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Don't Duva Me Like That: Promoter Kathy Duva Puts Al Haymon On Blast

BY Michael Woods ON March 25, 2014
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Kathy Duva quite likely would have been in a much different mood on Tuesday afternoon, during a mini presser at the Croton Reservoir Tavern on W. 40th St., if Adonis Stevenson hadn't gone and sent the best laid plans of Main Events and HBO and his own promoter awry.

Stevenson, the Haitian-born Canadian, did something a whole lot of pugilists have been doing lately, and signed on with Team Al Haymon on Feb. 18. If he had went with the flow which was funneling towards a showdown with Sergey Kovalev, in the most intriguing light heavy matchup in many moons in September, then Duva's face and voice wouldn't have featured twinges of ire, as they did when she relayed her disappointing day.

But the 36-year-old Stevenson decided, or was helped to decide and then signed off on a completely different plan than what Duva told me she'd hashed out, along with HBO, and Yvon Michel, the promoter for Stevenson.

"We had a deal done two months ago," Duva revealed. She said that on Jan. 23, she and Team Kovalev and then Michel decided on mutually agreeable terms which would net a Sergey-Adonis showdown. Michel was on board, and all assumed that Adonis was in the fold.

The next day, Jan. 24, Duva continued, Michel and HBO matchmaker/exec Peter Nelson agreed to terms, which included fights beyond the interim one, and the biggie, for both boxers. Michel told Duva his lawyer would type up a contract, and then send it over. She's still waiting, she said. At first, when no contract with specifics requested from the Stevenson/Michel side arrived, she didn't get worried.

"The foot dragging, I'm used to it," she said. "We had a deal. We exchanged emails."

And then they didn't...

Stevenson hurled a drop-off-the-table curveball, hooking up with uber advisor Haymon, and suddenly, the two fight plan of attack was in flux. Now, the early fall faceoff between the two men who'd been on a parallel track, who'd fought on the same card last November, to help whet fans' appetites, get them savoring the prospect of this clash of 175 pound titans was not on the to do list. Instead, as it stands today, Stevenson is aligned with Haymon, and is a Showtime fighter.

Yes, the Cold War trenches have been dug deeper, with Duva aiming icy barbs at Haymon, who she said is well known for keeping fight fans from seeing the events they crave. "He's the man best known for making sure the public doesn't get to see the fights they want," she told me. "It's true, isn't it? Ask Mayweather and Pacquiao."

So, is the prospect of a Kovalev-Stevenson fight dead? "Not this year," she said. "But Adonis is running. He's running." Her ice storm dropped some pellets on Showtime, which she said features stars built by HBO.

Duva said that if she chose to bring this matter to a courtroom, she is confident she'd prevail, she'd be able to convince an arbiter that a contract, of sorts, had been fashioned, mostly via email exchanges, with the pertinent principals.

"My husband (the late promoter Dan Duva) used to say, 'Contracts don't fight, fighters do,'' she stated, indicating that her likely reaction will be to push to elevate Kovalev, without indulging in lawyer-centered undercard action. "We're going to let HBO build Sergey into a star, as they've done countless times, since they started in boxing...In the light heavyweight division, he is the best fighter in the world."

Two weeks ago, IBF champ Bernard Hopkins was in NYC, talking up his April 19 clash in DC, against Beibut Shumenov, who holds the WBA crown at 175. Hopkins made it clear he was angling toward a fall clash with WBC champ Adonis, who'd just announced his allegiance to Haymon. WBO champ Kovalev and company still held out hope that the parallel path of him and Adonis hadn't been altered since then, and, in fact, it was only today when an HBO boxing person told me that HBO had decided they weren't going to pursue a May 24 Stevenson bout against Andrezj Fonfara, which was on their docket. That decision to blow off that May pairing came, I was told, when Adonis' new representation wanted to tweak terms ie money already agreed to by the old team Adonis.

