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On Kovalev-Hopkins, And The Continuation of The Cold War Thaw

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I heard on the grapevine that talks are underway for a Sergey Kovalev-Bernard Hopkins fight, so I checked in with Kathy Duva, Kovalev’s promoter, and the boss at Main Events.

So, are there talks underway which would pit the Russian hammerfisted terminator type against the aged but still world class master craftsman who has forgotten more than all the rest of the active pros know?

“We’ve had a talk about having a talk,” said Duva, chuckling. “But we have not a had a talk. And “we” is Eric Gomez (at Golden Boy Promotions), a talk about having a talk.” Duva said Gomez, who is now charged with more duties at the reformulated Golden Boy, after Oscar and ex pal, banker buddy Richard Schaefer parted ways in most acrimonious fashion, told her he’d be in touch about this matter by a certain date, and that date came and went.

But, when I put forth that maybe that talk of that fight might be spinning of wheels, Duva said no, as she told Gomez, Kovalev has eyes trained on his Aug. 2 AC date with Blake Caparello. And Main Events is busy banging the drums for that one, in circumstances that got a bit muddier when it was announced about two weeks ago that the Revel casino, host of the card, will be shuttered soon. AFTER the boxing event, Duva made sure to hammer home to me…

So, she said, let’s get through this promotion, and then there will be ample time to hammer out whatever is next for Kovalev. Also, it should go without saying, but it won’t, because we all need periodic reminders, nothing is set in stone till the stone is set. Caparello might just—one does never know until one KNOWS—mess up even tentative plans for Kovalev’s continued ascent. “Once this fight is over, we are going to make a decision very quickly about what Sergey does next,” she said. “So you guys (Golden Boy) better make your decisions very clear about what you want to do.”

Some of you might be thinking, hey, wait a minute…isn’t there a rule being adhered to, one put in place by HBO last year, that they don’t want to be doing business with Golden Boy. Ah, yes and no.

This is the new, re-formulated Golden Boy. The Richard Schaefer-less Golden Boy.

Many of you do know that there was the suggestion of a mini-thawing, I guess you could call it, in this Cold War, the one that has entities taking sides, with HBO buying most of its product from Bob Arum of Top Rank, and Showtime buying just about all its fare from Golden Boy, and most of that involving fighters repped by Al Haymon. HBO, you recall, got sick of dealing with seeing fighters they believed they built up running across the street, to Showtime, with, in their minds, Haymon being the broker-bad-guy, pitting two sides against each other, to drive up purses for fighters he reps. So, last year, HBO said no mas. They weren’t going to be putting near and long-ish range plans into activation, and seeing them go off the rails, because people they were working on building-up took their toolbox over to the competition.

I asked someone in the know at HBO a couple days ago who didn’t want to speak on the record about the concept of a greater thaw, and that person indicated to me, in so many words, that the game has changed. Not wholly, not fully, not with any grand pronouncement. But, this person said, we put it out there publicly not long ago that our doors are open to dealing with all parties for fights and deals that make sense. Which leads us to a Kovalev-Hopkins fight. That’s a heckuva deal, a fight which would be much anticipated by all fight fans.

Now, I wouln’t go outside, with your megaphone, and announce to the world that all are playing nice, that this Lomachenko-Gary Russell June 21 scrap was the hors d’ouevres and this Kovalev-Hopkins tiff will be served up as the main course right quick. But I’m feeling like the thawing is continuing, that more varied deals will be made in this second half of the year in boxing, with HBO being amenable to working with this Oscar De La Hoya-led Golden Boy. Kovalev is tied in to fighting on HBO, by the way, and to my knowledge, Hopkins is NOT tied into having his bouts run on Showtime, so that could help pave the way to make this thaw-out special reach the serving stage.

Duva told me that yes, she gets the feeling that the thawing is in effect. The proof? Because this Kovalev-Hopkins bout is even being talked about…that’s proof in itself. “Exponentially,” she told me, when I asked about there being light at the end of the accursed tunnel of division.

