Fears Butcher's world title shot could get chop
Robbie Berridge's backers are concerned the Kiwi's boxer's light-heavyweight world title hopes could be undermined by his arch enemy from Australia.
Duco Events have been in positive talks with the management of WBO champion Sergey Kovalev about a title fight that could happen as soon as August in the United States.
Berridge, dubbed The Butcher, is ranked No 10 by the WBO and also has a 13th ranking with the WBA to back up his credentials from a 25 fight career that has 23 wins (19 by KO), one loss and one draw.
The solitary loss was to Aussie Blake Caparello in Melbourne in 2012, a fight Berridge took on three week's notice and couldn't convince the judges over 10 rounds with Caparello claiming a unanimous decision.
It seems Caparello's management are playing up on that win and pointing out its significance in his unbeaten 20-fight career to HBO, the likely broadcasters for Kovalev's next title fight.
Caparello isn't ranked by WBO or the other three major organisations - the WBA, IBF and WBC - though he does hold the IBO belt and sits at No 8 on their computerised top 100 rankings, five places above Berridge.
Duco have been dealing with Main Events, Kovalev's backers run by the legendary Duva family.
"The Duvas seem like good people. I get the feel from discussions that they are more than happy with Rob's credentials as a challenger," Duco's David Higgins said.
"There have been discussions lately about a possible title fight, those discussion are ongoing.
"But we got wind of Caparello trying to muscle in on that."
Higgins feels it will come down to the broadcaster and the Duvas working out what is going to be best as a fight for Kovalev and as a spectacle for fans. But Higgins believes a process should be followed.
"Berridge has been plying his trade the tried and true way, the hard way which is fight after fight to work your way through the rankings," Higgins said.
"If they went with Caparello it would put a question mark over that process of getting into the rankings . . . it basically makes a mockery of the hard work the other blokes have done. It will be fascinating to see what unfolds.
"At the end of the day Berridge has a great chin and is an exciting fighter. If HBO has a say on the matter I'd like to think they see that Berridge has a credible record, he's entertaining and he's done the hard work and he's ranked. It would be a great fight to watch. That may see us through."
Higgins is philosophical: "If Rob doesn't fight for a title this year, it will be next year."
Berridge's manager, Vasco Kovacevic, was more forthright.
"Caparello is boring. He's only knocked out two opponents in the last three years and he's fought 11 times," he said.
"Rob's been knocking out people left, right and centre. He's currently tanked No 10 in the WBO and it's no surprise Kovalev is interested in him."
The two trans-Tasman rivals share a common opponent from the last year, both having fought Kiwi Daniel McKinnon. Caparello won a majority decision over 12 rounds last July. Four months later Berridge ended McKinnon's career, sending him to hospital with a 10th round TKO to finish a bloody battle in Hamilton.
The WBO didn't respond to a request from the Sunday News to get clarification over the process of sorting out the challenger for Kovalev, a 31-year-old Russian who has knocked out 22 of his 25 opponents with 24 wins and a draw.
Duco will need to see the matter resolved quickly. They have Berridge, who controversially pulled out of Inga Tuigamala's recent promotion with a hand injury, pencilled in to fight on the undercard to Joseph Parker's heavyweight clash with American Brian Minto in South Auckland on July 5.
If a world title fight was confirmed, Berridge would likely miss the Parker night to avoid any risks and concentrate on his preparations.