By Keith Idec
LAS VEGAS – If you’re wondering why Sergey Kovalev seems so angry the closer we get to his rematch with Andre Ward, the root of all evil is toward the top of his list.
The discrepancy between Ward’s purse and his purse have increasingly infuriated Kovalev.
Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) is guaranteed at least $6 million for their light heavyweight championship rematch Saturday night at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas (HBO Pay-Per-View; $64.99 in HD). Kovalev, however, will earn much of his pay from their rematch off revenue from pay-per-view and tickets sales.
His purse is not expected to be revealed even on the contract his promoter, Main Events, will submit to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. That contract is expected to state that Kovalev will make 75 percent of his side’s overall take from the event, not a specific figure.
Ward won their first fight, thus it makes sense that he would make more money than Kovalev for their second bout. The huge gap between their purses is what has incensed Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs), particularly since he feels he deserved to win a 12-round fight Ward narrowly won by the same score, 114-113, on all three scorecards.
Ward is promoted by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports, which paid him a $5 million guarantee for his victory over Kovalev on November 19 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Kovalev’s guarantee for their first fight was $2 million.
“Sergey is working for every dime he makes,” said Kathy Duva, Main Events’ chief executive officer. “The other is guy is getting paid by somebody [Jay Z] who’s gonna pay him more money than [the company] is going to take in. The gross amount of money that his company is going to make, Ward is gonna get more money than that, no matter what happens here.
“He’s getting paid by one guy [Jay Z], who for some reason is willing to put out extraordinary amounts of money to watch him fight. Good for him. Sergey is working for every nickel, so this is clearly affecting him more than it affects Ward, whose purse is guaranteed. And I can kind of understand why Sergey just said, ‘OK. You know what? I’m done. Let him go do some interviews now.’ ”
According to Kovalev’s manager, Egis Klimas, Kovalev also feels that Ward intentionally has done less to promote the event because he dislikes Kovalev and knows he can affect his bottom line.
Michael Yormark, president and chief of branding and strategy for Roc Nation Sports, dismissed that contention. Yormark said it is Kovalev, not Ward, who hasn’t done nearly enough to help promote the event.
Yormark criticized Kovalev for skipping a planned interview session with reporters prior to Thursday’s press conference at Mandalay Bay and for leaving in the middle of the press conference. Kovalev made brief remarks, pointed at Ward and walked off the dais before Ward and his team were introduced to speak.
“The first fight, [Kovalev] did so much [to promote it],” said Egis Klimas, Kovalev’s manager. “He flew the country back and forth. On this, he doesn’t feel like Ward is doing enough to promote. Ward has a sugar daddy who pays him $7 million for this fight. OK? Sergey is earning every single penny. He is promoting this fight as much as he can. Every single penny comes from the fans – from the ticket sales, from the pay-per-view, Sergey is earning. Nobody’s giving it to him.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.