Now, with Haymon calling shots, Stevenson was asking for "a significant increase" to his purse to fight Fonfara. Not only that, but there was no longer a package deal, for a Fonfara fight, and then a match with Kovalev, on the table. That indicated to HBO, the source said, that Stevenson wanted to jet. The HBO source too said they weren't closing the door on a Kovalev-Stevenson fight, it must be noted. "We're happy to discuss it for the fall," I was told. Bottom line, according to the HBO source: "We had a deal. It changed. It is not the way we do it."

I requested a comment from Al Haymon, who takes press queries about as often as I get haircuts, through an emissary, and hadn't heard back at posting time.

I also emailed Yvon Michel, to get his side of the story, and a response to the assertion that a deal had been hashed out, and then rescinded, but also hadn't heard back at time of posting.

Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza did return a request for comment. He said that indeed, Stevenson, whose talents he said he's admired for several years, would be fighting Fonfara, on Showtime, in May. "When we heard that Adonis had no deal in place (with HBO), that he was available, wasn't locked up, we made an offer for his next fight," he said. HBO, it was his understanding, he said, had the right to match those terms, and declined. Espinoza said Adonis had been slated to fight on the Jean Pascal-Tavoris Cloud undercard, on an August 2012 promotion which got scrapped because of a Pascal injury. "This opportunity came, and we jumped at the chance," he said, of the May 24 Adonis-Fonfara clash, slated for the Bell Centre in Montreal. "The Hopkins vs. Adonis fight is a natural for both, they're both interested, but both have business to deal with first, so it's a little premature to delve into that."

Duva clearly isn't enthralled by the pairing. Hopkins, she said, breathing down on age 50, is going to be "irrelevant" in the next year or two. She's betting that Kovalev won't much miss a beat, that HBO will do their thing, and craft compelling scraps for him, raising his profile to an exalted space. "Sergey is going to become that with or without Adonis, who is what, 38?"

Much or all of the motivation for this move by Adonis, she thinks, is because he is avoiding a clash with the the 30-year-old Russian. She thinks that Adonis might not even come out better financially, because she can't see Hopkins taking a smaller slice of the pie, even if Adonis and Bernard fight in Montreal, where Adonis will fill the room, whereas Kovalev would have made a concession to Adonis' ability to put arses in seats.

"Hopkins won't take the short end," Duva opined. "Also, I think Adonis is scared to death of Kovalev. And the fans are getting screwed. And Al Haymon owns that."

She said she was reserving the option to pursue a legal route to dealing with the screwed up Kovalev-Stevenson formulation, because, she said, "We exchanged writing, and that's a contract. Bottom line, Adonis Stevenson was scared to make a deal to fight Sergey...as well he should be."

Oh yeah, Cedric Agnew was in the room, game face on, while this matter was being discussed and Duva was venting. The Chicago-born hitter, training in Houston, was hard to hear when he was talking about his confidence going into the Saturday clash, which will unfold in Atlantic City, and on HBO. I tried to read his brain, wondering if his chill 'tude indicated he might be a little tight. Duva said that she thinks Agnew, who owns a 26-0 mark (13 KOs) against B- level foes, and under, is coming to mess up Kovalev's path as much as Stevenson did.

Duva, on an up note, said that tix are moving well, a testament to Kovalev's burgeoning fan-base, which had her breathing a sigh of relief, considering we're heading into Final Four hoops territory, which can make ticket sales for fights sluggish. Agnew did pass, I think, a test I often pose to an underdog, when I asked him if he was sure he'd beat Kovalev. "Yeah," he said, not in the most forceful of fashions.

"No doubt?" I pressed.

"No doubt" he would, he said, more firmly.

Duva apologized well into the Q n A, for getting off track, into the Stevenson/Haymon affair, after Team Agnew advisor Bill Benton made it clear that people in that room, mostly press, weren't seeing his kid as a viable foe. He handled ex heavyweight contender Ike Ibeabuchi many moons ago, he said, and writers who hadn't done their homework before Ike fought David Tua had to hustle to get in the know after he got the better of Tua. "After the fight, they knew who he was," Benton said, making clear we'd have to get up to speed on Agnew Saturday night. "Everybody's overlooking him, God I hope so."

