Hopkins-Kovalev: Big Fight Should Clear Suspicion But Don’t Expect Any Testing Above The Commission

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untitledIn Conjunction with Victor Salazar

A lot of people criticized the 2014 boxing calendar early on and believed it paled in comparison to last year’s, which just happened to be one of boxing’s best and brightest in a long time. But when the year is eventually concluded boxing fans will have to admit that there were some pretty significant matchups.

One of the most significant, if not the most, is the light heavyweight unification bout between Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins and Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev which has a working date of November 8th at a venue to be determined.

This is a huge fight, especially for the hardcore fans that have been clamoring for Kovalev to get a high-profile opportunity. The intensity of fans’ desires to see the “Krusher” in a significant bout was raised after the proposed bout with fellow title holder Adonis Stevenson was torpedoed by Stevenson’s decision to move to ShowTime.

It is a big fight despite the fact that it doesn’t involve Mayweather, Canelo, or Pacquiao. However, Hopkins is a powerful name amongst casual fans in his own right and his namesake, ability to fight at a high level, and age make him the kind of story that mainstream media outlets eat up. Hopkins’ name makes for a bigger fight for Kovalev than the failed fight with Stevenson would’ve ever been.

It feels like a big fight, it feels like a PPV fight to some degree. After all, you have the A-side (Hopkins) calling the shots with the grateful opponent (Kovalev). I’m not calling Kovalev an opponent, but he isn’t calling any shots either.

We’ve gotten accustomed to having stringent drug testing in the “big fight” conversation. Even when it isn’t so clear, a big fight will garner the kind of mainstream media attention that will at least put pressure on the parties involved to answer drug testing questions.

That is the separation between a true commercial “mega fight” and what Hopkins-Kovalev is because there won’t be a whole lot of pressure on anyone to make sure second party testing is done.

If Hopkins doesn’t want stricter testing then it won’t happen, plain and simple. And we all know Hopkins’ record when he’s asked to “take the test.”

The way this bout came together it stands to reason that Main Events and/or Kovalev won’t demand any sort of test. They’re in the “scared squirrel” position and they’ve got the squirrel where they want him and don’t want to make any big sudden movements that will scare the squirrel away permanently.

But should it be up to Kovalev’s team to demand it? You could argue that both sides share the burden equally. However, I believe it is Hopkins’ responsibility more than anything because he has been in his elite position for years and it is up to the elite fighters to pave the way for a safer and cleaner sport.

Regardless, Kovalev’s side doesn’t seem too worried about pursuing second party testing, at the very least it isn’t a deal breaker for their side.

Kovalev’s manager, Egis Klimas, spoke to Thaboxingvoice.com after Kovalev’s 2nd round TKO win over Blake Caparello Saturday night and appeared a bit too trusting for my taste when the subject of testing was brought up.

“Hopkins has been around and it’s not his first day in boxing, he’s very clean, he watches his nutrition and trains hard. I believe, I can’t say 100%, but I can say 99.9% [Hopkins] is drug free. I strongly believe he is a drug free guy. He knows about training, eating, and drinking the right things. That’s why being almost 50 years old he’s in that kind of shape,” Klimas told Thaboxingvoice’s Victor Salazar.

I want to believe Klimas is merely the trusting kind, but to suggest anyone is 99.9% clean in this day and age is a little naïve.

It seems that Klimas is playing defense in regards to the issues of drug testing for this fight and his wait and see attitude is disappointing.

“If they’re going to order us [to take tests] then we’re going to order them. I don’t know. We’re going to sit and talk with the promoter and the whole team.

Kathy Duva addressed the media after the Kovalev-Caparello fight and touched on the drug testing issue a bit.

I like Duva, I respect Duva, and I believe she embodies the kind of integrity boxing needs from the promotional side of things. She is a champion for her fighters and her interests clearly extend past the business side of boxing.

“Sergey Kovalev has said from the beginning that he just wants to fight the best fighters. He wants to test his skills against the very best and wants to be in big fights, that’s the mark of great fighters,” Duva said as she addressed members of the media.

