Hopkins sells Adamek and fans short

Bernard Hopkins

When I was in Houston last month to cover the Juan Manuel MarquezJuan Diaz lightweight championship fight, Bernard Hopkins, there in his role with Golden Boy Promotions, pulled me aside. He wanted to talk about his desire to move up to cruiserweight and challenge champion Tomasz Adamek.

It sounded like the perfect fight for both men, and several times during the few days we were in Houston, Hopkins and I talked about the fight. He seemed really into it. He was animated and anxious for Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer to return from an overseas trip so that he could contact Adamek promoter Main Events to negotiate the bout.

“Adamek is definitely a threat. He has ability and he’s world champion,” Hopkins told me in Houston. “It would be a big challenge. I’ve never fought that heavy [200-pound division limit], so there’s a risk. This is a junior heavyweight fight. I can’t ever match up with Wladimir Klitschko, so this would be my fantasy fight. This is the closest I’d get to a heavyweight championship fight.

“It would be Adamek’s biggest purse. I think things could be worked out. I know what is going on with the economy. I see this as an HBO fight, but we could make this a big event, a great East Coast fight. He has a good fan base. So do I. It’s a perfect fight for both of us.”

A week later, Hopkins co-hosted ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” and reiterated his desire for the bout to Brian Kenny. Adamek and his team were also very interested in a fight that would be the biggest fight either boxer could make.

Sadly, however, the fight is dead.

Schaefer and Main Events owner Kathy Duva told me the fight, which they were talking about for July 11 on HBO at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., died Tuesday because negotiations were so far apart that it made no sense to continue discussions.

(One quick note: Although HBO was prepared to pay $3 million-plus for the fight — this, according to Duva but denied by Schaefer — July 11 wasn’t set in stone because HBO had not officially made it available. The network, like everyone else, is waiting for the near-certain return of Floyd Mayweather Jr., who may want to fight live on HBO on that date. That said, despite HBO’s offer, I never got the feeling the network had its heart in the fight.)

In any case, it’s unfortunate that we won’t see Adamek-Hopkins, because it was a really interesting fight. Based on the ample feedback I’ve received from readers, many of you also thought it was a really good fight.

It figured be good in the ring because Adamek is never in a bad fight. The idea was to hold the match in Newark, N.J., where Adamek is a big draw in the Polish community and which isn’t far from Hopkins’ hometown of Philadelphia, so there would have been a terrific atmosphere. The fight also had important historical implications because a Hopkins win would give him a legitimate championship in a third division at age 44, and because an Adamek win would give him a huge name on his résumé and likely send Hopkins into a second (and probably permanent) retirement.

Now it’s down the drain. From where I sit, and with no dog in the fight, the blame falls squarely on Golden Boy and Hopkins.

When I spoke to Duva on Wednesday morning, she told me that the deal came down to this: Golden Boy offered a mere $500,000 flat fee (which is ridiculous) to buy Adamek’s services, meaning Adamek and Main Events would each be paid out of that fee while Golden Boy and Hopkins would keep the rest of the revenue. Duva said she and Schaefer estimated the fight would net between $4 million and $4.5 million.

Main Events expected to co-promote the bout and to split the money on a percentage basis, which it would negotiate. Duva said she asked for a 60-40 split in Adamek’s favor, although she said that she was willing to work with Schaefer on the split.

To me, a percentage split was the only way to make a fight like this, one in which both fighters bring something significant to the table. Maybe they would have been able to make a percentage deal, maybe not. But for Hopkins to insist on paying Main Events $500,000 without recognizing Adamek’s obvious value makes it seem he was just taking Adamek and Main Events for suckers. According to Duva, Main Events and Adamek split more than $500,000 for his defense in Newark last month, an eighth-round knockout against the relatively unknown Jonathan Banks. Obviously, a fight with Hopkins would generate way, way more money. Adamek and Main Events certainly should share in it.

