Sergey Kovalev defends his WBO light heavyweight title on Saturday in Russia against Anthony Yarde. That fight is still days away, but there's already talk about what could be next for Kovalev: a showdown with middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez.
After spending most of the summer trying to make a Kovalev-Alvarez fight happen in 2019, Golden Boy, Canelo's promoter, and Main Events, which promotes Kovalev, were unable to strike a deal in time for Kovalev to bypass this fight. Alvarez is scheduled to return to action on Nov. 2.
"I think if we'd been able to make other arrangements in Russia, if we hadn't been so fully committed to that, we could've gotten it done," said Kathy Duva, the promoter and CEO of Main Events.
Duva told ESPN that by the time the conversation turned serious the first time, money had already been put into escrow for Kovalev-Yarde, and tickets for the fight had already gone on sale.
Still, all of that conversation might not be for naught if it simplifies the fight-making process the second time around.
''It's hard to say because we cut off negotiations where we did," Duva said of making Kovalev-Alvarez on Nov. 2. "I think we were close then. Unless their attitude has changed, I think we should be in good shape. But first we've got to get through this fight and win. That's all I'm thinking about right now because I don't want to jinx it.''
Golden Boy Promotions recently announced that Canelo would be bypassing his customary mid-September date to focus on securing a suitable opponent for later in the fall. It was no secret that Kovalev was one of the main reasons for targeting that later date.
Just how high is Kovalev on the list for Canelo at this point?
"He's one of the names being considered," said Eric Gomez, the president of Golden Boy. "We're working on different ideas. He's not the only one. There's other [names] we're working on as well. Canelo does want to fight by the end of the year, and we're working on that."
Whom Canelo is asking to fight is a central issue for Golden Boy, Canelo and DAZN. The streaming platform signed the Mexican star to a ballyhooed deal that will pay him in excess of $360 million for 11 fights. Canelo has faced Rocky Fielding and Daniel Jacobs in his first two fights of the contract.
Last week, Joe Markowski, the executive vice president of North America for DAZN, met with Golden Boy officials, and the list of approved opponents for Alvarez was expanded.
"I think it's no secret that [Kovalev] is someone we'd like to see Canelo fight. I think Canelo would like to fight him at some point. Whether or not that's possible in November, it's to be determined. He's got a fight this weekend," Markowski said. "We've got a number of names that we're speaking to. He is one."
Markowski said that an announcement of Alvarez's next opponent could come shortly. With the need to get the promotional and marketing machine rolling for an event featuring their biggest client, time is of the essence.
"The sooner we know, the better," Markowski said.
On the other side, Golden Boy remains steadfast in its offers and negotiations with other fighters.
"The first person to take the deal that we're offering, that's the person we're going to go with," Gomez said.
Should Kovalev retain his title, there's little doubt that he would accept the assignment, which would come with a career-high payday.
"He doesn't just accept the challenge. He jumps at a challenge,'' Duva said. "All he wants to do is be in the biggest fights he can be in -- and that's the biggest fight he can be in."