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Stevenson-Kovalev off the table

4/15/2015
An Adonis Stevenson-Sergey Kovalev fight could decide who's the light heavyweight king. Reuters, Getty Images

The depressing news on Tuesday was that Main Events promoter Kathy Duva and three-belt light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev will not participate in a purse bid scheduled for Friday that would lay out terms for a unification bout with champion Adonis Stevenson -- the best fight that can be made at light heavyweight and one fans have clamored for.

Although it was Duva and Kovalev who have been calling out for the fight for about a year and accusing Stevenson of ducking Kovalev, they won't participate in the bidding process because Duva said Kovalev is under contract to HBO and she cannot risk losing the purse bid -- which many expect that she would to Stevenson promoter Yvon Michel, because he's backed by Stevenson adviser Al Haymon, who is brimming with the investor money bankrolling his "Premier Boxing Champions" series.

Duva sent letters to the WBC and Michel informing them of the decision, although she did say they were still interested in negotiating a 50-50 deal -- but only if the fight was on HBO. She presented Michel with the outline of a proposed deal. Michel answered her letter on Wednesday.

In the letter he questioned why she did a new deal for Kovalev with HBO following his knockout win against former champion Jean Pascal on March 14, a contract which tied him up and apparently would prevent him from fighting on Showtime or any of the PBC affiliated networks such as ESPN, NBC and CBS.

"You have informed me that you have exclusive ties with HBO and cannot fight on another network, which is unfortunate because it might prevent this clash from getting the best possible value for a fight of this tremendous magnitude," Michel wrote. "You must have done your deal with HBO just recently because you were quoted, right after the Pascal fight, that it was Kovalev's last fight of your current contract with the network.

"This is one of the reasons we requested the WBC to hold a rapid purse bid since we believed you could freely participate on what has the potential to be the richest light heavyweight fight in boxing history. You certainly knew that agreeing to a new contract with HBO without having their full support to win the bid was jeopardizing the fight from happening."

Duva had expressed disappointment that the WBC ordered the purse bid before Stevenson defeated Sakio Bika on April 4 and before Kovalev completes a mandatory defense of one his belts in June or July against Nadjib Mohammedi, a fight that will be the first bout of Kovalev's HBO extension.

"You complained to the WBC that we have not communicated with you in terms of engaging negotiations prior to requesting a purse bid. You are correct," Michel said. "Considering our past experiences together, as well as our different network affiliation, we did not believe a negotiated agreement was possible and subsequently requested that the WBC skip this unnecessary phase.

"At the last WBC convention, you petitioned to have your fighter become the mandatory contender to Stevenson, requesting a 50-50 split on a purse bid, but you failed to specify that, at all costs, the fight had to be on HBO.

"In your proposal, you mentioned: 'We choose the venue based upon who offers the best deal. Our guiding principle will be maximization of revenues.' We are totally in agreement with you but don't understand why this principle cannot be applied on the U.S. television partner as well. We both agreed [we] would not hold the fight in Atlantic City with no guarantees, if we can have a $2 million offer in Quebec City. The same should apply for television. My feeling is that our television partners are placing a higher value on the fight than yours. Maybe I am wrong but going to purse bid would clarify the situation."

Michel went on to say his side is open to a 50-50 deal without a purse bid but that they have to maximize revenues, including on a TV deal. In other words, he won't commit to going on HBO if more money is available for the fight on another network -- which is certainly the right decision. It's not his fault Duva tied Kovalev up with HBO just recently, knowing this might happen. Why should Stevenson have to potentially take less money because Kovalev got a new contract with HBO?

"You have very often publically stated Stevenson was an ordinary fighter ready to get beat. If it is the case there is no risk for you, you win and bring Kovalev back on HBO right after," Michel wrote. "Please let me know if these terms are acceptable for you."

Surely, they aren't, which means another great fight won't happen for the foreseeable future, if ever.