Sergey Kovalev's Nov. defense delayed with focus on future Andre Ward fight

18m - Boxing

Unified light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev's homecoming defense in Russia is going to have to wait. There are bigger plans in the works for the man they call "Krusher."

Kovalev, one of boxing's most fearsome punchers and the best 175-pound fighter on the planet, was scheduled to defend his three world title belts Nov. 28 in Moscow against an opponent to be determined.

However, on Tuesday, Main Events promoter Kathy Duva changed things up, announcing that the fight "has been postponed due to scheduling conflicts. Kovalev will return to the ring very early in 2016. The date, opponent and location will be revealed shortly."

"The two fights would simply have been too close together," Duva said of the November bout and a fight that likely will take place in January. "As we worked on Sergey's schedule for next year, it became clear that the best course would be to schedule his first bout in 2016 as early in the year as possible. While Sergey is disappointed that the bout in Moscow must be postponed, he understands that the change in schedule is necessary at this time and he will return to Russia to fight in front of his fans there as soon as possible."

Kovalev's schedule in 2016, largely dictated by HBO, which has him under contract, will center on a path to an HBO PPV showdown with Andre Ward, the super middleweight world champion, who is moving up to the light heavyweight division.

Kovalev's 2016 would include defending his belts in January and another defense, likely in the late spring or early summer, followed by a fall summit meeting with Ward that would match two of boxing's pound-for-pound best.

HBO is in the process of trying to finalize a three-fight deal with Ward, which is contingent on Main Events and Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports, Ward's promoter, making a deal for the fall showdown between the two fighters.

The deal between Main Events and Roc Nation is on course, Duva told ESPN.com.

"I can tell you we are having great conversations," Duva said. "That's the fight I've been saying all along is inevitable. Our talks are continuing, and they are very amicable."

If the fight is made, and therefore Ward's deal with HBO is finalized, he would move up to light heavyweight and appear in the co-feature of the HBO PPV card headlined by the much-anticipated fight between middleweight champion Miguel Cotto and former junior middleweight titleholder Canelo Alvarez on Nov. 21 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

The second fight of Ward's deal would likely take place in the February/March/April timeframe followed by the big one with Kovalev next fall, according to a source with knowledge of the talks. HBO declined to comment on the talks.

Kovalev (28-0-1, 25 KOs), 32, who lives in Los Angeles, is coming off a third-round destruction of overmatched mandatory challenger Nadjib Mohammedi on July 25 as he continued to run roughshod over the 175-pound division. On March 14 he traveled to former champion Jean Pascal's turf in Montreal and knocked him out in the eighth round. In his previous fight, last November, he scored a knockdown and shut out Bernard Hopkins to unify three belts in the most lopsided loss of Hopkins' legendary career.

Ward (28-0, 15 KOs), 31, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist from Oakland, California, ended a 19-month layoff -- caused mainly by a contract dispute with his late promoter, Dan Goossen -- on June 20 when he knocked out Paul Smith in the ninth round of a nontitle fight in his first bout since signing with Roc Nation in January.

Before that, Ward established himself as one of boxing's best with a dominant run through the 2009 to 2011 Super Six World Boxing Classic in which he dominated every fight, unified two belts and whitewashed Carl Froch in the tournament final. Then he crushed then-light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson in the 10th round of a one-sided 2012 fight for which Dawson dropped down to super middleweight. But Ward has fought only twice since -- and not at all in 2014 -- because of the contract issues.