Could Cold War Thaw Bring Hopkins-Stevenson? Or Even Hopkins-Ward?
It is dangerous to engage too much in the "what if" game in the world of boxing. We all know one punch can upset well-laid plans, so to speculate excessively on what might occur in the near future, let alone a good deal down the line is a fool's errand. But to play the fool every now and again is a nice change of pace...so with that in mind, I asked Golden Boy day-to-day boss Richard Schaefer on Wednesday afternoon at BB King's in NYC, before the Bernard Hopkins-Karo Murat presser kicked off, what might happen WHEN Hopkins beat the 30-year-old Iraq-born German resident whose best win is a MD over Gabriel Campillo in 2008.
I tossed some names at Schaefer, including Haitian-born Canadian Adonis Stevenson, and Russian banger Sergey Kovalev. Both have been doing their thing for HBO of late, and most of you reading this know that HBO and Golden Boy are in a Hatfield-McCoy, or Jenner-Kardashian, place right about now, so I wondered if that would affect a possible deal with Hopkins, an integral part of Golden Boy who has stepped up this year to take a more public role as an executive.
"HBO had decided earlier this year to take a break in our relationship," Schaefer said. "Last I checked that break is still going on, they're going their way and we're going ours but in process we had the best year ever, and we established Showtime as certainly their equal if not the leader." (NOTE: Mr. Nielsen might take issue with that statement, from a numbers perspective. Audience wise, HBO has shown 18 of the top 20 bouts on cable in 2013. And Showtime could point to a 30% pop in viewership for boxing events in 2012, and another 30% pop to date in 2013, year over year. So there is much room for debate, I think it's fair to say, on this subject.)
"But there are names out there..I could see against Hopkins-Stevenson from Canada, that would be very interesting," Schaefer continued. "Bernard is a big name in Canada, and it could be a pay-per-view event. I could see Bernard against some of the 168 pounders, between 168 and 175 there are plenty of names who could become attractive opponents. At the end of day, Bernard is the name and we may have to put some money on the table and shake the tree. The last time I checked the guys over there (at HBO) don't make all that much money. We'll see after this fight what the landscape is. My goal would be pay-per-view event with Stevenson, or see what else is out there."
Schaefer's reference to "168" got me thinking about other possibilities apart from Stevenson, who holds the WBC 175 pound crown. (He defends it on Nov. 30 against Brit Tony Bellew in Quebec. Kovalev fights the same night in Quebec, defending his WBO light heavy crown against Ukrainian Ismayl Sillakh. Both bouts will screen on HBO.) So I reached out to Dan Goossen, the man who promotes the king at 168, Andre Ward.
Dan, could we maybe see a showdown between Ward, who comes back after an injury layoff on Nov. 16, against Edwin Rodriguez, and Hopkins? Or would Ward's long affiliation with HBO--he not only fights on the cabler, but also works the analyst chair for some of their shows--gum up the works for that faceoff between old and young(er) master?
"I can't speak on Richard's behalf," Goossen told me, "but I've wanted to do that fight. I remember seeing Bernard at the Ward-Froch fight (in December 2011), and telling him this is a pay-per-view fight. Let's see how Bernard does this weekend, but I'm always on board on that fight, Bernard knows and Andre does."
And again, could the Andre-HBO relationship prove a fatal impediment?
"I can't address that at this stage," Goossen said, "but our sport is looking to do the biggest and best fights for the fighters, and whatever impediments exist, we're always try to get through them. Andre will return on Nov. 16, and once that happens, a lot of things will be answered more precisely.
"If Hopkins is victorious and Andre looks as good as we anticipate, despite any naysayers (speaking to a ill-suited style matchup), this is a fight with a lot of interest. Who is gonna beat Hopkins? Who's gonna beat Ward fight?"
More "what if" fun...I'd be curious to know at what weight a Hopkins-Ward fight might be contested at. Would "making" Ward move to 175 benefit Hopkins? Schaefer mentioned options at 168, does that mean Hopkins would dip down to Ward territory, and fight under 170 pounds for the first time since 2005? Hopkins seems to be keen on at least entertaining the notion, considering he's told us he'd carve down to 160 for a Floyd Mayweather fight, as "absurd" as that notion seems to some.
Lot's of material, a bunch of "what if" stuff to keep us entertained on Twitter for at least 20 minutes, friends. Share your thoughts, in the TSS Forum, and on Twitter.
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