By Keith Idec
Dmitry Bivol could’ve accepted more lucrative offers from competitors once HBO’s executives revealed late in September that the network would stop televising boxing in 2019.
The unbeaten WBA light heavyweight champion appreciated the network’s previous commitments to him, though. It also was the hard-hitting Bivol’s longtime dream to headline an HBO “World Championship Boxing” show.
The 27-year-old Bivol told BoxingScene.com before an open workout Tuesday in Santa Monica, California, those are the reasons he decided to fight one last time on HBO. The premium cable network will televise Bivol’s title defense against former champion Jean Pascal on November 24 from Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“I think a lot of fighters dream about that and it was something I wanted to achieve in my career,” Bivol said through a translator. “HBO is a legendary network. Even though it’s a little sad that it looks like they’re finishing their boxing history, at the same time I wanted to make sure we met all our commitments. We had plans to fight on HBO in November or December. They gave me a chance before and they’re our partner, and we just wanted to make sure we stayed loyal and we participated in the event that we committed to.
“At the end of the day, we’ll have to go on and consider other networks because [HBO] is finished in the boxing business. But for me, it’s an honor to be part of this history and I’m thankful for everything they have done for me so far in my career.”
HBO has aired each of Bivol’s past three fights live on that network. DAZN – the new, well-funded streaming service – was among the platforms Bivol could’ve chosen over HBO for his next fight.
“We had better financial offers to go on another network, instead of fighting [November 24 on HBO],” said Vadim Kornilov, Bivol’s manager. “But it was important for Dmitry to just continue here, to give that one last performance that was planned and stay with HBO for as long as they were still in the business.”
Contractually, HBO owned the right of first refusal for any offer made to Bivol for the broadcast/streaming rights to his next fight. If the heavily favored Bivol beats Pascal, though, he’ll have to find a new partner for his following fight.
Kyrgyzstan’s Bivol (14-0, 11 KOs) wants 175-pound title unification fights after boxing Quebec’s Pascal (33-5-1, 20 KOs, 1 NC). That could lead the hard-hitting champion to DAZN, ESPN or Showtime.
ESPN has won the broadcast rights to the Eleider Alvarez-Sergey Kovalev WBO championship rematch February 2. Artur Beterbiev, the IBF champ who has an agreement with DAZN, will defend his title against Joe Smith Jr. on December 15 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Showtime will televise the Adonis Stevenson-Oleksandr Gvozdyk fight for Stevenson’s WBC championship December 1 from Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City, Canada.
“We’re open to anything,” Bivol said. “But more important to us is to have the best and most exciting fights, and where the fans will be, where the fans will wanna see us. After this fight, we’ll just have to sit down and consider all the options.”
That’ll largely depend on who wins the three aforementioned light heavyweight title fights.
“From my point of view, where people wanna see him is what’s important,” Kornilov said. “And where are the biggest fights? Dmitry really wants to start unifying titles and that’s what we have to work on. Wherever that can be possible is where it will be.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.