The Adonis Stevenson Vs Sergey Kovalev Mess

On Tuesday came news that Main Events, the promoter of Sergey Kovalev, had withdrawn him from a purse bid for a fight with light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson, thus, again, ensuring that one of the best couple match-ups in the sport is not going to happen anytime soon. The whole ordeal reverses who’s most to blame right now for that, switching it from Stevenson and his team to Kovalev and his.

For the uninitiated, the purse bid is one way that various belt-sanctioning organizations arrange fights for their title belts. People who defend those parasitic organizations note that they sometimes force unwilling boxers to face one another. While that is “sometimes” the case, it rarely is when the fight really matters, like Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao, who ignored the edict from the WBC to fight one another and much later reached a deal to so on their own accord. Or, now, like Adonis Stevenson vs Sergey Kovalev.

One of the reasons Main Events’ Kathy Duva cited for the withdrawal is that Kovalev has a different belt to defend first, against Nadjib Mohammedi. So here’s a case — and not an infrequent one — where a fighters’ allegiance to his belt means the best fight involving that boxer is at minimum delayed and may never happen.

And here, Main Events’ own fawning allegiance to the good power of the belts is backfiring. If you snuggle up to these cats, you’re just inevitably going to get tied in knots by them, because that’s what they do. It’s Main Events that sought the WBC installing Kovalev as the #1 challenger to Stevenson’s title, and having gotten it, they’re rejecting a way the fight can happen.

Checkmate? Not so much.

Verdict on this whole “the belts matter because they make the best fights happen,” then: Hogwash. At best, they occasionally lead to a good fight, and at worst, they often force worse fights to happen.

Ultimately, though, it’s Main Events that comes off looking worst from all this. They’ve been raising hell to get Stevenson in the ring, as they should’ve. They went so far as to sue over it. They basically never stopped taunting Stevenson about how he’s been to blame for the fight not happening, and they’ve basically been right in saying so.

Now, they’re walking away from a procedure whereby they can get the fight they’ve carped about wanting.

The reason about the belts is bullshit. If they want a belt so bad, Stevenson has one; just beat him and switch. Nobody among the boxing fan base needs or wants the Mohammedi fight — at best, it was going to be tolerated. Duva can say all she wants about honoring commitments, but she’s been in the game long enough to know that the alphabet gang won’t hesitate to undercut its own “commitments.”

The complaints about Stevenson as a declining attraction are ridiculous. Mohammedi, the fight Main Events is targeting next, is no attraction at all. Everyone knows Stevenson-Kovalev is the biggest fight for both men at light heavyweight.

That business about “fluctuating exchange rates” is just so “out there” it’s hard to even answer.

Hey, do they maybe have a point about the wisdom of scheduling this purse bid now for a fight later? I suppose, but the quickest way to get around that is to tell the IBF and Mohammedi to fuck off and give the fans a fight they actually want.

Maybe there’s some validity to the whole contract with HBO portion of this, too, although it’s admittedly hard to understand. If Kovalev can’t appear on any other network than HBO, well, then someone else winning the purse bid and trying to take the fight elsewhere would be fruitless, right? And with HBO and Showtime working together on Mayweather-Pacquiao, maybe it would have been worthwhile to pursue some kind of accommodation. Maybe Main Events did. But this is as much leeway as I can give them.

Maybe, just maybe, Stevenson’s team knew that Main Events and Kovalev were in a tactically difficult position with Mohammedi and HBO, and that’s why they were into a quick purse bid. But, remember, it’s Main Events that put themselves in that tactically difficult position by locking Kovalev into HBO and insisting on fighting Mohammedi.

The fact is, had Stevenson not signed with Al Haymon and took his ass over to Showtime, we would’ve had this fight by now. And maybe, just maybe, the offer Main Events threw out there for an HBO fight can still get somewhere, somehow.

But at this moment, Main Events and Kovalev are to blame for us not getting Adonis Stevenson vs Sergey Kovalev. And their excuses about why, those ain’t doing them any favors.

(Photo of Kovalev with title belts by David Spagnolo, Main Events)

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.