Former two-time light heavyweight world titleholder Sergey Kovalev's long association with HBO is over, and he's coming to ESPN for his rematch with titleholder Eleider "Storm" Alvarez.
The sequel will headline a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card in early 2019 at a site to be determined, Top Rank announced on Friday after making a deal with Kovalev promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events.
"We are very happy to be joining forces with Top Rank and ESPN for what we expect will be another exciting and historic fight," Duva said. "Sergey was clearly winning his first bout with Alvarez when he just got caught. It happens. Congratulations to Alvarez for his spectacular performance, but Sergey is a warrior.
"He let me know that he is anxious to avenge this loss as soon as possible. We are looking forward to the new year."
Alvarez (24-0, 12 KOs), 34, a Colombia native fighting out of Montreal, challenged Kovalev (32-3-1, 28 KOs) for his 175-pound world title on Aug. 4 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in an HBO-televised main event and was trailing on all three scorecards -- 59-55, 59-55 and 58-56 -- when he rallied to knock Kovalev down three times in the seventh round for an upset victory by knockout.
Kovalev, 35, a Russia native fighting out of Los Angeles, had the contractual right to an immediate rematch and exercised that right for a fight that has to take place by mid-February. However, HBO, which has televised Kovalev's last 14 fights since his first title win against Nathan Cleverly in 2013 and had him under exclusive contract for several years, was not interested in paying as steep a price for the rematch as his contract called for, considering he lost. That entitled Duva to shop the fight elsewhere.
After Duva received an offer from Top Rank to put the fight on ESPN, she was contractually obligated to bring that offer back to HBO, which had a matching right. However, HBO passed, allowing the fight to go to ESPN and bringing his contract with HBO to an end.
"Bringing this marquee rematch to boxing fans on ESPN is a great way to start 2019," Top Rank president Todd duBoef said. "The light heavyweight division is loaded, and both Kovalev and Alvarez have fan-friendly styles that will make for another gripping fight."
Said Burke Magnus, ESPN's executive vice president of programming and scheduling: "This has been an exciting year for boxing on ESPN, and the Kovalev-Alvarez rematch is another example of the world-class caliber of events we look forward to continue to showcase on Top Rank on ESPN in 2019."