By Rick Reeno
Main Events CEO, Kathy Duva, is not planning to walk away without a serious fight - after the crumbling of what Duva believes was a concrete agreement for Sergey Kovalev to face Adonis Stevenson in an HBO televised light heavyweight unification in the fall.
For much of 2013, HBO was showcasing both Stevenson and Kovalev - with the idea of matching them in a high profile fight at some point this year.
At the end of January, the discussions between Stevenson's promoter Yvon Michel, HBO and Kovalev's promoter Main Events intensified. Both boxers were going to take interim-fights and then face each other on a date in the fall.
Kovalev returned last Saturday in Atlantic City and knocked out unbeaten Cedric Agnew in seven rounds. Stevenson scheduled a defense against highly ranked Andrzej Fonfara on May 24th in Montreal.
A few weeks ago, Showtime came in the picture and presented a very lucrative deal to secure the rights to Stevenson-Fonfara. HBO had the ability to match the offer. HBO refused to do so and last Tuesday they officially passed on the deal - allowing Showtime to pick Stevenson up.
Duva, and HBO, believe the issues began when Stevenson signed a deal with powerful adviser Al Haymon.
"I made a deal with Yvon for that fight for the amount of money that he would accept from HBO for that fight, and I have that in writing. We agreed on all of the other terms and we negotiated them. We had a deal. We had a partnership and that partnership was to go to HBO and negotiate together, which we did . I was told everything was fine. Then the news comes out that [adviser] Al Haymon signs his fighter. I call Yvon and he said everything was fine," Duva told BoxingScene.com.
"And then weeks later I call him again and he said 'everything was fine, we have an agreement on our deal.' And he said Al had a deal in Las Vegas and we might have to move it to Las Vegas to accommodate the MGM Grand.' And I said 'of course.' Of course I would rather fight in Vegas than in Canada, Sergey wants to fight in Vegas so it's a win-win for us. He says everything is great. He says 'don't tell HBO, but the only point of contention here is the license fee for the Fonfara fight.' He says 'don't worry, everything is fine' and that was the last time we had a conversation."
Duva explained that Michel's disagreement with HBO on the Fonfara license fee - has absolutely nothing to do with her negotiations with Michel on Stevenson-Kovalev. Michel, however, was negotiating a two-fight deal with HBO - Fonfara in May and Kovalev in the fall. According to Duva, once Haymon became involved he separated the two fights from each other.
"What happened was, when Al got involved he uncoupled the two fights and he asked for more money than they were willing to offer for the Fonfara fight, and he told them we will not agree to fight Kovalev [as part of the Fonfara deal]. You tell me, if you were HBO, why in the world would buy a fight with Adonis Stevenson in a mismatch, when you're not going to get the fight that you really want at the end of the day," Duva said.
"The Fonfara fight is because Yvon Michel told them that Stevenson was not ready to fight Sergey Kovalev yet, and that he needed another fight and then he would fight him later in the year. I was jumping up and down in November on why we were fighting on the undercard [of Stevenson's show], because Sergey was ready to fight Stevenson. We wanted the Stevenson fight. I was told [by HBO] they would be on the card together because they were going to fight each other next year and I said 'okay.'
"So I said [to HBO], 'how about the they fight each other early next year or sometime in the spring.' I was told 'no, he wasn't going to be ready to fight at least until May.' I was told that he wanted to have an easy fight and then fight Kovalev at the end of the last quarter. I said 'okay, then Kovalv wants a fight too, because what's he going to do in the meantime.' And they said that's fine if we promised that we'll fight Stevenson and I said 'it's done, no problem'. Meanwhile they were negotiating with Yvon Michel about doing the Fonfara fight and then the Kovalev fight."
"Here is the thing, the deal with me doesn't say anything that he had to fight somebody in-between. The deal was with Main Events and it doesn't say anything about fighting any other fight. So as far as I'm concerned, they can go fight Fonfara [on Showtime] and we still have a deal [to fight in the fall on HBO]."
Michel, in an interview with BoxingScene , denied that Stevenson ever agreed to a purse figure for a Kovalev fight and also said his boxer never agreed to HBO's license fee.
"Stevenson never agreed on the purse or the license fee that HBO was willing to pay. He never agreed on an overall deal. The main point was, we needed to get a deal with HBO...like [Kovalev] did. They got their deal and we didn't get ours. Kathy should be happy because all of this talk of a Stevenson fight is how she got the fight with Agnew last weekend and how she got the deal with HBO," Michel told BoxingScene.com.
"I look at what Kathy Duva declared on March 3rd and that is in line with the discussion that we had together, that they were giving us until March 30th, that she was giving it until March 30th to see if Stevenson was fighting Sergey Kovalev or she will move on. And the [article] said she was waiting for Stevenson to agree and sign a contract, that proves that at that point Stevenson did not approve the HBO deal and didn't have a contract signed."