His son Bobby Benton, at 35 one of the most baby-faced trainers you'll see holding a bucket, helped in the Austin Trout corner when he beat Miguel Cotto two years ago, and he said he'll be on the winning side in AC, too. He said the chill Agnew, who actually broke into a couple of grins when I split him off, and chatted with him, the Benton and promoter Malcom Garrett, has a nasty side, and can show it in the ring. Bill Benton, in the game since 1977, compared him to Matthew Saad Muhammad, and said if the judges are on point, "and we get a fair shake, he'll have his hand raised Saturday. His speed is unbelievable."

But the Cold Warring, with Duva not being shy about Haymon presence being a net detriment to the sport, dominated this event. Sure, Kovalev had a happy face on, considering he was exulting in the multi-fight deal he'd inked with HBO that day. But the mood in that room was set, I venture to say, by Duva, who was mad as hell, and not shying away from saying why. Haymon's wide angle sphere of influence was now going to result in a must-see bout being yanked away from the fans, she said, and she wondered why some of the bigger name boxing writers weren't examining those chips falling the way they had been of late, and noting a tectonic shift in the way business was being conducted by people who'd she'd regarded as business contemporaries, but now seemed to have been relegated into the bitter adversary zone.

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Comment on this article

The Shadow says:

Boxing is like The Bold & The Beautiful.

These guys aren't going nowhere. I say let Bernard get his crack at history. If he beats them, they need a year or two to erase the memory of a 50-year-old beating these guys anyway.

Then Pascal, Kovalev, Stevenson, Shumenov, Ward, Dawson, Chavez Jr. and GGG duke it for light heavyweight supremacy.

Should be good.

The Commish says:

It really is sad to see so many big fights being held hostage because of Al Haymon, who convinces these guys they are worth so much more than they really are. Let Adonis Stevenson get in the ring against Sergey Kovalev. Let him beat Kovalev, and then the mega-paydays will be there.

Until then, this is just another instance where Haymon is holding his fighters back, not advancing them. It's really upsetting that he also refuses to be interviewed. How can he keep avoiding the media, when he continually holds his fighters back from fights they really should be taking?

-Randy G.

The Commish says:

It really is sad to see so many big fights being held hostage because of Al Haymon, who convinces these guys they are worth so much more than they really are. Let Adonis Stevenson get in the ring against Sergey Kovalev. Let him beat Kovalev, and then the mega-paydays will be there.

Until then, this is just another instance where Haymon is holding his fighters back, not advancing them. It's really upsetting that he also refuses to be interviewed. How can he keep avoiding the media, when he continually holds his fighters back from fights they really should be taking?

-Randy G.

Skibbz says:

It really is sad to see so many big fights being held hostage because of Al Haymon, who convinces these guys they are worth so much more than they really are. Let Adonis Stevenson get in the ring against Sergey Kovalev. Let him beat Kovalev, and then the mega-paydays will be there.

Until then, this is just another instance where Haymon is holding his fighters back, not advancing them. It's really upsetting that he also refuses to be interviewed. How can he keep avoiding the media, when he continually holds his fighters back from fights they really should be taking?

-Randy G.


I couldn't agree more commissioner. The mind frame of fighters can often be very vulnerable to someone who seems to be powerful and wealthy... Haymon wasn't even with Adonis when he signed the papers, yet he's convinced the man has nothing but his best intentions in mind..

What's that I can smell...?

deepwater2 says:

The fans want Kovalev Stevenson . Two young power punching guys in their prime. Fireworks promised. Stevenson Hopkins will not provide the fireworks. A deal is a deal.The winner of Stevenson Kovalev vs winner of Hopkins Shumenov would have been better. If Haymon was around back in the day forget about hearns vs hagler vs Leonard vs Duran . Good for Kathy duva.

The Commish says:

So true, Deep. If Al Haymon had been in control of trhe boxing world back in the late '70's to late 80's, can you imagine how many great fights we never would have seen because Haymon wouldn't allow them to happen: SRL v Roberto Duran I & II...SRL v Thomas Hearns...Hearns v Duran...Marvelous Marvin Hagler v Hearns...SRL v Hagler...Mike Tyson v Michael Spinks...and the list goes on and on.