Duva said Golden Boy wouldn’t even consider a percentage deal, instead wanting to treat her side merely as an expense without regard for Adamek’s value to the fight. While Hopkins brings his famous name and HBO money to the table, Adamek also brings a lot. He brings the title, which Hopkins wants. He brings significant foreign television money. And he brings a substantial gate because of the crowd he attracts to the Prudential Center, a venue solely developed by Main Events. A fight with Hopkins would probably generate a gate in excess of $1 million.

“The only offer they made was to give us $500,000,” Duva said. “I didn’t even take that seriously. They wanted all the control even though they were going for the champion, the guy who sells all the tickets and the guy who isn’t 44. We weren’t going to do the fight in a casino. We were talking about going to Newark, a market we built. We’re not going to a casino for a site fee. Those tickets don’t just sell themselves. My people get out there and work really hard to sell the tickets. We’re not just going to turn over our market to Golden Boy and take a seat at the fight.”

When I asked Duva if she thought Golden Boy was treating Main Events and Adamek like chumps with their offer, she said, “Either that, or they didn’t really want to make the fight.”

Duva said she was surprised by Golden Boy’s unwillingness to come off the weak flat-fee offer.

“Richard told me that Hopkins said if you want to have a split, we can’t do the fight,” Duva said. “It’s astonishing. Either Richard doesn’t want to make the fight or Hopkins is out to lunch on his expectations. Half a million is silly. Tomasz generates that on his own against regular opponents. I told Richard come up with what you think is an equitable split or tell me what Hopkins wants and we’ll buy you out.”

Duva said she approached the negotiations with an open mind even though she hasn’t always been happy with the way Golden Boy does business. She said when her fighter Joel “Love Child” Julio fought Golden Boy’s James Kirkland on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” on March 7, the only way she could get the fight made was to give up options on Julio, an almost unheard-of practice in a nontitle fight or a fight in which neither boxer is a substantial economic force.

“That’s what it has come to. That’s how powerful they are,” Duva said. “Everybody has to do that, or they don’t get on ‘Boxing After Dark’ anymore, since Golden Boy has most of the dates. I had to bite the bullet and give them the options or I couldn’t get Julio the fight. So I did it. Maybe that’s why they thought I was a chump when we were talking about [Adamek-Hopkins]. What I think is that Bernard thought HBO would pay, like, $6 million for the fight, which wasn’t going to happen.”

Duva said she would have no trouble lining something else up for Adamek. She said she’s talking to Showtime and also has lucrative options in Poland.

Schaefer stuck to his guns on the offer, saying he believed that Adamek and Main Events should have jumped at the opportunity to fight “a 44-year-old legend.”

“I think we have a different philosophy,” Schaefer said. “If you have a fighter gaining momentum like Adamek and you have the opportunity to fight a 44-year-old legend, you should jump at it. If not, go on and keep fighting the Bankses of the world. I respect their decision, I respect Adamek and Kathy. No animosity. It just didn’t work out. Bernard, he feels this is the deal he wants to do, then so be it. At this point of Bernard’s career, if he can’t get the deal he wants, he just won’t fight.”

I couldn’t disagree with Schaefer more. When there are millions on the table and Adamek is responsible for generating so much of it, he deserves to share in the payoff. The opportunity to fight someone of Hopkins’ stature is not enough on its own without a legitimate financial gain.

Schaefer didn’t sound too disappointed that the fight won’t happen.

“I felt like the way Bernard dominated Kelly Pavlik put the exclamation [point] on his career,” he said. “The Bernard Hopkins masterpiece painting is finished, as far as I am concerned. A fight with Adamek would just be like changing around the frame. But if that fight doesn’t happen and the painting is going to stay the way it is, I love that masterpiece.”

Maybe Hopkins will fight again. (Please, no Roy Jones rematch talk. That ship sailed a long time ago.) Maybe he won’t. But he had his chance at making more history by fighting Adamek.

Hopkins blew it because he was greedy and tried to take advantage of Adamek, much in the same manner that Hopkins has always railed against his past promoters for trying to take advantage of him before he finally made it big.

Next time Hopkins is watching a fight, maybe he should think about that.

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