Light heavyweight contender Sergey Kovalev and promoter Main Events are in a great spot. They have two quality options in the wake of Kovalev’s third-round destruction of Cornelius White last week.
The knockout win made Kovalev the mandatory challenger for titleholder Bernard Hopkins and the fight is due, so they can opt for that intriguing fight. Or they can finalize a deal for Kovalev to face titleholder Nathan Cleverly. That’s a fight HBO is pressing very hard for and one that it already has made a deal for on the Cleverly side and a date to air it -- Aug. 17.
But what about Hopkins’ willingness to face Kovalev, a fighter many people view as extremely dangerous to anyone at 175 pounds?
He answered the question on Wednesday, telling ESPN.com, “That’s my mandatory and that’s my obligation and I would say yes to that fight.
“I know about [Kovalev] because of John David Jackson. John worked with me for a few fights [as an assistant trainer] and now he trains Kovalev, so I heard about him through John and I also keep my eye on the light heavyweight division.”
So while Hopkins is in, if that is the direction Kovalev pursues, it gets a little complicated because HBO won’t do business with Golden Boy, his promoter. Though Showtime was ready to televise Hopkins against then-mandatory Karo Murat on July 13 -- before Murat dropped out because of an inability to get a visa -- the network, from what Hopkins said, is not interested in putting him on against Kovalev.
Go figure, because Hopkins-Kovalev is a much, much more interesting fight than Hopkins-Murat ever was.
“[Kovalev] is a good puncher and some people are excited about him,” Hopkins said. “He’s a better quality name than Karo Murat is.”
The reason for Showtime’s possible reluctance to put on Hopkins-Kovalev is because it is not heavily invested in the division and doesn’t have any future rights on Kovalev, so it wouldn’t want to build him up only to see him beat Hopkins and then go to HBO, which is doing a ton of business at light heavyweight and super middleweight.
So while Hopkins waits to see what will happen, he made a suggestion -- that Kovalev go fight Cleverly, and he would be happy to face new champ Adonis Stevenson, who drilled Chad Dawson in the first round June 8 to win the lineal title Hopkins used to hold (as well as an alphabet belt Hopkins used to own before losing to Dawson). Stevenson said he was interested in fighting Hopkins after beating Dawson.
“For me, it’s a no-brainer,” the 48-year-old Hopkins said. “Kovalev can go get Cleverly, I can probably get Adonis and we go head-to-head and give the fans the old light heavyweight battles they had in the late '70 and '80s, and then the winners can fight. It doesn’t seem complicated. OK, maybe I’m being a little sarcastic.”
Again, Hopkins said he would travel, so if it means meeting Stevenson in Montreal, fine.
“I’ll be in Canada tomorrow. It’s a challenge,” he said. “I would do that because it’s the right thing and logical. Adonis is a big puncher and that’s fine. Let’s see what he can do. I’ll never turn down nothing because I didn’t want to fight a guy or I because I was scared of anything.
“If we can’t get that fight, Kovalev is my mandatory. My promoter, Richard Schaefer, and Kathy Duva [of Main Events] can start negotiating.”