By Rick Reeno
Kathy Duva, CEO for Main Events, has confirmed to BoxingScene.com that a deal has been reached for Sergey Kovalev (21-0-1, 19KOs) to challenge WBO champion Nathan Cleverly (26-0-, 12KOs) in an HBO televised fight on August 17th at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales. The fight will be packaged with HBO telecast of Daniel Geale defending his IBF middleweight title against Darren Barker in Atlantic City.
"We have a fight, everything is done," an excited Duva told BoxingScene.com.
Kovalev, who earlier this week became the mandatory challenger to IBF champion Bernard Hopkins, will now get replaced in that position by Karo Murat, who previously held the spot. Murat was scheduled to face Hopkins in a Showtime televised main event on July 13th in a mandatory fight at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. However, Murat was unable to obtain a visa. Murat filed an appeal to obtain a visa and it was believed that several months would be involved to get his visa. As a result, Golden Boy Promotions was forced to cancel the July event.
Chris Meyer, General Manager of Sauerland Event, confirmed to BoxingScene on Thursday that Murat (25-1-1, 15KOs) obtained a non-immigrant working visa for the United States. And he submitted an application to have Murat back as the mandatory against Hopkins (53-6-2, 32KOs).
Duva still had the ability to go after Hopkins, and had been speaking with Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer about the fight. She explained to BoxingScene that there were two major sticking points - The first reason, if Kovalev would have passed on Cleverly, then Hopkins would have likely fought Cleverly. And the second reason, Duva was informed that for whatever reason Showtime had no interest in buying Hopkins-Kovalev, which leaves many puzzled because the network wanted to purchase Hopkins-Murat.
"If we would have pursued that fight [with Hopkins] and passed on this, then Cleverly would have fought Hopkins. Hopkins would have vacated his title and then Sergey would have fought for a vacant title. Sergey wanted to fight the champion and win the title and not become a paper champion because it would have been where he won a title that was stripped from Bernard Hopkins. His decision was - I would rather go to Wales on August 17th and not have to go through months of back and forth with Hopkins, trying to negotiate, finding out he's going to fight Cleverly," Duva said.
"If you listed to [Hopkin's] words, he was saying it that is the only alternative I have [I'll fight Kovalev]. All I was getting [from Hopkins is that 'if I have no other alternatives, I will make my mandatory' but he did have other alternatives. Because he would have fought Cleverly. We were aware that he was pursuing Cleverly very, very assiduously."
"Despite Bernard's comments yesterday, and we don't have to resort to name calling. But despite Bernard's comments yesterday, we spoke to Richard as soon as this ruling came out [that Sergey was the mandatory], earlier this week. I spoke to him on Monday or maybe Tuesday, and he said - 'I'm going to meet with Bernard with New York and we'll see what we're going to do but Showtime does not want to buy the fight, will HBO buy it?' So I asked HBO on Tuesday if they would buy the fight, but obviously they were pursuing something else, their own plans, and they were aware that Richard was talking to Frank Warren to make Cleverly-Hopkins, so they preferred to go the Cleverly route."
"So I told Richard that HBO was also not interested in the fight, and he said that he would talk to Bernard and then call me - and I have not heard a word from Richard Schaefer since. I do know, however, when I spoke to HBO and then told Richard that HBO was not interested in the fight - Frank Warren got an email from Richard saying 'we're going to fight Kovalev if you don't agree right now to fight Bernard.' I wasn't going to be a pawn in the game. Sergey, to his credit, told me earlier in the week to finish this up because I would rather be a champion on August 17th then go through this back and forth and fight for a vacant title which could be months away."
Additionally, Kovalev's debut on HBO is a not a "one fight" deal indicates Duva. The fight is part of a multi-fight agreement with the network.