“I want to hear (that HBO will work with Golden Boy, and all entities will be open to doing deals even with people they don’t call friends) that, as a promoter, because then more opportunities can be created, to work together. If everybody is just making matches in house, then what you get is a very stagnant, boring sport. I come from a time when we absolutely despised each other, but we’d come together to make a deal. Bernard Hopkins, I’ll say this if this is proof of HBO being willing to back up what they’re insinuating, Bernard Hopkins was a pre-approved opponent in that (multifight deal made for Kovalev’s next few fights earlier in 2014). It was always envisioned that perhaps times would change.”

Now, I do confess I have not figured what other shoe has dropped, and who was wearing it…or even if the damned thing has dropped at all. I did do a double take when I heard and saw Hopkins, basically besties with Richard Schaefer the last few five or so years, changing his tune, and saying he’d be open to fighting for Oscar’s Golden Boy. I sort of assumed that there would be a full split, with “Richard’s guys” going with him, and maybe fighting on Mayweather cards, and Oscar’s guys sticking behind with him, and fighting under the GBP umbrella still. I wondered aloud, does Hopkins’ change of tune maybe indicate that Schaefer has indicated to B-Hop that he will be out of commission for a spell, not being active in the sport, for whatever reasons, be they litigational or contractual…and that’s why Hopkins is singing a new tune?

No, Duva said, that’s not her perception. Her perception, she said, is that she thinks that Showtime isn’t interested in right now putting together a Hopkins vs. Adonis Stevenson fight. Why would that be, you might ask. That fight was on the back and then front burner for awhile. Maybe one reason, and I am purely theorizing here, is that it would seem more prudent not to mix up those ingredients in that fashion because of the ongoing suit lodged by Duva against Showtime, and Haymon and Stevenson, and Golden Boy and others. That suit is stemming from the busted deal from the spring which Duva maintains she had cemented, but which splintered when Stevenson latched on with Haymon. I think theorizing is all we’re going to get here, because you could also speculate that maybe some people think Stevenson is too obviously ripe to be picked off by Hopkins, and it might be “wiser” to have him fight lower-caliber opposition, to make it more likely that he retains a belt-holder at 175 pounds.

Anyway, the reasons why Hopkins might now be free to tangle with Kovalev are probably immaterial, if indeed this storyline continues to play out as it’s looking like it will.

“I’m totally open to it, I’d love to have the talks for Kovalev-Hopkins…but we haven’t had it,” Duva said, in closing.

Summation: Here’s hoping that indeed we do continue to move more so towards a new period of if not wondrous co-existence, then at least a peaceable-enough atmosphere which sees the power brokers getting along well enough to sit int he same room enough long anough to make deals which us fans want to see. Hell, they can hose their nose the whole time, whisper expletives under their breath the whole time if they want to, as long as this ice age ends. Because the best need to be fighting the best, as often as possible…because if not, then our sport stagnates, and the fans get screwed, as do the athletes, because they aren’t given a full slate of options to plot their course.

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Artur Beterbiev: “I’d prefer to fight Bivol because he has the one thing I need”

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Russian Artur Beterbiev, triple champion of the 175-pound division, is the only current world champion who, thanks to the enormous power he wields in his fists, has won all his fights inside the distance.

Beterbiev has 18 victories by way of chloroform since he debuted as a professional fighter in June 2013 when he anesthetized retired American, Christian Cruz, in the tenth round at the Bell Center in Montreal where Beterbiev currently resides.

Beterbiev, who turned thirty-eight last Saturday, will defend his WBC, IBF, and WBO titles against Brit Anthony “The Beast from the East” Yarde (23-2, 22 KOs) on Saturday, January 28th at the OVO Arena in London.

Beterbiev obtained the WBO belt on June 18th this past year when he defeated American Joe Smith (28-4, 22 KOs) in the second round at Madison Square Garden. This was Smith’s second defense of the belt.

