By: Jeandra Lebeauf
On Saturday night, Main Events stablemates and light heavyweight champions Sergey Kovalev(WBO) and Dmitry Bivol (WBA) will defend their titles in separate fights where a win by both could lead them right back to each other.
With the fight taking place in Atlantic City, Kovalev and Bivol will not only defend their belts but act as global ambassadors for the sport to the area with big plans of it’s on. Plans to return the New Jersey city to the prominence it once held as one of boxing’s premier places to be.
Not to mention the large-scale plan Main Events has in the work in a new partnership with Facebook to increase the sport’s exposure.
On an unseasonably hot southern California day, the Legendz Boxing Gym in Norwalk played host as Main Events chief Kathy Duva kept a watchful eye on Bivol on the young champion Bivol. As he worked out in the background for the Los Angeles media, Duva discussed the Atlantic City card, their new partnership with Golden Boy and Facebook to live-stream fights, and if Main Events is on the verge of signing their first female fighter.
BI: Congratulations on your new deal with Facebook. How did that deal come about?
KD: Everybody went to Facebook. My daughter had been talking to the guy at Facebook for 2 years. He’s the same guy that brought Major League baseball to Facebook and is responsible for bringing other sports in. Over the course of those conversations we decided there might be a way we could make boxing work, but Facebook felt they needed to do it with more than one promoter. We suggested Golden Boy who was like “Of Course.”
The idea of this is, boxing has gone on every free media platform first from radio to TV to cable to premium cable to PPV and of course online. We are seeing all these over the top projects come to fruition and those are great because they will generate revenue, but they are all competing for those fights that are in the $2m to $3M dollar range; the HBO and Showtime level fights. That’s what ESPN is doing, that’s what DAZN is doing that’s what PBC has been doing all this time. In the meantime, there are all these fights that don’t get made or end up on the undercard and they kind of get ignored.
Fighters need to learn how to be in the Main Event, they need to learn how to be the last guy to walk and I find in my experience that it’s not just for the sake of exposure but also for the sake of learning that you are THE man or THE woman. The need to have that experience.
There are a lot of terrific fights that don’t get made on those big platforms. Our goal is to make those fights.
BI: There was a time when fighters fought far more often than they do now. Do you believe with the increase in the number of platforms boxing is appearing, that current fighters will become more active or is it this just to add more volume?
KD: At the moment people are kind of siloed with their fighters. There’re guys that fight on each of the premium networks and I don’t know if it will create opportunities for them. But what’s good about this is it’s totally free. The way it is structured we can put on as many shows as fans want to watch. As long as we have an audience, FB isn’t locked into a linear schedule like TV Network so there’s no limit on how many fights we can do. They can be viewed all around their world.
There’s a whole big world out there and if we find out there’s an audience in that world that wants to see those fights, we’re going to get to do more.
BI: We are here today for Dmitry Bivol. He’s come so far in a short amount of time. As he heads into this fight [against Isaac Chilemba] how does he feel and how does he feel to be part of this big rebirth taking place in Atlantic City?
KD: Before I ever met Dmitry I heard about him and I remember telling his promoter from World of Boxing when you decide to bring him to the US please call me, and he did.
He’s clearly the future, he’s very young, he’s incredibly talented and he’s got a beautiful career ahead of him. But for this moment we have Sergey Kovalev, the man in the light heavyweight division. He’s fighting and it’s only right that the guy who aspires to someday to be the man to fight on those cards and get exposed to the crowd, so people get to know him.
BI: One last question, with Main Events, has long been a powerhouse and huge supporter of women, how close are we to seeing Main Events sign a female fighter?
KD: It’s going to depend on the fate of this Facebook platform. The thing is, I don’t have a lot of fighters, never had a lot of fighters and I’ll never sign anyone I don’t think I can’t do anything for. Unless I get the freedom to say ‘Yes, you get to fight on this day, and you’re going to fight on this day, on this I show’ I can’t. I still have to depend on network executives to make these decisions and I’m not going to make promises to someone I can’t keep.
Absolutely the day will come, we are struggling as is everyone in this business to create this mid-level platform, once we figure that out it will come.