When fellow light-heavyweight title holder Adonis Stevenson abandoned the HBO ship and sailed to pastures new over at Showtime, it looked as though Sergey Kovalev’s defining fight was left dead in the water.
A verbal agreement apparently tied Stevenson up to a fight with the ‘Krusher’, but his subsequent signing with advisor Al Haymon and movement to a rival TV network saw that fight fall by the wayside, much to the dismay of Main Events’ chief Kathy Duva.
Legal wrangling and writs have ensued but remain no consolation for Kovalev. With Stevenson tied into the same network as boxing legend and double title holder Bernard Hopkins, the Canadian clearly targeted a fight with him and leaving the Russian with no meaningful opponents.
The boxing fraternity cried foul over Stevenson’s move, claiming the switch to be a clear avoidance of Kovalev in favour of facing Hopkins. Both fighters won last time out – Stevenson defending his WBC crown against Andrzej Fonfara and Hopkins unifying WBA and IBF titles against Beibut Shumenov - and a touted autumn unification between the two appeared to be on the cards.
But in a move that defies recent boxing politics, the 49-year-old veteran will walk on fresh ground and fight on HBO in a match-up with Kovalev.
Hopkins was the last fighter to cross the divide, fighting on the rival network to defeat Tavoris Cloud early last year, and comes soon after Richard Schaefer left Golden Boy Promotions, who promote Hopkins and have a TV deal with Showtime. Fellow Golden Boy chief Oscar De La Hoya spoke openly about working closer with Top Rank and HBO.
Some see it as justice done for the Canadian champion, who went back on his word and now finds himself without a meaningful opponent.
Conditional with win over Caparello
Terms for the fight were agreed on Thursday and remained conditional on Kovalev coming through a third defence of his WBO crown, against Blake Caparello on Saturday night.
So the sight of Kovalev hitting the canvas inside the first round must have set more than a few pulses racing. A closer look showed it as an innocuous knockdown, the champion appearing to stumble as Caparello accidentally stood on his foot, but nevertheless the Kovalev team saw a stack load of cash flash by their eyes as the referee administered a count.
Normal service resumed
Luckily for those involved in the unification promotion to come later this year, normal service resumed shortly after. A piercing shot to the liver sent the Australian sprawling in round two and he barely beat the count, gasping wilfully for breath and desperate for respite from his spiteful opponent.
A follow-up barrage saw him touch down shortly after and referee Sparkle Lee waved the contest off shortly after.