Duva says her statement on March 3rd, to BoxingScene writer David P. Greisman, is being taken out context.
"Everybody was concerned when Al Haymon got involved that this deal was going to fall apart. I had an agreement with Yvon, which I said in this same interview. I said that we had a deal. [Michel] takes another sentence out of context when David was pressing me on 'what are you going to do next, when are you going to know.' My belief was, that we were going to know by the time Sergey fought in Atlantic City. And he said 'what are going to do if he doesn't take the deal?' And I said that 'we'll move on,' Duva said.
"Now what I meant by 'move on' - is not terribly specific. What I meant was that we'll move on with whatever remedies may be....not necessarily that we'll be happy to go and fight somebody else. If Stevenson doesn't get in the ring with Sergey, it's not like Sergey is never going to fight again. When I said move on, I meant move on with whatever step comes next...that could involved litigation, that could involve a lot of things."
"There is no question here, of fact, anywhere. Yvon himself stated that we had an agreement for the fight. They backed out of it because of a fight with somebody else and that has nothing to do with me. They didn't like the terms that HBO was offering them on fight that had absolutely nothing to do with our fight. The last communication I had with him, he said everything was fine. We are partners. And he never even called me to tell me that the fight was in jeopardy, that the fight wasn't going to happen, that there was any problem at all."
Duva then explained that Michel had the authority to negotiate the deal, and agree to the terms, on behalf of Stevenson.
"Yvon has what we call apparent authority and an actual authority. And when he made the deal with me, he had those two things. That's what you need to make a deal, apparent authority...where you hold yourself out as the person in charge and nobody challenges it. I'm sure if I look, I can find some quotes from Stevenson where he says 'my promoter is making the deal, you go talk to my promoter.' That's Yvon," Duva said.
"When Al came along, obviously Yvon had his authority stripped away from him. But none of that matters because he had that authority when we made our agreement. It specifically said in our agreement, which I know because I wrote the deal memo, that we both had to go back and get our fighters' approval. And he wrote back and put in some other terms in there that I had left out. And he said 'yes, we need to each get our fighters approval.' And I went and got my fighter's approval and I sent him an email and said 'yes, we're in, I spoke to his manager. We have a deal 100%.' And he responded with 'and so do we.' Why would I think that he hadn't spoken to the fighter? Why would I think that."
"Meanwhile, he represented to people at HBO, so I'm told, that he specifically met with the fighter and they went over the agreement, apparently with other parties in the room. He had apparent authority, he had actual authority, he agreed to it. And if he killed the deal that we both made, because he didn't like the terms of another deal that had nothing to do with me, then he's breached his duty to me as his partner. And that's going to be a problem for him and that's going to be a problem for anyone who interfered in the deal that he and I made."
"Yvon said, it's written there, that we will accept a sum between A and B. We would work and we would negotiate with HBO and accept a sum between A and B, two figures. Get the highest we can, but we agreed to a sum. And I have that sum right now from HBO. I have that sum and I can deliver it, no strings attached. We can do the fight in September. I can deliver a deal based on our deal memo. Based on him winning the fight [with Fonfara] I can deliver the fight in September. So I want to know why they don't want to have the fight when they agreed to have a fight."
A legal case might be coming in the near future. Duva has yet to decide if she plans to pursue her claims in a court of law.
"We were planning a terrific event and it was going to come together, and somebody came along and interfered with that agreement, and I'm not just going to let people come along and interfere with my agreements and walk away from it. I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I'm not sure if I'm going to litigate. I haven't made up my mind yet. We're reserving all of our rights," Duva said.
Meanwhile, it's no secret that Showtime is targeting a unification of the WBC/IBF/WBA light heavyweight titles by the end of the year. They would like to match the winner of the Bernard Hopkins-Beibut Shumenov WBA/IBF unification, taking place on April 19, against the Stevenson-Fonfara winner in the fall.
When discussing Showtime's plans for the light heavyweight division, Duva swung away with both hands closed. She anticipates the tournament will create a negative reaction for the division. Duva believes Hopkins will defeat Shumenov and then defeat Stevenson to unify the three titles, and then she expects Hopkins to retire - which is going to leave all three belts in limbo until the respective sanctioning bodies appoint challengers to fight for those vacant titles. Of course, Shumenov and Fonfara are certainly capable of upsetting those plans, although most insiders are backing Hopkins and Stevenson to pull through.
"Look at the round-robin that they're planning. You have a 50-year-old man, you have a 37-year-old...he will be 37 by the end of the year, and he is now being ridiculed for the duck job that he's done. You have another guy who has an alphabet title and he's held it for several years and nobody knows who he is, how he got the title or how he managed to keep it. What do you think the landscape is going to look like a year from now? Because my guess is the 50-year-old is going to win this round-robin, and if he wants to crown himself the undisputed champion and everyone wants to hail Bernard Hopkins for an incredible accomplishment - that's all great," Duva said.