The deal is not complete yet, but three-belt light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev and former champion Jean Pascal likely will meet in a rematch Jan. 30 -- site to be determined -- on HBO.
Kovalev had plans for a Nov. 28 homecoming fight in Moscow (the opponent was not set), but they were put on hold a couple of weeks ago because promoter Main Events and HBO were working on a three-fight plan that would culminate with Kovalev squaring off in a major pay-per-view fight next fall against super middleweight champion Andre Ward, who is on the verge of announcing his official move up to light heavyweight.
Kovalev’s rematch with Pascal would be his first fight of that plan with a summer fight to follow and then the showdown with fellow pound-for-pound-ranked Ward (28-0, 15 KOs), who will also fight twice before meeting Kovalev, as long as they both win.
Main Events promoter Kathy Duva told ESPN.com that the rematch with Pascal was not the first choice but became necessary when the other plan did not work out.
“We tried very hard, through [Pascal promoters] Jean Bedard and Pierre Duc of InterBox during recent weeks, to come to an agreement for [champion Adonis] Stevenson to fight Pascal in December or January, and for the winner to fight Sergey in the spring of 2016,” Duva said.
She said that Kovalev, Pascal, InterBox and Main Events were all “on board.”
She also said that HBO, which has an option on Pascal next’s fight, was even willing to let him out of the option to allow Pascal to face Stevenson -- a major fight between two Haitians who fight out of Montreal -- on one of Stevenson manager Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions cards.
In addition, Duva said Bedard told her that while Stevenson promoter Yvon Michel also “seemed to like the deal,” the deadline they had to get something done by came and went Saturday without a commitment from Stevenson.
“Sadly, the deadline has passed without acceptance from the Stevenson [camp],” Duva said. “So Sergey and Pascal must move on, and we are now talking about Sergey versus Pascal II in January.”
Michel told ESPN.com, “We have been approached for a potential fight [for Stevenson] against Pascal in January with a deadline last weekend. My understanding is the fight would have been on a PBC platform. Unfortunately, we were not in position to give an answer before the deadline.
“The plan is to keep Stevenson active against the best opponent available as he hopes to face the winner of Kovalev-Pascal next.”
On March 14, Kovalev traveled to Pascal’s turf in Montreal and knocked him out in the eighth round of an exciting, albeit one-sided, fight.
On July 25, Kovalev (28-0-1, 25 KOs), 32, who lives in Los Angeles, destroyed overmatched mandatory challenger Nadjib Mohammedi in the third round in Las Vegas to retain his titles. In the co-feature, Pascal (33-3-1, 17 KOs) struggled badly in an action-packed fight against Cuban defector Yunieski Gonzalez (16-1, 12 KOs) but won by heavily disputed unanimous decision (96-94 on all three scorecards).
Virtually every media member at ringside had Gonzalez winning the fight with a couple of draws. Harold Lederman, HBO’s unofficial judge, also had Gonzalez winning wide. Pascal’s performance, combined with the fact that Kovalev already knocked him out in convincing fashion, will probably have most predicting an even easier victory for Kovalev in the rematch that does not seem all that necessary.