level of [Sullivan] Barrera and he absolutely proved he’s one of the top three of four guys in the division, there’s no doubt.”

Duva’s company promotes Kovalev, THE RING’s No. 1-rated light heavyweight, and Bivol, who advanced to the magazine’s No. 3 ranking off his performance against Barrera.

The division looks strong and is especially loaded with fighters from the old Soviet Union, whose styles appear to mesh well. How does Duva see things shaping up in the coming months?

“I think there’s a bunch of fights coming up and they’ll give us a much better idea of where people belong in the pecking order,” said the Main Events matriarch. “I think Kovalev and Bivol are the top two.

“After that you’ve got [IBF titlist Artur] Beterbiev, who has yet to really step up, same with [Oleksandr] Gvozdyk. You have Badou Jack who fights [WBC beltholder Adonis] Stevenson, and I f he wins clearly he puts himself in there. And then you’ve got good ole Adonis who has taken himself out of consideration. Does he redeem himself with a win over Badou Jack?

“I don’t know, we’ll have to see the fight. His 41st birthday is coming up on September, I don’t know if he’s relevant anymore. I don’t know if he can become relevant [laughs]. He’s fighting a super middleweight moving up, we’ll see. That fight (Kovalev vs. Stevenson) is always hanging out there as long he’s active, but he doesn’t seem to want it.”

Kovalev and Stevenson have a long running beef stemming from both emphatically winning world titles in the summer of 2013. Later that year both men appeared on the same card and have traded barbs on social media and even confronted each other after one of Kovalev’s title defenses.

Unfortunately, despite the shared enmity, neither side for a myriad of reasons has been able to consummate the fight.

“All of us have had our hopes raised so many times,” she said ruefully. “I’ve made that fight three times, at least, already. Then to find out Al Haymon has found a way to kill it. There’s no point thinking about it.

“It’s certainly not worth anywhere near what it would have been then, and it’s not becoming worth more; it’s becoming worth less. This isn’t like [Manny] Pacquiao and [Floyd] Mayweather, the longer they put it off the more valuable it becomes, it’s quite the opposite. Pacquiao and Mayweather both managed to stay relevant. That is not the case with Stevenson by following horribly weak opposition and fighting so infrequently, he really has taken himself out of the picture.”

Duva isn’t fixating on what she can’t control and will instead look to continue building momentum for Kovalev-Bivol. It won’t take place next. However, both are expected to fight twice more this year.

“We hope they both fight again this summer,” she said. “We’re still working how that’s going to shake out. There’s the potential they’ll do another HBO fight in New York. Maybe both on the same card, there’s the potential Sergey may go and fight in Russia and Bivol maybe some other arrangement. We’re working on it this week. We hope to know in a week or so which direction we’re headed in.”

However, unlike last November when Duva announced immediately after Kovalev defeated Vyacheslav Shabranskyy that “The Krusher” would return on March 3 only to be counter programmed, she prefers to play her cards closer to her chest this time.

“It depends on where it is, and also you saw what happened last time,” she explained. “We announced the date and you saw Showtime put a big fight on the same night. We’re going to be a little more circumspect on what we announce.

“That was awful [being counter programmed in the same city]. I don’t know how we avoid it. At this point I feel I’ve got to be very careful.”

There aren’t any specific timescales for the much-salivated all-Russian unification. Duva feels it needs to be built further at this stage.

“I think it’s fair to say 2019,” she said. “By then I think Bivol will be a big enough name that the fight will be as big as it should be. That’s the kind of fight we need to do a big gate and have significant international sales in addition to the HBO fees.”

For now, Main Events will look for the most viable options for both of their prize light heavyweights before the two potentially square of next year.

 

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright