Bernard Hopkins was waiting for the next name to be mentioned after the team for Bektemir Melikuziev came to him with the first one on the list.
The ambitious handlers behind the unbeaten Melikuziev insisted on former three-time light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev as the opponent of choice for his 7th pro fight. It was right in line with the plan in place for the 2016 Olympic Silver medalist from Uzbekistan from the moment he turned pro less than two years ago.
At least, that was the plan for Melikuziev’s immediate team. His promoter had a slightly different perspective.
“I’d rather see Sergey limping a little bit, maybe with a cane and needs somebody to open the door for him. I’m telling you, I’ve been in there with the guy,” Bernard Hopkins, Golden Boy Promotions partner admits to BoxingScene.com.
Hopkins was two months shy of his 50th birthday but still a unified light heavyweight titlist at the time of his showdown with Russia’s Kovalev in Nov. 2014. Things didn’t at all go well for the Hall of Fame-elected two-division titlist, who was dropped in the opening round en route to a 12-round shutout loss against a prime Kovalev (34-4-1, 29KOs).
A more faded but still dangerous version of the former light heavyweight king was scheduled to face Melikuziev (6-0, 5KOs) on Jan. 30th at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.
For Kovalev, it would have been his first fight since an 11th round knockout at the hands of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in Nov. 2019.
Unfortunately for Melikuziev, the contest is likely off.
On Thursday, it was first reported by BoxingScene.com that Kovalev had tested positive for synthetic testosterone.
It remains to be seen if the contest will be rescheduled or if Kovalev will be suspended by the California State Athletic Commission.
The dangerous fight was a calculated risk from the viewpoint of Melikuziev's team, which includes respected boxing manager Vadim Kornilov and head trainer Joel Diaz.
They were more than confident in his ability to knock the former champion out.
Hopkins, on the other hand, viewed the bout as being dangerous enough to go either way.
“They have a lot of high hopes about Bek,” notes Hopkins. “His team, they’ve been watching Sergey Kovalev. They believe the pickings is ripe. Sometimes, the management team think one way and the promoter thinks different. To me, Sergey is always dangerous until he’s on his back. You don’t know run around with a name Krusher and just get crushed. Yes, he got crushed by Canelo…but that’s Canelo!
“But you look at the matchup… somebody’s going to get hurt. Somebody’s going to get their lights turned out. Bek and his team believe he will be the one to turn out Sergey’s lights and it’s our job as promoters to put him in this position to succeed at that level.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox