The CEO of Main events, Kathy Duva, is heading into a promising year for her promotional company as she has one of boxing’s most talked about stars in WBA/WBO/IBF light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev. Besides promoting Kovalev, Main Events has a great stable of fighters including Steve Cunningham, undefeated contenders Vyacheslav Glazkov & Karl Dargan, and also middleweight contender Curtis Stevens. The company looks to move forward in 2015, even though a key network TV outlet NBC Sports chose a different promotional direction in the new year.
In part 2 of my interview with Kathy Duva, I discuss with her the success Main Events had in bringing boxing back to network television, and her thoughts on the direction NBC decided to go. I also get Duva’s views on the on going Mayweather-Pacquiao fight discussions, and if she thinks those companies will be able to overcome their differences and make the fight. Additionally Duva gives her views on why she thinks Floyd Mayweather had concerns about Manny Pacquiao and also who she would ultimately pick to win that fight. Here is what Kathy Duva had to say.
Robert Brown: You guys at Main Events brought boxing back to free television, which was a great thing for the sport. Can you tell use how that came about and how you feel about the incredible achievement?
Kathy Duva: I had been in touch with my friends at NBC forever, we worked with them back when my husband was alive and there came a point when NBC acquired a cable sports station and we approached them again and said, “You really should be thinking about this.” Fortunately they agreed and we put together a nice program and we did about twenty two shows over the last three years with NBC and NBC Sports network.
Tomasz Adamek fought on NBC Sports many times, we had Joseph Parker, we brought Tyson Fury over. We did our best to try to showcase people from all over the world and primarily in the heavier weight classes, which were really not getting a lot of attention here in the US when we started.
We’ve seen a shift to the point where now heavyweight fights are starting to become interesting. The light heavyweights, I think we had a lot to do with reigniting that division and certainly bringing Sergey Kovalev up through that series had a lot to do with it.
We’ve proven here at Main Events time and again that when we get the platform, we can keep developing talent and making stars. Unfortunately boxing being what it is, someone came along and bought all the dates from NBC for next year going forward, so we don’t have that series anymore. But we’re taking the talents that we developed on that series up to that HBO platform now.
We formed a good relationship with HBO again and that’s hopefully gonna be our next chapter. Everything is an evolution and things keep changing and we keep changing with it and that’s been the story of our companies existence and I suppose it’s always gonna be our story. We’re just gonna keep developing talent, what we like to do.
Robert Brown: Even though that spot has been taken away from you, do you feel proud that you created a platform that someone is willing to come along and take?
Kathy Duva: Yeah we convinced NBC that boxing should be a major sport on their network. If he doesn’t blow it, if he doesn’t ruin it, then other networks will want boxing and maybe that creates more opportunities for everyone, so let’s hope so. It’s happening, the deal is made and it appears to be going forward.
As I said, we will go on our way and do what we do best and keep building the careers of a select few people that we choose to work with. It is what it is, and we’re very proud of what we did.
Robert Brown: Whenever a fight doesn’t get made, the promoter always seems to get blamed. How many times have you ever said to a fighter not to fight another fighter? I want to clear up some misconceptions that boxing fans tend to have about promoters.
Kathy Duva: Yeah there are some people that you can sit down with and make a deal. Frankly, I’ve sat down and made big deals with Don King, and there’s very few people in this world that more difficult to deal with, but we’ve done it. I’ve made deals with Bob Arum, I’ve made deals recently with Oscar De La Hoya and with Jean Bedard up in Canada where we just made the Pascal fight.
If people want to get a deal done, they’ll get it done. If a fighter wants to fight somebody, the fight should get made. If you’re the promoter, you’re working for them essentially. I can think of times in our companies history where we’ve had cases where a fighter took fights too early in their career and I tried to talk them out of it, but at the end this is what they wanted and ultimately it’s their career. You can guide them and give them your advice but in the end, it’s their career, it’s their decision.
It’s hard for me as a promoter to make a deal if the other side is throwing so many roadblocks that you can’t negotiate with. If you can build a consensus and walk into a room and understand when you make a deal with somebody, everybody doesn’t get everything they want. People have to compromise; people have to make concessions to each other.
If somebody goes into a room demanding all the money and all the power and all the control, then you don’t want to make a deal, and you must have a reason. When I see someone that has that attitude, I walk away. There are enough people in the sport who recognize that if you don’t make a big fight, you can’t make money. Those who think they can make money without making big fights, God bless them, I’m interested to see how they’re gonna do that.
Robert Brown: The Pacquiao-Mayweather fight seems closer to happening now than in previous years. Do you think they will be able to overcome all the road blocks and see it happen in 2015?
Kathy Duva: I really don’t know. I know that in the past we were involved with some of those issues, when Mike Tyson fought Lennox Lewis and Main Events had Lewis and Tyson had a contract with Showtime and Lewis had a contract with HBO. We worked together with HBO and Showtime and we were the promoters of that fight, we made that fight happen.
My company has been involved in making mega fights in the past; Leonard vs. Hearns, the Holyfield-Bowe trilogy, the Gatti-Ward trilogy, on and on. What I learned from my husband was that if two people want to sit down and want to make a deal when that kind of money is on the table, it should be possible to do if you check your ego and just go in there and make the deal.
Somebody there doesn’t want to make the deal, I can’t tell you who it is because I’m not in the room but I do know that every time a fight doesn’t happen, the same guy seems to be lurking in the background. It’s a hell of a coincidence.
Why did Stevenson vs. Kovalev not happen last year? I don’t have a problem making fights, I got the Hopkins fight done, I got the Pascal fight done. I got no problem making fights. It’s the people that don’t make fights that make their own problems.
Robert Brown: Do you think Mayweather has a legitimate concern of Pacquiao with PED’s or was that more smoke and mirrors to make the negotiations more difficult?
Kathy Duva: I think that became an issue years ago. I think in one instance when the fight was being discussed it was an issue. Since then, probably the last four or five years from what I’ve read, Pacquiao has agreed to take all the tests. I don’t understand why it’s still an issue now.
Robert Brown: If the fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao does happen, who do you think would win?
Kathy Duva: I don’t know. I don’t know if the fight means as much now as it would have years ago, but like every other boxing fan, of course I’d love to see it. The fact that I can say “I don’t know” means that that’s the only fight I can say that about involving Floyd Mayweather. I can’t think of anybody else he could legitimately fight at his weight that I can say that about, he beats everybody else. That’s what makes it interesting.