By Jake Donovan
With the official announcement of a forthcoming light heavyweight unification bout between Bernard Hopkins and Sergey Kovalev comes another declaration – all fighting amongst the division will now take place in the ring.
Kovalev’s promoter, Main Events officially filed a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal to formally drop an existing federal lawsuit against current light heavyweight king Adonis Stevenson on Monday afternoon. Several others were named in the lawsuit, including Golden Boy Promotions, whom Main Events agreed to drop upon Hopkins and Kovalev agreeing to terms for a showdown in November.
The initial filing stemmed from the fallout of a planned showdown between Stevenson and Kovalev, which Main Events attributed to a breach of agreement on Stevenson’s side. Had they pursued with the case, the suit would have remained intact against Stevenson, adviser Al Haymon, cable giant Showtime, and former Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer.
Kovalev was left out in the cold after Stevenson not only backed out of a discussed showdown, but bolted from HBO – which had aired his previous three bouts and was prepared to sign to a long-term deal – to Showtime, in favor of pursuing a bout with Hopkins. The move left Kovalev–inked to an exclusive deal with HBO–without a viable opponent, resulting in a considerable financial loss of potential income and thus the basis for the federal lawsuit.
“In order to file a federal lawsuit, there has to be at least $75,000 in specified damages,” explained Patrick English, Main Events’ long-time attorney. “With Kovalev and Hopkins now fighting, we don’t have that amount in damages. We did, which is why we filed the lawsuit.
“But now we don’t, so there is no longer a need to pursue. We’ve moved on to a bigger and better fight. If anything, the one affected by all of this is now Adonis Stevenson–though, not from a legal standpoint. The tables have turned, and now it’s Stevenson who is left out in the cold.”
Hopkins–through Golden Boy Executive Vice President and Matchmaker Eric Gomez-reached out to Main Events on July 31, just two days prior to Kovalev’s light heavyweight title defense versus Australia’s Blake Caparello. The move came after what Hopkins’ side claims to have been stalled negotiations to secure a fall showdown with Stevenson, which motivated the 49-year old legend to search for another opportunity.
Finalizing terms took simply as long as the time required to relay the terms to Kovalev’s team.
“I heard from Eric Gomez (Thursday) at around noon, who said he’d like to get the deal done,” Kathy Duva, head of Main Events informed BoxingScene.com Friday afternoon. “He explained the terms in which they wanted the fight. I talked Sergey and his manager Egis Klimas, and they of course agreed to accept those terms.
“We got it done in 30 hours, signed agreement and all.”
The finalization of the fight was contingent upon Kovalev beating – or at least fighting to a draw with – Caparello, which became the case Saturday evening in Atlantic City. A brief scare came when Kovalev suffered a flash knockdown midway through the opening round of their HBO-televised bout. The unbeaten Russian laughed off the sequence and came back to drop Caparello three times in round two, forcing referee Sparkle Lee to mercifully halt the mismatch.
The win, coupled with a weekend’s worth of rest, was enough to prompt Main Events to drop the lawsuit altogether rather than simply remove Golden Boy Promotions from the existing case.
“We were going to drop Golden Boy from the lawsuit anyway, and file an amended complaint against all of the other remaining parties,” English explained. “But after we had a chance to sleep on it over the past couple of days, we made the decision (Monday) morning to dismiss the case without prejudice.”
There is a chance that the case can once again go back to federal court, namely if anything prevents a Kovalev-Hopkins fight from happening this fall.
“Anything can happen. If Hopkins is unable to proceed with the bout, then we can reinstitute the case,” English notes. “But we’re confident that Hopkins will remain honorable and hold up his end of the agreement.”
A date and venue is still being finalized for the fight, which will air live on HBO. Dates of November 1 and November 8 have been floated, with the fight to take place in either Atlantic City or at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Golden Boy Promotions has a very tight relationship with Barclays, having promoted all but one of the boxing events–including an upcoming show this weekend–hosted at the venue, which plays host to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and eventual new home to the NHL’s New York Islanders.
Kovalev’s win over Caparello raised his record to 25-0-1 (23KOs), marking the third defense of the alphabet title he claimed with a 4th round knockout over Nathan Cleverly last August. The title-winning effort was the first of what is now four straight appearances on HBO.
Hopkins (55-6-2, 32KOs) re-entered the light heavyweight title fray with a 12-round decision over Tavoris Cloud last March. The win came two months past his 48th birthday, making him the oldest fighter in boxing history to claim a major belt.
The feat was just another among a long list of boxing records he holds, including a 10-year stay as claimant to at least one middleweight title and also–with his rematch win over Jean Pascal in May ‘11–the oldest fighter ever (46 at the time) to claim a lineal world championship when he claimed the top prize at light heavyweight.
Another entry came in April with Hopkins’ 12-round whitewash over Beibut Shumenov. The win earned Hopkins the distinction of becoming the oldest fighter in history to unify two titles. November’s clash will feature three major belts at stake.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America.