Promoter Yvon Michel said RING/WBC light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson never agreed to the purses or terms offered for a bout with Andrzej Fonfara or a unification bout with WBO beltholder Sergey Kovalev to be televised on HBO, claiming the network wanted Stevenson to commit to a multi-fight deal that included options even beyond a rematch with Kovalev.
But Ray Stallone, spokesman for HBO, stated firmly, "We had a deal, it changed, that is not the way we do it."
Meanwhile, Kovalev's handlers are insisting that a deal is in place for their fighter to face Stevenson (23-1, 20 knockouts) in September on HBO should Stevenson get beyond a May 24 defense against Fonfara on Showtime.
On Monday, Duva told RingTV.com that Michel not only agreed to Stevenson-Kovalev, but that she sent notification to Michel of her intentions to enforce the terms she claims they agreed to through an e-mail exchange on Jan. 24.
"Clearly, he's afraid," said Duva, during an earlier interview with RingTV.com, "and probably would have found a way out of this fight anyway."
Duva said Main Events attorney, Pat English, sent the letter to Michel's lawyer, Leon Margules, asserting that Stevenson is legally bound to fight Kovalev.
Stevenson cited a more lucrative offer from Showtime than that from HBO as the reason he and Michel moved their bout with Fonfara (25-2, 15 KOs) to Showtime after HBO refused to match it.
On Tuesday, Margules sent a counter-letter to the Kovalev camp contending that Stevenson was never satisfied with the money being offered by HBO, even though Michel, at one time, attempted to convince him to accept it.
"Kathy Duva, HBO and everyone else with any degree of knowledge of boxing knows that there can not be a fight without both fighters agreeing to participate in that fight," read the letter, in part, according to Michel.
Duva and HBO "were aware that Adonis Stevenson was never agreeable to the number that HBO offered for the Fonfara or the Kovalev fight… HBO never offered the fight with Kovalev as a single fight deal. HBO insisted on a rematch and the right to several of Stevensons' future fights as further consideration for any deal."
English expressed disbelief.
"Why would an after-the-fact letter sent on April Fools Day, containing misinformation, have relevance to a deal that was made in January? It is clearly not correct that the amount offered by HBO was contingent on a multi-bout (deal) with Stevenson," said English.
"We in fact have the money with no strings attached insofar as GYM and Stevenson is concerned. It was never told to us that the HBO offer was contingent on Stevenson/GYM entering into a multi-bout agreement, and our paperwork belies that assertion."
English read from a letter he sent to the Stevenson camp on Wednesday, which was in response to Margules' letter.
"Your re-formulating of the facts is breathtaking. First, numerous representations were made that Mr. Michel had approved the deal on behalf of GYM, that Stevenson had approved the Kovalev deal, and that [Stevenson’s advisor] Al Haymon was satisfied with the Kovalev deal," English said he stated in the letter.
"And further that the amount that Stevenson was to receive under it were greater than the amount that GYM was obligated to pay under its promotional contract with him. Those representations were direct and unequivocal. At no time did Mr. Michel inform us to the contrary."
Michel announced Stevenson's deal with Showtime on March 25.
"I have presented what I believed was an excellent multi-fight deal offer to Adonis from HBO with a deadline set for March 11th for approval. After discussions, we have decided to pass, and we got a better offer from Showtime. HBO had the right to match any offers, so we sent them a copy," Michel stated in a prepared statement.
"They had until today to match it, but have decided otherwise. This was a pure business decision for all parties involved, nothing personal or immoral. We wish to praise Mr. Stephen Espinoza of Showtime for his ambition to do business Adonis and GYM, which was reflected into the offer he has presented. We are thankful to him. We are looking forward for a fruitful association."
As a result, the 36-year-old Stevenson will fight Fonfara on Showtime at Bell Centre in Montreal, setting up a potential showdown between Stevenson and the winner of a 175-pound unification bout between IBF counterpart Bernard Hopkins and the WBA's Beibut Shumenov on April 19 on Showtime. HBO has severed ties with Golden Boy, which promotes the 49-year-old Hopkins and Shumenov.
"At first, I really believed that it was not going to be difficult, and I was recommending that Adonis take the deal, but he was not happy with it," said Michel. "The way it works is that the person who has the last say all of the time is the fighter at this level, so any deal that we may have had is subject to the fighter agreeing. But Adonis never was happy with it at any time."
On Feb. 13, Michel said Stevenson's Beverly Hills-based agent, Jonathan Freund, informed him that Stevenson wanted to be paid more by HBO for his next three bouts, strongly urging him to request more money from the network.
"After I got that e-mail, from Jonathan, I called Adonis myself," said Michel. "I told him that this was the best that we could get. But Adonis asked for more. Adonis said, 'Don't do anything, I will call you back.'"
On Feb. 18, Stevenson signed with powerful advisor Al Haymon.
"I got the call from Al Haymon telling me that he is now the new manager of Adonis, and that, from now on, instead of going through Jonathan, that I had to go through Al Haymon," said Michel.
"I met with Al Haymon and I explained to him where we were and where we stood. Al Haymon told me that 'my goal is to have Adonis on HBO, which has done a good job raising him to where he is now."
Stevenson went 4-0 over the course of 2013 with knockouts of Darnell Boone, Chad Dawson, Tavoris Cloud and Tony Bellew. Stevenson's victories over Dawson, Cloud and Bellew were all televised by HBO, however, he did not have an exclusive deal with the network.
"We became aware that Adonis Stevenson was available, so we jumped at the opportunity… My conversations regarding Adonis Stevenson have been primarily with Yvon Michel," said Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president and general manager, Showtime Sports, during an interview with RingTV.com.
"So he informed me that there had been discussions, but that there had been no deal reached, and that they were open to receiving an offer, but that any offer that we made would be subject to an HBO matching right. So we weren't going to let a matching right disuade us, so we submitted what we thought was an appropriate offer, and HBO declined to match it."
Asked if there was a mechanism in place that would prevent Stevenson from returning to negotiations with HBO should he beat Fonfara, Espinoza said, "We have a structure in place that gives us the ability to do big fights with Adonis, whoever those big fights may be with."
English implies that any Showtime deal preventing the September bout is in violation.
"Let me ask directly whether GYM or Stevenson has, in fact, entered into a multi-fight contract with Showtime which would preclude a Kovalev-Stevenson bout on HBO in September?" English stated in his letter. "If the answer is in the affirmative, we will consider that GYM has breached its obligation as we will not breach the obligation made to HBO. If not, then Mr. Michel and Mrs. Duva should begin to make plans for the fight."
Duva, likewise, insists that Stevenson must fight Kovalev for the amount agreed to by HBO, and for not a penny more.
"Our deal with Yvon Michel was not contingent on him entering into a multi-fight deal with HBO. It simply says, 'This is the way that we'll split the money, and this is how much we will accept. We will accept this amount of money from HBO,' and we have that. That's a contract, and that's a deal. We don't care about his fight with Fonfara. That can happen on Showtime, or it can happen on the moon," said Duva.
"We don't care when he fights him, if he fights him or where he fights him. That's got nothing to do with the deal that we made. We have a deal with HBO for these two guys to fight in September on HBO. It says that specifically that we will accept the figure from HBO, and it describes the range within which the figure needs to be, and that's the amount that we have. We agreed to that with HBO, and as I said, the exchange of e-mails states that we have both agreed on how much money we would accept, and we have that amount."