Boxing

The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of March 31

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistMarch 31, 2014

The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of March 31

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    TIM LARSEN

    Waste not, want not. 

    So let's not waste any time.

    HBO returned to the airwaves, though not without its fair share of technical difficulties, on Saturday night for Boxing After Dark. We’ll assess all the fallout from that card and what’s next for the fighters.

    Where does the night's big winner—WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev—go next?

    Speaking of light heavyweights, did lineal champion Adonis Stevenson duck the Russian power puncher by jumping ship to Showtime? Or did he make a smart business decision?

    With the undercard now finalized for Floyd Mayweather's next bout, will boxing fans shell out the cash to watch? 

    And finally, is there any chance we’ll see Manny Pacquiao plying his craft in America’s biggest city any time soon?

    All that and more in this week's edition of the hottest storylines in boxing.

Where Does Sergey Kovalev Go Now?

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Sure, it took him a little longer than we're used to seeing, but Kovalev eventually got his man. 

    Kovalev improved to 24-0-1 with 22 knockouts after stalking and bludgeoning Cedric Agnew over seven one-sided rounds in Atlantic City. The ending came after the third knockdown of the night, a left jab to the body, which left Agnew doubled over and on the mat well after the fight was stopped. 

    But the real news came in the ring after the fight, with Kovalev responding to Max Kellerman's question about the possibility of an Adonis Stevenson fight seemingly no longer an option.

    “I don’t want to speak about Adonis Stevenson. Adonis Stevenson piece of s— for me. Sorry for my English," Kovalev replied

    Next time tell us how you really feel. 

    We'll get more into the Kovalev/Stevenson saga later. But for right now let's look at what could be next for the "Krusher."

    The pickings at 175 pounds are a bit slim. Three of the four remaining titles sit on the other side of the network fence on Showtime, and the Russian could be forced to look outside his division for a big fight. 

    Jean Pascal is a solid possibility. The former champion looked good in dispatching of Lucian Bute earlier this year, and he's still a quality opponent with a high level of name recognition. 

    But the proverbial golden goose would now seem to be Andre Ward.

    It's unclear whether the super middleweight champion would be willing to make the jump to 175 pounds, but that's a fight that will quickly find itself in some demand, especially given that Stevenson-Kovalev is DOA.

Did Adonis Stevenson Duck Sergey Kovalev?

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    It's going to take a lot of time and care to unpack the sordid details of the Stevenson/ Kovalev/Showtime/HBO saga of the past week, but let's give it a shot.

    First, here's what we know.

    On Jan. 23, per Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, Yvon Michel (Stevenson's promoter) and Kathy Duva (Kovalev's promoter with Main Events) agreed to the financial terms for a bout between the fighters later in the year.

    The next day, HBO agreed with both parties that Kovalev would face Agnew this past Saturday, and Stevenson would face Andrzej Fonfara in May, with the two—should they win—moving on to a fall showdown.

    Michel says he advised Stevenson to sign the contracts, but he declined.

    In mid-February, Stevenson inked a contract with powerful boxing advisor Al Haymon, who now exclusively does business on the Showtime side of the network divide after HBO cut ties with him last year.

    And this is the point where the story goes off the rails, and we devolve into he said and she said. 

    HBO never got pen to paper on the contracts, but the network claims that Stevenson attempted to renegotiate the terms of their agreement, per Iole, seeking more money for the Fonfara fight and no commitment to face Kovalev in the fall.

    When HBO refused to renegotiate, Showtime swooped in and snatched Stevenson's next fight and, potentially, his future ones as well. 

    Showtime Sports executive vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza acknowledged the deal was currently for just the one fight, but the structure of the deal allows for further fights to be added on.

    That should be read to say that Stevenson, should he beat Fonfara, will face Bernard Hopkins, should he beat Beibut Shumenov on April 19, with three of the four light heavyweight belts on the line.

    Obviously, that's a significant fight, but it's not the one fight fans seem to want. Stevenson vs. Kovalev was a potential matchup of two huge power punchers, and it had excitement and intrigue written all over it.

    Now, nobody can, or should, blame Stevenson for doing what's in his best interests financially. He's 36 years old, and it's his obligation to make as much money from boxing while he still can. That's a sentiment he echoed to Lem Satterfield of The Ring Magazine last week during the firestorm.

    But the reality here is that this situation is multifaceted. 

    Stevenson can be both given credit for making a smart business decision—how many people out there wouldn't chase the bigger bucks—and criticized for ducking Kovalev.

    It just seems to be a perfect confluence of events for the WBC champion.

    He was never—at least if you view his public statements—sold on the idea of facing Kovalev. Whenever his name was mentioned, Stevenson brought up other fighters and money instead.

