Barring a stunning upset Saturday night, the extended HBO blackout of fighters connected to Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions is due to end in the fall.
And with that, De La Hoya’s star fighter, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, could very well be back on the pay-per-view arm of the premium network by the first half of next year.
In a deal first reported by SI.com, World Boxing Organization light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev will fight World Boxing Assn. and International Boxing Federation champion Bernard Hopkins of Golden Boy in early November, either in Atlantic City or New York.
Kovalev-Hopkins becomes official should Kovalev (24-0-1, 22 knockouts) win as expected on HBO on Saturday night in Atlantic City versus Blake Caparello.
HBO last aired a Golden Boy fight in March 2013, when Hopkins beat Tavoris Cloud.
Days later, HBO Sports President Ken Hershman delivered a statement effectively halting future business with Golden Boy, whose fighters under then-Golden Boy Chief Executive Richard Schaefer were migrating to Showtime, whose sports broadcasting operation is run by former Golden Boy attorney Stephen Espinoza.
Many of those fighters who fled to Showtime – including the sport’s top pay-per-view draw, Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- are managed by Al Haymon, a strong Schaefer contact whose recent connection to another light-heavyweight champion, Adonis Stevenson, was followed by Stevenson’s move from HBO to Showtime.
In May, Stevenson scored a unanimous decision over Andrzej Fonfara in Montreal, with Showtime paying an eyebrow-raising $1.8 million license fee for the non-descript World Boxing Council title fight.
That outsized purse, many boxing insiders believe, was intended to sway Stevenson to leave HBO for an even richer fall date against Hopkins. Stevenson bypassed a bout with Kovalev targeted for HBO that had been in negotiation.
The Haymon-Stevenson union prompted Kovalev promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events to sue Haymon, Stevenson’s Canadian promoter, Schaefer and Golden Boy.
Then came Friday’s surprise twist.
Hopkins (55-6-2) was confronted with a Friday deadline by the IBF to either fight a unification bout, accept a mandatory bout against top-ranked contender Nadjib Mohammedi, or get stripped of his belt.
Kovalev promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events negotiated with Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez, according to the SI.com report, with both fighters signing a deal that has been delivered to the IBF.
As part of the deal, Duva has dropped Golden Boy from her lawsuit, but not Schaefer or Haymon.
“Stevenson can now spend the fall pounding sand,” said Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, long a bitter rival of Schaefer and Haymon. “It’s clear what network will now be showing the best fights.”
The latter part of that statement might be wishful thinking by Arum, whose stars, including Manny Pacquiao, fight on HBO. Showtime still possesses Mayweather, Alvarez and others such as unbeaten light-welterweight champion Danny Garcia.
Yet, the fact HBO and De La Hoya are back in business together is significant.
"I'm puzzled that Bernard seems to have taken the less lucrative offer," Espinoza said by phone Friday. " We've had a good relationship with Bernard and I wish him the best."
Of Alvarez, he said, "Canelo and Bernard are totally different situations. Canelo is very special to us and we look forward to a long relationship with him."
Hopkins will get $2 million, but might be leaving extra Canadian television and live gate money on the table that a Stevenson bout promised.
“HBO and Golden Boy have reconnected. We’re talking to Oscar De La Hoya again. And we have a fight,” an HBO official close to the situation but unauthorized to speak publicly said Friday.
Meanwhile, Alvarez, who beat Cuba’s Erislandy Lara by split decision July 12 on a Showtime pay-per-view broadcast that generated in excess of 300,000 buys, is believed to be destined for a late 2014 bout on Showtime against someone like heavy-punching James Kirkland.
After that, Alvarez has said he wants to fight in May and September in 2015, like Mayweather, and a pay-per-view bout on HBO is gaining traction.
Alvarez’s possible Cinco de Mayo 2015 foe could be Miguel Cotto, who fought in June.
That fight was televised by HBO pay-per-view.