Luis M. Alvarez/Associated Press
Rumor: Bernard Hopkins will fight fellow 175-pound champion Sergey Kovalev next instead of the highly discussed matchup against Adonis Stevenson, per Joseph Santoliquito of RingTV.com (via Wil Esco of SB Nation's Bad Left Hook).
Fact or Fiction: I'm leaning toward fact at this moment.
The idea seems counterintuitive for the current business climate in boxing, but it makes more sense after you break it down.
First, it seems like Stevenson is perfectly willing to duck the elite fighters at light heavyweight and coast until the end of his career. With Stevenson turning 37 in September, his cruise to the finish line won't be that long.
We've already seen Stevenson bolt to Showtime in order to avoid a fight against fellow 175-pound belt holder Sergey Kovalev, a fight that wasn't completely finalized, but there was an agreement in place.
If Stevenson is willing to wear the "scarlet D" to avoid Kovalev, I don't think it's much of a stretch to believe he would do the same with Hopkins. Of course Kovalev is possibly the most feared puncher in the sport, while Hopkins is certainly not, but he still presents an extremely tough match and is a serious threat to take Stevenson's belt.
What makes this match between fighters on different networks and different promotions possible when others are not is that Hopkins isn't tied to Al Haymon and isn't exclusive to Showtime. Without those obstacles in the way, a fight between Hopkins and Kovalev should be fairly easy to make.
Reportedly, Hopkins' promoter Golden Boy and Main Event, which represents Kovalev, are already in talks for the fight with a tentative date and location of November 8 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
HBO has said that it wouldn't work with Golden Boy Promotions in the past, but it's invested heavily in promoting and developing Kovalev, so I don't think it'll pass on the chance to air his biggest fight to date. Plus Dan Rafael of ESPN has said that Hopkins is an "approved opponent for Kovalev" under his contract with HBO.
If Kovalev beats Hopkins, his name recognition and star power would increase, which would be good for business at HBO.
While we've learned recently not to count deals as being done until the ink is dry (Kovalev/Stevenson, Gennady Golovkin/Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.), this match has a great chance of being made.