    No, Stevenson never wanted any piece of Kovalev.

    And now he doesn't have to face him, and he makes some extra money in the process.

    That's what they call the best of both worlds.

Does the Undercard Make the Moment a Better Buy?

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    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    After his record-setting fight last September against Canelo Alvarez, pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather is set to return to the ring, facing Marcos Maidana on May 3 at the MGM Grand with the WBC and WBA Welterweight Championships on the line.

    The main event, dubbed "The Moment," isn't likely to spark anywhere near the interest of the Canelo fight, largely due to Maidana not being viewed as nearly as threatening a challenge as the cinnamon-haired Mexican superstar.

    But both Mayweather and Showtime, who will televise the card on pay-per-view, are hoping that the pound-for-pound king's star power, combined with a deep undercard, will drive sales. Nobody is expecting anything close to "The One," but that's not an entirely fair comparison. 

    In the primary support bout, Luis Collazo, fresh off his stunning second-round knockout of Victor Ortiz at the Barclays Center in January, will face former junior welterweight champion Amir Khan. 

    Adrien "The Problem" Broner will make his return—for the first time since his loss to Maidana in December—against the same Carlos Molina that Khan knocked out in his December 2012 return to the ring. 

    And in the opening bout of the telecast, Mayweather Promotions’ prospect J'Leon Love faces former world-title challenger Marco Antonio Periban.

    There are certainly a couple of intriguing matches on this undercard, but it doesn't come close to the potential of Mayweather's last PPV outing. On that card, Danny Garcia defended his unified junior welterweight championship against Lucas Matthysse in a bout that easily could've headlined its own card. 

    Here, the Collazo vs. Khan bout is certainly intriguing, as is how Broner looks coming back from his first defeat, but nothing wows you.

    And with a main event that also suffers from that issue, could "The Moment" be a potential box-office disappointment?

Will Manny Pacquiao Fight in New York City?

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    Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images

    Could Manny Pacquiao be taking his show to New York City for a fight?

    It may seem crazy, but after the Barclays Center made an aggressive pitch, just losing out on Mayweather vs. Maidana, it appears that the Filipino icon, per Michael Woods, has some desire to test his mettle in the Big Apple.

    But don't hold your breath.

    Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum, pretty much squashed the idea this past week, telling those on an international-media conference call that the Filipino icon would lose too much money, under the current tax system, to make it financially reasonable to fight in New York.

    "Whoever asked that question has to understand that Manny is a foreign national. If he fights in New York, he has to pay a state tax, city tax, unincorporated business tax that comes to 14 percent. And because he’s a foreign national, he can’t take a credit for any of those taxes," Arum told an international-media conference call on Tuesday afternoon.

    "The penalty in fighting in New York if Manny’s earnings are $20 million is as much as $3 million. So the difference in fighting in Nevada, which has no state tax, and fighting in New York, is $3 million."

    That's a pretty hefty bill. 

    Arum says that they'd be open to holding an event in New York, but that somehow, some way, the state would need to do something to offset the high level of taxation Pacquiao would face.

    That could come in the form of some type of credits or tax offsets, but either way, don't expect any of that to happen anytime soon. 

When Will HBO Get the Drift on Undercards?

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    TIM LARSEN

    The days where HBO could get away with subpar undercards are over.

    Emphatically so.

    The latest edition of Boxing After Dark, this past Saturday night in Atlantic City, had its share of intrigue for sure. Kovalev is one of the fastest-rising stars in the sport, and his devastating punching power make him a must-see attraction whenever he steps through the ropes.

    But the opening bout of the telecast was a poorly matched snoozefest that did nothing to draw in or keep viewers. Thought it may have done its share to help those watching fall asleep.

    Karim Mayfield is an awkward, not terribly active, fighter who likes to fight ugly on the inside. Thomas Dulorme was once a hot prospect, but since his knockout loss to Luis Carlos Abregu, he's fought with a ton of caution, bordering on fear.

    The scared Dulorme was on full display on Saturday night, trying to work up Mayfield whenever he got close. It was particularly bad in the final round, where you really could've made an argument that the Puerto Rican fighter deserved a point deduction.

    Mayfield was also his own brand of awful in most of the rounds, and the fight, to be frank, was not worthy of anything beyond ESPN's Friday Night Fights. It definitely wasn’t worthy of opening an HBO telecast.

    HBO has to realize, given the increased competition from Showtime and the volatile political environment surrounding the sport these days, that these subpar quality undercards just won't cut it anymore.  

    People want some bang for their buck—and time—and will gravitate to whichever network provides them with that.

    The days of HBO being the only show in town are over.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, quotes were obtained firsthand.

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