Think of a great fight you'd like to see today. Keep thinking of it. Because, with Al Haymon in the picture, the only place you're going to see that fight is in your mind!

But yet, his fighters win, and in their post-fight interview, they all thank Jesus & his chosen disciple, Al Haymon.

Thank you Lord. Thank you, Al.

Say hallelujah! Say Amen.

TingsSproledo says:

Kathy Duva rules. She's a firecracker.

Carmine Cas says:

Props to Kathy Duva she blew the lid on that one.

I have been saying this, boxing needs unification. The fans pay to watch the sport, the fans should get the fights they want. I understand boxing is also a business but this fight was in writing

deepwater2 says:

Have you or Editor Mike ever tried reaching out to the shadow Al Haymon? Maybe the next best thing is have Sam Watson or his two sons on your radio show or an interview from Mike Woods on here? ask some hard questions.

deepwater2 says:

Props to Kathy Duva she blew the lid on that one.

I have been saying this, boxing needs unification. The fans pay to watch the sport, the fans should get the fights they want. I understand boxing is also a business but this fight was in writing


Her father in law Lou taught her well. Tough gal that holds her own.

The Shadow says:

Her father in law Lou taught her well. Tough gal that holds her own.


Oh she's married into the family?? She seems like such a natural.

The Shadow says:

Her father in law Lou taught her well. Tough gal that holds her own.


Oh she's married into the family?? She seems like such a natural.

The Shadow says:

Props to Kathy Duva she blew the lid on that one.

I have been saying this, boxing needs unification. The fans pay to watch the sport, the fans should get the fights they want. I understand boxing is also a business but this fight was in writing


True that. But let's be patient, I'm quite sure the fight will happen. Stuff like this tends to build anticipation.

Check this out: they were going to fight for two belts. If Stevenson takes care of business, they will be fighting for four!

That's only happened once in history. That would be huge. I think this would be a sick fight in Montreal in 2015.

brownsugar says:

I have spewed so much wrath, rancor, bitterness, and ridicule toward Stevenson, for this cowardly move than I cannot muster much more.
Yes I get that signing with Hayman is supposedly an "opportunity", Thank you for the opportunity to watch Superman fight FanFarade,... I mean FanFara.
I knew when Superman came out with the ....."your a nobody" routine his exit from being anywhere in the proximity of Kovalev fight would soon follow.
The man nearly choked trying to say his name.
Now he's squawking "Show me the money"... while fighting a complete unknown that he's certainly not getting top dollar for..
It's actually amusing in a slightly twisted way..
Who'd ever thought they'd witness Superman, self-exile himself to the Phantom Zone. (without any sign of Kryptonite being produced)

The Shadow says:

I have spewed so much wrath, rancor, bitterness, and ridicule toward Stevenson, for this cowardly move than I cannot muster much more.
Yes I get that signing with Hayman is supposedly an "opportunity", Thank you for the opportunity to watch Superman fight FanFarade,... I mean FanFara.
I knew when Superman came out with the ....."your a nobody" routine his exit from being anywhere in the proximity of Kovalev fight would soon follow.
The man nearly choked trying to say his name.
Now he's squawking "Show me the money"... while fighting a complete unknown that he's certainly not getting top dollar for..
It's actually amusing in a slightly twisted way..
Who'd ever thought they'd witness Superman, self-exile himself to the Phantom Zone. (without any sign of Kryptonite being produced)


It can still happen in the fall as long as HBO puts up the money. It wasn't going to happen in May anyway.

Stevenson is still fighting the same nobody he was going to fight on HBO. Only difference is that he's fighting him for more money on SHO. What's so bad about that?

SHO wanted to secure him by all accounts but only got him for this fight for premium dollar; Al didn't want to tie him up to SHO.

Instead, they wanted to put him in the best bargaining position in the fall so he can choose between the WBA/IBF titles or the WBO on HBO and leverage himself that way. That's brilliant business no matter how anyone spins it. Just superb.