Duva is right and wanting to face the best is the mark of a true champion. But the mark of a champion has been altered a bit over the years and performance enhancing drugs had diminished certain aspects of all sports.

A true champion should want to keep the sport as clean as possible, in a way that’s another huge mark of a champion.

What Duva said next was interesting to me, “You can’t fear losing and back down from a challenge because you fear a loss.” Duva made that statement after being asked if she has any hesitations for Kovalev with Hopkins’ track record of beating the seemingly unbeatable (i.e. Pavlik and Cloud).

I don’t want to take her words out of context, but I would just use them as general advice.

You can’t be afraid to demand stricter drug testing because you could potentially lose out on the big fight. You have to do whatever it takes in this era of boxing to make sure that fights of this magnitude are fought on even playing fields.

Duva went on to say that the job of stricter testing policies should be left to the commissions.

“Personally, I believe it is the commission’s job to regulate. I don’t know if either side is going to demand it. I think the commissions have to take a lead in that, and I don’t necessarily believe it is up to boxing promoters to regulate it.

“My personal opinion is that we (boxing promoters) are not qualified to do anything, I’ve seen where other promoters have done it, and then look, there’re situations where they agree to do it and the testing doesn’t even get done,” Duva said.

She’s right, again. Duva is a very intelligent individual, but I don’t believe she believes commissions are solely responsible for stricter testing.

The truth, in my opinion, is she knows the right thing to do is to have stricter testing for every big fight in boxing today. Maybe that is a bit of conjecture on my part, but I know how smart she is, I know she loves the sport and her passions for it lead me to believe she would be the biggest activist for VADA/USADA becoming a permanent fixture in the boxing landscape.

So, why would she say this? I think she knows how lucky her team was that Hopkins took the fight, she expressed that gratitude by dropping her lawsuit against Haymon, Golden Boy, and Stevenson’s team only days after landing the Hopkins fight. In fact, in response to a question about the lawsuit during her post-fight address she stated “we got what we wanted.”

I want to make it clear that I’m not accusing anyone of being on anything. But a fight of this magnitude needs some sort of outside testing. I’m not even taking it into account that Hopkins is competing at such a high level at age 49, and I’m not putting any extra emphasis on the fact that Kovalev hits like a mule kicks.

My point is simple, the bigger the fights the bigger the responsibility for all parties involved to police the realities of PEDs. And this fight is BIG.

The responsibility to demand further drug testing won’t fall on Kovalev because he isn’t going to make any demands, he’s just happy he got an invitation to the party and the last thing he’s going to do is ask for the vegetarian plate.

“Yes, I’m surprised he took the fight. It’s a dream for me [to fight Hopkins]. We’ll talk with my team, I just want the boxing to be fair, 100%,” Kovalev said in response to a question on whether he’d want or ask for any further testing.

You’d think, or at least hope, that Hopkins would want the power puncher to take the tests, but it isn’t clear quite yet. In fact, you’d hope that Hopkins would be proactive in stricter testing and use his star power to influence the boxing climate, and not just in his fights but in boxing period.

Maybe the truth is the issue just hasn’t been brought up yet and each side has full intentions of making VADA or USADA a necessary attachment to the fight.

However, VADA has told Thaboxingvoice.com that they have not been contacted by either Golden Boy or Main Events as of yet, but Golden Boy usually works with USADA so that isn’t a surprise.

I hope this entire blog has been a practice in futility, I hope that my suspicions are countered in the next few days and secondary testing is revealed. I hope for all of the same reasons that I hope every fight is eventually VADA/USADA mandated. I hope because when two spectacular fighters get together something spectacular is capable of happening and if it happens in the Hopkins-Kovalev fight then I would hate for a cloud to hang over a potentially great moment in the sport’s history.

Updated:

Annie Skinner of USADA stated that, “As of yet, we have not been contacted to test a fight between Mr. Kopkins or Mr. Kovalev. If that changes, we will let you know.”

Emails and phone calls were made to Golden BoyPromotions but never returned.