Earlier, in November 2017, Beterbiev won the vacant IBF belt after defeating German Enrico Koelling (28-5, 9 KOs) by knockout in the twelfth round in Fresno, California.

Two years later, Beterbiev seized the WBC belt from Ukrainian Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-1, 14 KOs) in Philadelphia. Three knockdowns in the tenth round forced referee Gary Rosato to stop the lopsided bout with 11 seconds remaining in the round.  Beterbiev maintains that although his intention is to win each fight, in no way does he want to harm his rival and that his greatest wish is for both of them to leave the ring healthy.

Referring to his upcoming matchup, Beterbiev told BoxingScene that “after the fight, I just hope he (Yarde) is okay.”

He acknowledged that he does not know much about the British boxer, although he has watched several of his fights: “He’s a good fighter, has good experience as a professional and he’s a boxer. He’s dangerous so I have to prepare for this fight like I always do.”

Beterbiev said that his main motivation is to successfully defend the three belts he owns and that is why he will try to be one hundred percent ready and then it will be evident who is the better fighter.

Regarding his knockout streak, Beterbiev emphatically denied that he enjoys knocking out his opponents: “No. There’s no pleasure in it. I just hope everything is OK with them. I just want to do good boxing, not hit people.”

Beterbiev smiles enigmatically and stares at the horizon when they ask him to what he attributes the strength of his fists to. “I know for sure, 1000 percent, that the secret to my power is somewhere in my boxing gym but I don’t know exactly where,” he adds. “I don’t know which exercise or bag gave me this secret. I don’t know where it comes from. I wasn’t always like this either, it has come from working every day. But really my dream is to be a good boxer one day.”

Aside from the upcoming fight with Yarde, Beterbiev acknowledges in each interview that his goal is to be the undisputed champion of the division, which means facing (and defeating) the undefeated Russian Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs), who holds the WBA light heavyweight super championship belt.

“I need Bivol,” Beterbiev admits. “I’d prefer to fight Bivol because he has the one thing I need. I hope I fight him in 2023 but the hold-up is not from my side, it’s from their side. In the last three years he always says he will fight me next but in this time we’ve done unification fights against Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Joe Smith. We’ve done that whereas he has just been talking about it.

Beterbiev recalled that he was with Bivol on the Russian national team where they were amateurs. “I knew him then, but he is younger than me. We haven’t talked for 10 years now. He was 75kg back then, too small for me. We were never friends.”

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish.

 Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

 

 

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Boxing Odds and Ends: A New Foe for Broner and an Intriguing Heavyweight Match-up

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Boxing Odds and Ends: A New Foe for Broner and an Intriguing Heavyweight Match-up

BLK Prime’s inaugural venture went off without a hitch. An announced crowd of 14,630 turned out in Omaha to watch native son Terence Crawford dismantle David Avanesyan. BLK Prime’s second promotion, slated for Feb. 25 at a 5,000-seat venue in Atlanta, has been messy from the get-go. The executives at the fledgling company, based in Hayward, California, are learning to their dismay that the sport of professional boxing is governed by Murphy’s Law: whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

Adrien Broner’s nickname is “The Problem” (how perfect!) but the problem isn’t him but finding a suitable opponent for the former four-division title holder who purportedly signed a three-fight deal with BLK Prime that will pay him an absurd $10 million. As reported in a story that ran on these pages last week, Broner’s original opponent Ivan Redkach pulled out and was replaced by Hank Lundy. Today (Tuesday, Jan. 24) it was revealed that Lundy was also off the card and would be replaced by Michael Williams Jr.

Prior to being lopped off the card, it was reported that Hank Lundy had been suspended by the California Athletic Commission for failing to honor his contract to fight up-and-comer Ernesto Mercado (8-0, 8 KOs) on Feb. 4. The match was to be an 8-rounder in Ontario, California. According to prominent boxing writer Jake Donovan, Lundy provided paperwork to the California commission showing that he was unable to keep his commitment because of a cut he suffered in sparring.