Again, nothing suggests it can't happen in the fall as long as the right deal is put up. HBO can land the fight if they dig deeper in their pockets than SHO.

The question is will they?

Now if they offer, say, $3m for Kovalev while SHO offers $1m for Hopkins and another $1m for Jurgen Braehmer or Allan Green, then yes, I'd totally be aboard the duck train.

I just don't see anything that suggest that he's ducking. Yet.

For now, taking a step back for a second and letting the initial disappointment subside, all I can say from a business standpoint is "Bravo."

And yet another poor job by Ken Hershman and crew.

Skibbz says:

Time will tell what plans Haymon has for Stevenson.. I don't think he's gonna break the line he's held with all his other fighters.. We'll have to just wait and see.

deepwater2 says:

Time will tell what plans Haymon has for Stevenson.. I don't think he's gonna break the line he's held with all his other fighters.. We'll have to just wait and see.


I think duva might take legal action ,a deal is a deal. But then again some guys would do anything for a few dollars more. Stevenson ,for a few bucks, might even pimp 14 year old girls ,also beating them and raping them. Oh wait he already did that and did 4 years in the can for it. So why expect any honor in this situation.

Skibbz says:

Snap D2. The shortsightedness of some of these guys is incredible..

If they stay with the guy or gal who has invested time and money into them, stick to their side of the contract and work hard in the gym and in the ring, then in the long term they could gain more than by taking the quick advance offered to them by a poacher.. I don't even think it's about honour in this case. Adonis saw a shaving of a golden nugget, took it and forgot about the potential treasure chest waiting for him a few miles down the road..

The Commish says:

Skibbz: This has been the story of boxing forever. A promoter or manager invest their time, effot and money into a fighter, and then, when he's set to exploded into the boxing stratosphere--POOF!--here come an offer from somebody else. More than likely, Stevenson was asked by Haymon (or rep) how much he was told he'd be getting to fight Kovalev. When he told them, they laughed.

"That's all?" I can hear them saying. "You should be getting that for training expenses."

Then they threw some huge numbers at him and he did what just about any other naive, money-hungry fighter would do--he bolted.

It's a shame, because us fight geeks keep getting stiffed on big fight after big fight.

-Randy G.

Skibbz says:

True words commissoner, made me chuckle!

I wonder how Al would have done had Dan D been alive today. Dan was a top draw strategist when it came to planning out routes for his fighters to take. But unlike Haymon, he put his fighters in there with the best for their sake, and for his own. What happens when the best face the best (i.e leonard hearns)..? You make more money than you can count!

The Shadow says:

Skibbz: This has been the story of boxing forever. A promoter or manager invest their time, effot and money into a fighter, and then, when he's set to exploded into the boxing stratosphere--POOF!--here come an offer from somebody else. More than likely, Stevenson was asked by Haymon (or rep) how much he was told he'd be getting to fight Kovalev. When he told them, they laughed.

"That's all?" I can hear them saying. "You should be getting that for training expenses."

Then they threw some huge numbers at him and he did what just about any other naive, money-hungry fighter would do--he bolted.

It's a shame, because us fight geeks keep getting stiffed on big fight after big fight.

-Randy G.


Randy, that is so true. But who says the fight can't happen next? Isn't it extraordinary management that he got him a 40% better deal AND put him in a 10x better bargaining position for his next fight than before?

To be fair, no one stole him from anyone. He's still with the same promoter. Like my man Skibbz says, it's a free market with good, healthy competition. HBO failed to lock it down when it had the chance and chose not to match when they could have.

HBO lost all their biggest players and were investing heavily in Daddy Stevenson. You can't let that happen. They should should've gotten the TV deal signed and sealed in January. Shoot, they should've gotten it done back in October!

Instead they lined them up against two stiffs in showcase fights for nice money when they should have used those free dates as incentives/bargaining chips to get the fight sealed.

Unbelievable arrogance and incompetence by HBO's management.

If anyone deserves the wrath of the fans for royally screwing this up it's them!

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