WBO lightweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev has stated that he “would get in the ring with Bernard Hopkins right now” in response to comments by his 49-year-old IBF counterpart expressing interest in a unification bout with the hard-hitting Russian.
Although the IBF has ordered Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 knockouts) to defend his belt against Nadjib Mohammedi, giving the fighters’ handlers 30 days to negotiate a deal before a purse bid is mandated, Hopkins stated he would be intrigued by a bout with Kovalev (24-0-1, 22 KOs).
Kovalev will fight Blake Caparello on August 2 from the Revel Resort in Atlantic City as part of an HBO-televised split-site tripleheader that will include a welterweight battle between Brandon Rios and Diego Chaves and a clash between undefeated junior welterweights Jessie Vargas and Anton Novikov from the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Kovalev addressed Hopkins in a release from his promoter, Main Events on Tuesday.
“All I want to do is fight the best. I wanted to fight [RING champion Adonis] Stevenson but he ran away,” said Kovalev, 31, who is 12-0-1 with 12 knockouts in his past 13 fights, including a fourth round stoppage that dethroned previously unbeaten WBO beltholder Nathan Cleverly in August 2013.
“I would get in the ring with Bernard Hopkins right now, any time, any place. But who knows? Maybe he’s just trying to get more money from Showtime? So I am focused on preparing for my fight on HBO on August 2 and after, we’ll see if Hopkins will really get in the ring with me.”
Already the oldest man to win a significant belt, doing so twice at the age of 46 and 48, respectively, Hopkins became the oldest fighter to unify titles with a unanimous decision over 30-year-old Beibut Shumenov, whom he dropped in the 11th round in April to add the WBA belt to his IBF title.
The 29-year-old Mohammedi won last month’s IBF title eliminator bout by seventh-round knockout over hard-hitting Anatoliy Dudchenko, whose winning streak of 16 consecutive fights, 10 of which were knockouts, was ended.
Although Hopkins was ordered to face the winner of Mohammedi-Dudchenko, there is an organization rule in place for Hopkins to take a unification bout against either RING and WBC champion Adonis Stevenson or WBO titleholder Sergey Kovalev, each of which Hopkins has expressed interest in fighting.
IBF unifications often take precedence over the mandatory and Hopkins may be in position to ask to unify the titles without requesting an exception, in accordance with organization rules.
“If Bernard Hopkins truly wants to fight Sergey Kovalev, I know we can make a deal,” said Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events. “Like Sergey, we will focus on our preparations for his title fight against Blake Caparello on August 2…”