Some state athletic commissions automatically honor a suspension handed down in another jurisdiction. Other commissions evaluate each situation on a case-by-case basis. It’s a fair guess that had Lundy kept quiet about the (alleged) injury, the Georgia commission would have allowed the Broner-Lundy match to go forward. Regardless, he’s out and, barring more upheaval, Broner (pictured) will be touching gloves with Michael Williams Jr.

The son of an Army veteran who serves as his chief trainer, Williams Jr, 23, was born in Fort Riley, Kansas, and grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, home to Fort Bragg. As a pro, he’s 20-1 with 13 KOs but those 20 wins came against a motley bunch of opponents and he failed miserably on the one occasion that he stepped up in class. On Dec. 11, 2021, he was stopped in four rounds by fellow unbeaten John Bauza on a Top Rank card at Madison Square Garden. Williams suffered five knockdowns before the match was halted. “He’s got a lot to work on. There are some glaring issues here,” said ringside TV commentator Andre Ward.

Although the Fayetteville area has long had a reputation as pugilistic feed lot (a place where boxers go to fatten up their records), the feeling is that Williams may have been awed by his surroundings that night in the Big Apple, hence his poor showing. During the early portion of his career, he was co-trained by Roy Jones Jr who reportedly hooked up with the young junior welterweight after witnessing him bully a bunch of ex-cons while sparring at a gym in New Orleans.

Does he have the tools to make things interesting against Adrien Broner? Likely not, but Broner tends to fight down to his level of competition, so it wouldn’t surprise us if Williams wins a few rounds.

Heavyweights at the Crossroads

SHOWTIME drops anchor in San Antonio on Feb. 11 with a card headlined by a match between Rey Vargas and O’Shaquie Foster. They will compete for the WBC 130-pound world title vacated by Shakur Stevenson.

Truth be told, this isn’t a contest that gets our juices flowing. The undefeated Vargas, who has won world titles at 122 and 127, is a solid technician but doesn’t fight with pizzazz. He hasn’t won a fight inside the distance since 2016. Foster is on a nice roll – he’s won nine straight, advancing his record to 19-2 — but likewise lacks charisma.

The pay-per-view opener, however, seized our interest. It’s that very rare contest between two rising heavyweights at the same juncture of their respective careers. On paper there’s little to choose between Viktor Faust (11-0, 7 KOs) and Lenier Pero (8-0, 5 KOs). Both are the same age (30), are roughly the same size (in the six-foot-five and 240-pound range) and were outstanding amateurs.

Faust

Viktor Faust, aka Viktor Vykhryst, is from the Ukraine. In 2017, he won the European amateur title, defeating future Olympian Frazer Clarke in the finals. He turned pro in 2020, spurning an opportunity to represent Ukraine in the Tokyo Olympics.

Faust, says prospect watcher Matt Andrzejewski, is extremely fluid for his size and his hand speed is well above average. He also has one-punch knockout power as he demonstrated in his third pro fight when he starched the Spaniard, Gabriel Enguema. However, his most recent fight on U.S. soil, a match in Hollywood, Florida, against Iago kiladze, left many questions unanswered.

This was a wild and wooly affair that ended in the second minute of the second round. Kiladze was down three times and Faust twice during the tumult. Because Kiladze was on the small size for a heavyweight, one was left wondering whether Faust could have weathered the storm if he were matched against a bigger man.

Since that scuffle, Faust has added two more wins to his ledger, comfortable 8-round decisions over 40-something gatekeepers Kevin Johnson and Franklin Lawrence.

Pero

Lenier Pero, a Cuban defector, was never an Olympian, but had a more extensive amateur career. He was 9-3 in the semi-pro World Series of Boxing but what really stands out is that he was 5-1 against countryman Frank Sanchez who has made great headway as a pro since leaving Cuba in 2017 and is currently ranked #3 by the WBC and #2 by the WBO.

