By Rick Reeno
BoxingScene.com has obtained numerous emails that were exchanged between HBO and Yvon Michel, promoter of WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson.
The network has claimed that a deal was reached with Michel, and approved by Stevenson (23-0-1, 20KOs), to face Andrzej Fonfara (25-2, 15KOs) on May 24th - and then have a unification with WBO champion Sergey Kovalev in the fall.
HBO claims that Michel went back on their agreement and demanded a 40% increase on the license fee. Michel's increase demand was due to Showtime's very lucrative offer to bring Stevenson to their network.
HBO spokesman Ray Stallone circulated a statement last week, after the network passed on the opportunity to match Showtime's offer.
"We had a deal, it changed, that is not the way we do it."
On February 28th, HBO senior counsel Peter J. Mozarsky sent an email to Michel, requesting written confirmation that Michel and Stevenson were on board with the deal. He gave Michel and Stevenson a deadline of March 11th to agree to the terms.
Michel replied to Mozarsky's email, also on February 28, and advised the network that he was doing his best "to get it approved and signed before the March 11th deadline." HBO's Ken Hershman, Peter Nelson and Mark Taffet were all copied on these emails.
At that point there wasn't a deal with HBO because Stevenson, by Michel's own written admission, had obviously not approved HBO's terms.
BoxingScene has an email, dated February 13 from Stevenson's attorney Jonathan Freund, and directed to Michel - where he tells Michel that Stevenson was looking for more money on "his next three fights."
That email is crucial, because it took place "before" adviser Al Haymon became involved with Stevenson. The Canadian star signed with Haymon on February 18. Most of those involved place Haymon in the center of the Stevenson/HBO negotiating issues. Michel says Stevenson was requesting more money long before Haymon came in the picture.
BoxingScene was told by those close to Stevenson that he brought Haymon on board after Michel was having trouble getting more money from HBO on a multi-fight deal. Haymon had a big hand in Edwin Rodriguez receiving $1 million dollars for last year's HBO televised fight with Andre Ward.
While all of this was going on, Michel was negotiating behind the scenes with Main Events CEO Kathy Duva, for a Stevenson-Kovalev fall unification on HBO.
While Michel and Duva agreed to most of the terms, Michel says he was unable to convince Stevenson to accept the proposed purse and his team was unhappy with the license fee, and continuously cited that HBO paid over $3 million for Ward-Rodriguez.
Michel tried to shed some further light on what exactly took place, in terms of Stevenson jumping from HBO to Showtime, and the promoter was as detailed as possible regarding his attempts to seal a deal with HBO. He says HBO rejected several counter-offers from his side [that were lower than 40%] and he claims HBO was confident that Showtime was experiencing budget issues that would prevent them from picking Stevenson up.
"It is obvious I was happy with the agreement I made with Kathy but she is playing purposely dumb when she said she was not aware of anything required by HBO to consume the deal. Kathy knew our fight was part of a multi-fight deal obligatory by HBO, who included a fight with Fonfara [requested by Michel], a fight with Kovalev, a rematch at the option of HBO or a third fight against an A of B level opponent and a first and last following the [final] fight [in the HBO deal]," Michel stated to BoxingScene.com.
"This is what she signed with HBO [fro Kovalev] and this is what we were not able to come to an agreement [on with HBO]. HBO never make deals with any fighters or even opponents...without having at least a first and last. Adonis and his representative also were well aware the proposal was locking him to HBO for a long time. And yes, Adonis' representative had approved the split of the revenues with Main Events but never the overall proposed deal by HBO."
"If Adonis or his representative would have approved, verbally or in writing, the HBO deal - [then] I would have sided with HBO and Main Event to force him to the deal but it has never been the case. Me and Adonis are willing, anytime to say the same under oath."
"When Al Haymon came on board we were at an impasse. I met with him and both agreed we were going to do the best to keep Adonis with HBO and we set our parameters. After that I flew in to New York and met with Peter Nelson. In that meeting I made an offer that would have closed the overall deal. He told me their offer was the best he could do and [he said regardless] we were not going to get anything better anywhere."
"In his opinion, Showtime had spent all their money on Mayweather. I was persistent and came back 3 times with a lesser request each time. The last offer I made to him was the following: We wanted to pay Stevenson $300,000 more than we were able to pay him with the actual deal, for the Fonfara fight. So Al Haymon was going to take 100K from his pocket, 100k from mine and I requested HBO to add only 100K to the pot."
"I had the mandate by Adonis’s representative to make the proposal and sign the deal if HBO would have agreed. I was 100% convinced it was not going to be a big deal for them. In the mean time I got a call from Kathy asking me where we were. At one point we were not in agreement together [on the] eventual split for a rematch [required by HBO at their option]. I said to her we were going to address it later as I was trying to close the overall HBO deal, but we were not very far [apart] and I was convinced we were going to have a positive conclusion."
"I was stunned when Peter told me he was rejecting it. He also said - 'you see Yvon you have no other alternative and you can’t get another deal elsewhere so please tell Adonis to agree to the deal.' We then reached the deadline date set by HBO for my and Adonis’ approval [March 11]. The next day, March I2, I had a conversation with [Showtime Sports head] Stephen Espinoza, who asked me if he could make us an offer. On March 14 I got a proposal from Showtime. You know everything else. I immediately sent the proposal to HBO who had the right to match and they did not."
"It is the first time I got a deal with Showtime since the Pascal-Cloud fight that fell apart because of injury in the Summer of 2012 where Stevenson was supposed to box Donovan George. Last year, when Adonis was the mandatory opponent to Carl Froch, Showtime was looking to buy the fight if we were able to win the bid. So with Stephen Espinoza we had communications from time to time."
"On our side we have done what we considered [were the] required concessions to stay on HBO. It was my hope and my recommendation. This was the best I could do. Once my fighter’s team rejected [HBO's proposal] I was certainly backing him up and [went to] pursue other avenues, [because] this is my duty to all my boxers."
"Peter told me, after the fact, he did not believe if he would have accepted our last offer [that] I would have been able to convince Stevenson to sign. I said 'why then [did] you said no? If you believed it was a bluff why you did not called it?' For me, if HBO would have said yes, I would have sided with HBO on the matter. He made the decision he believed at this moment was the best one, we did the same."
"I know in boxing, more than in life, everything is polarized. I am not trying to discredit anybody at HBO or [with their] executive with whom I had enjoyed a great relationship that I naively believe was beyond boxing. They have done an exceptional job with Adonis who in return had delivered good performances and ratings...it was a win/win situation. We all have made business decisions, nothing personal. Now I see they are trying to hurt me by associating themselves with whoever could hurt my relationship with my fighters. It is very sad but I guess I should not be surprised."
"I just want to add a last thing regarding all of this. It is obvious that both Stevenson and Kovalev are destined to fight each other, sooner than later. Contrary on what Duva wants everyone to believe, Adonis does not fear Kovalev and wishes to fight him but will prioritize a Hopkins fight. At this level no one is afraid of nobody and pretending otherwise is just childlike. We just need to stay in business mode and an eventual Stevenson/Kovalev [fight] will just be bigger."
"The timeline [for Stevenson-Kovalev] could be early 2015, merely a couple months after the date we were working on and could be for all the belts. Everybody is acting in panic mode as if all of the chances to do would be vanished forever. It is very disturbing to read so many disrespectful comments from Duva on Hopkins, Stevenson and Shumenov and how the only fighter who counts in the division is her champion. If it is the case then why does she need anyone else?"