By Sean Crose
Now that situations have surprisingly found themselves back in Main Events boss Kathy Duva’s favor, Al Haymon, Showtime and Golden Boy Promotions no longer need to face the American Court System. “We dropped the charges,” Duva is quoted as saying of the lawsuit her company lodged weeks ago. “We’ve got what we wanted.”
Indeed they have. Rather than facing Al Haymon fighter Adonis Stevenson this fall, as many suspected he would, Bernard Hopkins has decided to get it on with Duva’s fighter, the feared Sergey Kovalev. Hopkins’s decision, announced late last week, shocked the fight world.
For just a few months earlier, both Main Events and HBO appeared to be on the losing end of a heavily manipulated stick. It all started when Stevenson, the lineal light heavyweight champion of the world, stepped into the warm embrace of superadviser Al Haymon. Shortly afterward, Stevenson left HBO for Showtime. He also left the possibility of fighting the fearsome Kovalev for the possibility of fighting the aging Hopkins – and seemed happy as a clam about it, thank you very much.
Promoter Duva, however, was not about to take things lying down. Declaring that a deal had previously been arranged for Stevenson and Kovalev to meet in the ring, she subsequently sued Haymon, Showtime and Golden Boy Boxing, who’s CEO at the time, Richard Schaefer, seemed to almost be a partner of Haymon’s.
Things became even more strained, however, when Hopkins felt that he was being mistreated by both the Stevenson camp and Showtime while negotiating for a Hopkins-Stevenson matchup. “We saw,” Hopkins said of Showtime to a journalist, “a lot of inconsistencies with what was being said on Monday and then what was being said on Tuesday.”
What was more, Hopkins seems to have felt the Haymon faction was leading him on. Hopkins holds two light heavyweight title belts, after all, one belonging to the WBA and the other to the IBF. Hopkins’ suspects Haymon’s camp wanted to procrastinate setting up a bout with Stevenson so Hopkin’s would ultimately have to give up his IBF belt. Why? Because it was thought that Thomas Williams Jr, another Haymon fighter, would then be in line for it.
“I started thinking that maybe they want me to give up the title,” Hopkins is quoted as saying about the prolonged back and fourth with Stevenson’s matchmakers. “They thought I was just going to wait and that I only had one option. They underestimated me.”
It seems Stevenson’s camp may also have overestimated their man’s popularity. Ratings for Stevenson’s last outing – his first on Showtime – were considerably lower than those for his previous fight – which was aired on HBO. It’s also worth noting that many fans feel that Stevenson is indeed afraid of the hard hitting Kovalev. Needless to say, a reputation for being fearful does not exactly endear one to those who follow boxing.
“It played out just the way my team wanted it,” Hopkins has said, adding that Golden Boy founder “Oscar (De La Hoya) did a hell of a job” for him. It’s truly amazing how quickly tides can turn in boxing. Last spring it looked like Stevenson, Haymon, and Schaefer were the future while Kovalev, Duva and De La Hoya were being left in the dust.
Bernard Hopkins changed all that with one stroke of a pen on a contract. “I will go down as one of the fighters who never, never ducked anybody,” Hopkins is quoted as saying. That seems to include Al Haymon, who at least no longer has to worry about a lawsuit from Kathy Duva.