Although the amateur careers of Faust and Pero overlapped, their paths never crossed. However, Faust did fight Lenier’s younger brother Dainier Pero who is currently 2-0 as a pro and may actually be a better prospect than his sibling. Faust and Dainier Pero met in 2018 at a tournament in the Ukraine and the Cuban won a close decision.

Perhaps that’s an omen. Regardless, Lenier Pero looks like the right side in what has the earmarks of an entertaining shootout.

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David Benavidez and Caleb Plant Both Want ‘Canelo’ Álvarez

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American Fighter David Benavidez has been in constant pursuit of an opportunity to face Canelo Álvarez and, until now, it has been an unrealizable dream. For his compatriot Caleb Plant, his match up with Canelo in 2021 resulted in a resounding loss.

For several years, Benavidez has been trying to cross gloves with Mexican star Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs), who has avoided facing him despite receiving countless criticisms from boxing fans.

Undefeated in the ranks, everything indicates that today Benavidez (26-0, 23 KOs) is closer than ever to finally matching up against Canelo, the current holder of the four most prestigious super middleweight titles in boxing: WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO.

Previously, by order of the WBC, Benavidez faced Canadian David Lemieux (43-5, 36 KOs), to whom he applied chloroform in the third round in Glendale, Arizona, where the winner conquered the Interim title of that sanctioning body.

After the victory, the WBC declared that Benavidez had the obligation to collide with Caleb Plant (22-1, 13 KOs), who was ranked the number one contender by both the WBA and the WBO and third by the IBF.

According to Mauricio Sulaimán, president of the WBC, the winner between Benavidez and Plant becomes the mandatory challenger for Canelo in a battle for that organization’s belt.

However, the future seems quite complicated for the winner between Benavidez and Plant, since Canelo is currently in negotiations with British southpaw John Ryder (32-5, 18 KOs) to fight in May and, subsequently, in September, to carry out the rematch against Russian Dmitry Bivol (20-0, 11 KOs), who defeated him unanimously on May 7 of last year at the T-Mobile Arena where the European retained the WBA light heavyweight belt.

Benavidez has been outspoken about Canelo’s refusal to face him: He (Canelo) knows I’m the biggest threat at 168.” Benavidez stressed the fact that Canelo avoids him because he knows that if he accepts the fight, the same thing will happen to him as against Dmitry Bivol, an adversary who is also larger and equally as strong as the Mexican redhead.

Despite the efforts and multiple statements by Benavidez (also by José Benavidez Sr, his father and trainer), Canelo has always chosen other adversaries with the excuse that Benavidez has not fought any elite rivals that would make him worthy of the opportunity.

CALEB PLANT WANTS REVENGE AGAINST CANELO

“That wasn’t my best camp going into that fight,” said Plant about last year’s battle with Canelo, “but, regardless, that’s not the reason I lost. I lost because I got caught with a great shot and I got stopped.” Plant was clear about wanting to meet Canelo in the ring again. “I want a rematch with Canelo. If I have to pick up every last top super middleweight in the division to get to that, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Canelo’s victory against Plant at the T-Mobile Arena in November 2021 made him the first boxer from Latin America with the four most important titles, in any weight category. But six months later, in May of last year, Álvarez suffered the second setback of his career, losing unanimously to Bivol who retained his WBA “super” title belt at 175 pounds.

Four years ago, on January 13, 2019, Plant won the IBF belt, unanimously defeating Venezuelan José Uzcátegui (32-5, 27 KOs) at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Uzcátegui went to the canvas in both the second and fourth rounds. Plant lost the IBF title in the unification match against Canelo, a title that Plant had defended three times prior.

Mauricio Sulaimán confirmed to several media outlets that the winner of the upcoming battle between Benavidez and Plant will be the mandatory challenger for Canelo’s WBC super-middleweight title. Per ESPN’s Mike Coppinger, Benavidez vs Plant will take place on March 25th at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish.

 Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

To comment on this story in the fight Forum CLICK HERE

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