by David P. Greisman
Main Events and HBO are finishing up a deal to bring light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev back to the network in August, according to the promoter’s CEO, Kathy Duva.
“Our plan is for him to fight two more times this year on HBO and just keep building an audience,” Duva told BoxingScene.com on May 28.
Kovalev's manager, Egis Klimas, spoke with Yuri Tarantin of Allboxing.ru last week, telling him that Kovalev’s target date is Aug. 2.
No opponent has been announced yet.
Duva told BoxingScene that HBO shot a “2 Days” feature on Kovalev for his March win over Cedric Agnew, and that the segment would also be airing in August.
“Those are wonderful pieces, and they have tremendous marketing value,” she said, noting the bump that middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin received from being featured.
Golovkin’s HBO debut in September 2012 against Gregorz Proksa pulled in 685,000 viewers, according to ratings figures compiled by Nielsen Media Research. His January 2013 win over Gabriel Rosado had 813,000 viewers.
The “2 Days” segment on HBO premiered on June 8, 2013, and proceeded over time to be the highest-seen “2 Days” feature, accumulating more than 3 million total viewers by July. Golovkin’s late June 2013 win over Matthew Macklin pulled in nearly 1.1 million viewers, and his November 2013 win over Curtis Stevens pulled in about 1.4 million viewers.
Duva said the hope had initially been that a “2 Days” segment on Kovalev would be shot with his second appearance on the network. Yet that November card was shared with Adonis Stevenson, who instead was the boxer to be filmed, she said.
“Our goal is to make him a superstar and to get him into that pay-per-view platform, and the way to do that is to be seen in front of the widest possible audience, and also to make them your fans,” Duva said.
Kovalev’s HBO debut came in August 2013, when his title win over Nathan Cleverly filmed earlier in the day in the United Kingdom was aired as part of a live broadcast featuring Jhonatan Romero vs. Kiko Martinez and Daniel Geale vs. Martin Murray. Cleverly-Kovalev pulled in 367,000 viewers.
His next appearance, a win over Ismayl Sillakh in November, was part of a broadcast that had the replay of Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios as the lead-in and had Adonis Stevenson vs. Tony Bellew in the main event. Pacquiao-Rios averaged about 1.1 million viewers, Kovalev-Sillakh had 1.254 million and Stevenson-Bellew had 1.305 million.
Kovalev headlined his first show in March, defeating Agnew in front of an average audience of 1.006 million people.
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