Unless there is a last-ditch effort to salvage negotiations for a fight between light heavyweight world titlist Sergey Kovalev and middleweight world champion Canelo Alvarez, Kovalev will move on to an Aug. 24 mandatory defense against Anthony Yarde, Main Events promoter Kathy Duva, who represents Kovalev, told ESPN on Friday.
With Alvarez slated to return to the ring on Sept. 14 -- the weekend of Mexican Independence Day that he usually fights on -- but not interested in a third fight with former middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin for this fall, promoter Golden Boy offered Kovalev the fight and the sides have been negotiating for the past two weeks.
Alvarez is willing to move up two weight divisions -- without asking for a catchweight to force Kovalev below the division limit of 175 pounds -- to take on the biggest name in the light heavyweight division. The sides are apart on money but continue to talk.
Duva said the deal for the fight between Kovalev and Yarde is made, but "I'm still getting calls from Golden Boy." Duva said she had spoken to Golden Boy on Friday.
"At this point we're planning to go to Russia to fight unless something happens to change that, but the longer this drags out the less likely the fight with Canelo is likely to happen, even though I am told Canelo really wants the fight," Duva said.
The fight would give Alvarez, boxing's biggest star, an opportunity to win a world title in his fourth weight division, having already won titles at junior middleweight, middleweight and a secondary belt at super middleweight.
Duva said Golden Boy's first offer on July 1 was $4 million, which was raised to $6 million on Monday. She said there would also be a rematch clause in place if Alvarez lost, for which Kovalev was offered $10 million.
Because Daniel Jacobs received in excess of $12 million to fight Alvarez in a middleweight title unification fight on May 4, and because Kovalev is better known than Jacobs and would give Alvarez a chance to win a belt in a heavier division, the Kovalev side believes an eight-figure offer is reasonable.
Duva may have a bit more leverage also because, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, DAZN, the sports streaming service that has Alvarez and Golovkin under exclusive contract, has only approved Golovkin and Kovalev as Alvarez's fall opponent at this point.
In an effort to raise more money for the fight, Duva has also talked to Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn about signing Kovalev to a co-promotional deal. That would allow him to use funds from his DAZN output deal to increase the money to the Kovalev side, either with money for the fight with Alvarez or a series of seven-figure comeback fights in the event he were to lose to Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs), 28, of Mexico.
Duva also said another reason for playing hardball on the money is the number of entities that would get a piece of the pie on a Kovalev-Alvarez fight.
Top Rank, which has options on Kovalev, would have to be compensated, as would Yarde and Yarde promoter Frank Warren to step aside and delay the mandatory fight that is due. So would Russian promoter RCC, which is putting up the money to bring Kovalev-Yarde to Chelyabinsk, Russia, where Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 KOs), 36, who lives in Los Angeles, grew up.
"Every time we get deeper into the mandatory, you're raising expenses to get rid of the mandatory to pay everybody to step aside so we can do the Canelo fight," Duva said. "Every day that passes that becomes harder. This has been explained to Golden Boy. The money they are offering is not enough when you figure the money going to other people. I told them from the start.
"My impression is that Canelo wants the fight and his promoter doesn't. It's been, 'We'll let you know, we need to talk to Canelo.' I think they were waiting for us to commit to the mandatory so they could say to Canelo, 'Hey, we offered them the fight but we can't make it.'"
Duva said Golden Boy president Eric Gomez, who she has been negotiating with, only briefly asked about a catchweight for the bout but when she said no, Gomez did not press the issue. Duva said Gomez also asked about Kovalev's willingness to do a weight check on the morning of the fight, which she said would not be an issue.
"This would have been a very easy deal to make in a pay-per-view world instead of the DAZN streaming world because we would have just agreed to a percentage split because we believe in the event," Duva said. "Outside of Golovkin, this is the biggest fight Canelo could plausibly fight right now. They know it."
Gomez declined to comment to ESPN on the negotiations.
Adding to the pressure to come to a resolution was the Yarde camp's announcement on Friday that the fight with Kovalev was finalized. Warren, perhaps prematurely, announced the fight despite the ongoing talks between Duva and Golden Boy. It is highly unusual for the promoter of the challenger, who is not the lead promoter of the event, to announce a fight.
But Warren did it anyway in a release that included no comments from the Kovalev camp.
Nonetheless, Yarde (18-0, 17 KOs), 27, of England, said he was excited for what would be his first shot at a world title.
"This is my time now and I am going to show the world what I am all about," Yarde said. "Waiting for my time to come around could have been a frustration but we turned it into a positive and I am even more ready to seize the moment. Everything has fallen perfectly into place for me, this will be my coronation as world champion and I am going to realize my dream by beating the most decorated of the current world titleholders."