Promoter Kathy Duva is on a pugnacity kick of late, if you haven't noticed. The New Jersey-based leader of Main Events kickstarted a lawsuit against Showtime, Golden Boy Promotions, Al Haymon, Adonis Stevenson and promoter Yvon Michel, for various alleged deeds, stemming from the blown-up plan to stage a Sergey Kovalev-AdonisStevenson bout.
On a conference call today, Thursday, to hype a Main Events card on June 21, portions of which will screen on NBC's cable channel, Duva took aim at IBF and WBO light heavy champ Bernard Hopkins. She said that she isn't optimistic that Hopkins, the 49-year-old Philly fighter, would ever glove up with her Russian wrecking ball, Kovalev. Basically, she called Hopkins a ducker. I Tweeted that out, and Hopkins fans took to his side, and begged to differ with Duva.
So, I asked her to refresh my memory, to the time when Hopkins was hunting for a fight after learning Karo Murat couldn't make his July 2013 date with the legend, because of a visa issue. Thus, things were in flux, and it was possible that Kovalev could step in for Murat, and meet Hopkins. Duva explains:
"When Sergey fought Cornelius White, last June, for the number one position in the IBF, Hopkins was already signed to fight his mandatory against Karo Murat at the Barclays Center in July," Duva said. "The winner of Kovalev-White was to take Murat’s place as the No. 1 contender in the IBF. So the winner’s shot at the title would be nearly a year away.
"Two days before Kovalev-White, the IBF learned that Murat could not get a visa to enter the US. Golden Boy and Showtime immediately cancelled the July fight and the IBF ordered the winner of Kovalev-White to fight Hopkins. Meanwhile, we had been negotiating with HBO and Frank Warren to have Sergey challenge Cleverly in Wales for weeks before the June fight. HBO wanted to wait to close the deal until after the Kovalev-White was over.
"So on the Monday after the fight, I called Richard Schaefer. He told me that Showtime was not interested in the Hopkins-Kovalev fight and would not buy it. He suggested that I call HBO and offer the fight to them. Please recall that HBO had already broken ties with Golden Boy weeks earlier.
"So I met with HBO a day or two later. HBO told me that they were not interested in a Hopkins fight. I was told that they preferred that Kovalev face Cleverly in Wales because that deal was too far along to turn back. HBO also told me that they had been advised by Frank Warren that if Kovalev were to pass on the fight in Wales, Cleverly would unify the titles with Hopkins. In that case, we ran the risk that Hopkins would be given an exception by the IBF and Sergey would be left with no title fight at all.
"Meanwhile, Schaefer said that without the interest of HBO or Showtime, there was nothing he could do to make the fight happen between Hopkins and Kovalev. So what were we going to do? Try to force a purse bid without big money backing? Risk that Hopkins would unify with Cleverly and then, perhaps, Stevenson... and leave Sergey out of the title picture entirely?
"We were presented with a dilemma," the promoter continued. "Do we pass up a guaranteed title shot in the hope that Hopkins would fight Kovalev when neither HBO nor Showtime would agree to buy the fight? Or take the guaranteed title shot that was being offered to us by HBO in August?
"We decided in favor of the proverbial “Bird in the Hand” and to take the course that would ensure that Sergey had a title belt secured firmly around his waist less than two months later.
Once we had committed to the Cleverly fight, in an extravagant display of disingenuousness, Hopkins told reporters that he would have fought Kovalev. Unfortunately, his promoter (who technically works for Bernard, who is a partner in Golden Boy) indicated otherwise when it counted."
Hopkins did fight Murat, on Oct. 26, 2013, and won a UD12. That was a defense of his IBF belt. He picked up the WBA 175 pound belt when he beat Shumenov via split (which should have been unanimous) decision on April 19, 2014.
The ultra-vet has taken exception to anything even insinuating he's ducked Kovalev. So I reached out to his people, to see if he wanted to respond to the charge. I will insert a response if one comes. You can see Hopkins speaking to the matter some here, from a Fight Hype video.
I also wanted to see if Duva's memories matched up with Stephen Espinoza, who was and is heading up Showtime boxing. Espinoza pretty much declined to enter the fray, saying he didn't know what Duva and Schaefer discussed last summer, and said he didn't feel the subject was relevant to the here and now.
I also asked Schaefer if he wanted to respond, via a rep. I didn't hear back but will post his response if one comes.
In my view, I think this matter is pertinent, because I get the sense that more folks are now thinking that Hopkins pulls a Hopkins special on Stevenson if and when they meet, and proves he has too much Archie Moore in him for the solid but not A-plus grade Canadian citizen. I get the sense more folks think Hopkins would have much more trouble with Kovalev, and as all fight fans want to see the best fighting the best, all are interested in how we can get to that point, cold war or no cold war, Coke and Pepsi analogies aside.
Talk to me, fight fans, in our Forum. How will this light heavyweight soap opera play out?
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Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV