Russian WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev had to dig deep to retain his championship Saturday night in his home country. However in doing so, his pockets may get a lot deeper soon.
First, Kovalev, who was rocked by unbeaten but unheralded Brit Anthony Yarde in the 8th round, eventually wore down his inexperienced opponent. And, he decked him with a hard straight left jab from which Yarde could not get up two minutes into round 11.
The victory was the 13th World Title win for Kovalev, since he won a portion of the title for the first time in August of 2013.
And, more importantly it now puts him in position for a mega-payday against unified Middleweight champion and worldwide star, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
That fight could potentially take place sometime in November or early December.
Alvarez and his team with Golden Boy Promotions had been negotiating with Kovalev earlier this summer for the possibility of Alvarez moving up to 175 lbs. and challenging him for his WBO title. However, Golden Boy and Alvarez have fumbled not only that negotiation, but all of their talks with several fighters, and leaving him without an opponent so far for the remainder of this year.
ESPN boxing analyst and former Light Heavyweight champion himself, Andre Ward, said on their broadcast Saturday afternoon of the Kovalev-Yarde fight that Yarde had been offered $1 million by Golden Boy to step aside and allow Alvarez to instead fight Kovalev in September.
However, according to Ward, Yarde declined, wanting the title shot himself.
For his part, Kovalev made it clear he wanted the Yarde battle to move forward, because he had already committed sentimentally to the August 24th date to fight in his hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia and was not looking to cancel his defense.
At his Wednesday final press conference, Kovalev confirmed to the media,
“Yes, we did have an offer,” Kovalev said. “I have to say that the tickets were already on sale. Official agreements were already made. It was just three weeks before the fight. And the offer was indeed a big one, a substantial one. But you never do it like that, because I have to be here. This is my home and this is not what I do. Everything was already agreed. My primary task is to defend the title.
And his Saturday dramatic performance with thousands cheering him on, especially in the 10th and 11th rounds with Yarde out of gas, now has him in line for that huge payday.
Alvarez still has eight fights remaining on his 10 fight $365 million deal with DAZN streaming service. It’s reported that Kovalev will receive at least a $10 million or more guaranteed to fight him.
Golden Boy and DAZN have already made it be known that they have November 5th reserved for a possible date for Alvarez to fight in Las Vegas with no opponent named, yet.. However, that seems unrealistic, because Kovalev would have to take a Canelo fight on just eight weeks after such a grueling battle Saturday night.
All the while, Alvarez has been relaxing and keeping himself in shape, having not fought since his decision win over Daniel Jacobs in May.
There may be some wiggle room to allow the 36 year old Russian to fight a few weeks later in late November or sometime in December. Obviously, the Anthony Joshua Heavyweight Title rematch with Andy Ruiz in Saudi Arabia will dominate the weekend of December 7th.
So, that date will be out.
But, with his rousing rally and TKO, it looks like Kovalev is IN.
IN, the money, if he wants, for the biggest fight-payout of his career.