Sergey Kovalev is gearing up to face Anthony Yarde this weekend in a defense of his WBO light heavyweight title on ESPN+. But Kovalev claims he could have been standing across the ring from a much bigger-name opponent in October instead.
During a pre-fight press conference on Wednesday for the upcoming defense against Yarde, Kovalev (33-3-1, 38 KOs) said he had an eight-figure deal to fight Canelo Alvarez in place for Oct. 26, but instead decided it was time to fight at home. Kovalev vs. Yarde (18-0, 17 KOs) takes place at Traktor Sport Palace in Chelyabinsk, Russia on Saturday.
Respect box? Subscribe to my podcast -- State of Combat with Brian Campbell -- where we take an in-depth look at the world of boxing each week.
"Yes, we did have an offer," Kovalev said. "I have to say that the tickets were already on sale. Official agreements were already made. It was just three weeks before the fight. And the offer was indeed a big one, a substantial one. But you never do it like that, because I have to be here. This is my home and this is not what I do. Everything was already agreed. My primary task is to defend the title. If the fight will still be very interesting for Canelo, OK."
According to BoxingScene, Kovalev's manager, Egis Klimas, said the fight with Canelo will instead happen in November or December. If Kovalev gets past Yarde, of course.
Kovalev was stunned last August when he was stopped by Eleider Alvarez in the seventh round of their fight for Kovalev's WBO and IBA light heavyweight belts. The Russian slugger was able to gain a measure of revenge in February, scoring a decision win over Alvarez in the rematch to regain the WBO title.
Canelo seemed to be on track to face Sergiy Derevyanchenko before negotiations collapsed, leaving Derevyanchenko to face Gennady Golovkin on Oct. 5.
With a third fight against Golovkin unlikely this year, Kovalev remains Canelo's most attractive available option to close out 2019.