Nathan Cleverly will defend his WBO light heavyweight title against Sergey Kovalev on August 17 in Cardiff, Wales, with Main Events promoter Kathy Duva confirming to BoxingScene.com that the deal is finalized, and that Kovalev made the choice to travel for his first world title shot because of perceived issues with Bernard Hopkins.
Kovalev was named IBF mandatory to Hopkins' title on Monday, two days after his destructive win over Cornelius White on NBC Sports. But while Hopkins paid lip service to a potential clash with the Russian, Showtime made it clear quickly that they weren't interested in buying a Hopkins-Kovalev fight. Stephen Espinoza said on Twitter that many factors -- including budget, date, etc. -- played into that decision, but there's also the theory that Showtime acted on behalf of Hopkins and Golden Boy, allowing B-Hop in particular to save face by turning down the fight, rather than making it look like Hopkins was avoiding it.
Duva believes that if Kovalev had not made a deal with Cleverly for the WBO title fight, Hopkins would have vacated his IBF belt and fought Cleverly himself, gunning for another world title, which would have technically made him able to break his own "oldest man to win a world title" record months after he re-set the mark by beating Tavoris Cloud in March.
So in other words, if Kovalev hadn't fought Cleverly, Hopkins would have, and then Kovalev would have been left to fight a lesser name for the vacant IBF title, perhaps Cloud or maybe Karo Murat, now that Murat's visa issues are settled. It would have resulted in a worse fight for Kovalev, so he and Duva were proactive. Now, the man frozen out is Hopkins, who will, one assumes, wait on his next IBF mandatory to be named, or possibly look to make a fight with new WBC titlist Adonis Stevenson.
If the fight is confirmed fully soon, and actually goes through and all that, it will be paired (on tape delay, at least, and hopefully aired live in the afternoon) with the Daniel Geale-Darren Barker fight in the States.