By Keith Idec
It wasn’t too little, but it was too late.
That’s essentially why Sergey Kovalev turned down an 11th-hour, eight-figure offer to fight Canelo Alvarez. Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez made a very attractive offer to Kathy Duva, Kovalev’s promoter, late in July for Kovalev to defend his WBO light heavyweight title versus Alvarez on October 26 in Las Vegas.
By then, though, tickets were already on sale for Kovalev’s mandatory defense of his title Saturday night against Anthony Yarde in Chelyabinsk, Russia, Kovalev’s hometown. Kovalev also would’ve had to pay Yarde a hefty fee to step aside and allow an Alvarez-Kovalev fight, an alternative Yarde says he wasn’t willing to accept at that late stage.
“Yes, we did have an offer,” Kovalev said during a press conference Wednesday in Chelyabinsk. “I have to say that the tickets were already on sale. Official agreements were already made. It was just three weeks before the fight. And the offer was indeed a big one, a substantial one. But you never do it like that, because I have to be here. This is my home and this is not what I do. Everything was already agreed. My primary task is to defend the title. If the fight will still be very interesting for Canelo [after Saturday night], OK.”
If Kovalev defeats Yarde, he’ll likely face Mexico’s Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs) later this year. Egis Klimas, Kovalev’s manager, told BoxingScene.com last week that Kovalev will sign a contract to battle Alvarez in November or December if he fends off Yarde on Saturday night.
Klimas declined to discuss the Alvarez-Kovalev fight Wednesday.
“It’s too early to talk about that,” Klimas said during the press conference. “Let’s talk about that after the fight Saturday night.”
The 36-year-old Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 KOs) is just a slight favorite to beat Yarde (18-0, 17 KOs). The comparatively inexperienced Englishman again predicted Wednesday that he’ll knock out Kovalev, who has lost by technical knockout twice since June 2017, to Andre Ward and Eleider Alvarez.
Kovalev-Yarde will be streamed by ESPN+ in the United States as the main event of a two-bout broadcast set to begin Saturday at 12:30 p.m. EDT/9:30 a.m. PDT. The Kovalev-Yarde card will be broadcast by BT Sport in the United Kingdom (5 p.m. BST).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.