By Keith Idec
It appears to be a mere formality, but Sergey Kovalev’s representatives and HBO Sports executives must come to terms on a new contract if the undefeated light heavyweight champion is to continue fighting exclusively on that premium cable channel.
The multi-fight contract Kovalev signed with HBO several days before beating Cedric Agnew last March 29 in Atlantic City expired following Kovalev’s impressive eighth-round technical knockout win over Quebec’s Jean Pascal (29-3-1, 17 KOs, 1 NC) on Saturday night in Montreal. Main Events chief executive officer Kathy Duva, whose company promotes Kovalev (27-0-1, 24 KOs), has been discussing a new contract with HBO Sports brass and fully expects the network’s successful partnership with the Russian knockout artist to continue.
It is possible that Kovalev’s next fight, a mandatory defense of his IBF light heavyweight title against France’s Nadjib Mohammedi (37-3, 23 KOs), won’t be broadcast by HBO. Duva remains optimistic, however, that the network will televise a seventh consecutive Kovalev bout in June or July.
“We’ll work through it,” Duva said. “We want to work with HBO. We love working with HBO. I’ve said consistently this is the way to build a star. We’ll figure it out. We’re talking to them constantly and we will come up with something because they are the No. 1 network – they’re the ones I want to work with. I love the idea of boxing on network TV and it’s great for the sport. But when it comes down to actually being able to generate revenue, it’s a different ball game. We’ll keep playing with HBO.”
The HBO-Kovalev partnership has been beneficial for both sides.
The 31-year-old Kovalev has fought frequently and become a multimillionaire, while HBO has gotten a return on its investment because Kovalev has evolved into one of the most television-friendly fighters in boxing. The Kovalev-Pascal clash, the most competitive of Kovalev’s six HBO bouts, peaked at approximately 1.2 million viewers. Four months earlier, Kovalev’s dominant victory over legend Bernard Hopkins peaked at nearly 1.4 million viewers, making it the second most-watched boxing match on premium cable in 2014.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.
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