Stephen Espinoza, Executive V.P. of Showtime Sports, doesn’t disagree, telling Maxboxing late last week, “In the general sense, look, there’s no denying that the excitement and the atmosphere of having two big fights in Las Vegas on the same night generated some combination which may have elevated those two events to even greater heights. However, I think that’s the exception. I can say with virtual certainty that our rating would have been much higher if we hadn’t have divided the audience and I would probably speculate that the pay-per-view total for the other fight would’ve been higher, absent our fight. So in the long run, the gate did very well. There was a sense of excitement with two big fights in the city and it really created a level of excitement you rarely see in Vegas.
“But in the long run, it’s not something I would like to replicate again.”
(Ken Hershman, President of HBO Sports, declined to be interviewed for this story.)
No question, with the animosity that exists between the two promotional rivals, it will happen many more times (especially regarding key pay-per-view slots). Some have stated that competition is a good thing and, ultimately, it will benefit the consumer. No argument there but there is a fine line between good ol’ fashioned competition and undercutting. Competition (in the form of putting on the very best fights) will elevate the business. Undercutting (in the form of deliberate counter-programming) will only undermine it in the long run. Yes, other sports have events that are scheduled to go on the same days but the big difference is that leagues like the NFL have sizable fan support for each of their 32 franchises. In the States, you can probably count on less than two hands, boxers who are real draws.
And the real problem isn’t necessarily that the two companies are staging events on the same day (sometimes it’s inevitable). The real problem is that if you want to see the winner of the October 13th show on HBO between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado (who are both under the Top Rank banner) get it on with Lucas Matthysse (who is promoted by Golden Boy), right now, those discussions are a non-starter, as are many other attractive bouts.
Right now, fans are getting the best fights that Top Rank and Golden Boy can make within their own promotional stables but not necessarily the best bouts that can be made, period. It’s boxing’s version of intramurals.
Nobody can make these two entities like each other. Let’s face it; they are the Hatfields and McCoys of boxing with a lot of personal history between them. But you wonder if the networks are doing enough to enforce their leverage to at least having them breaking bread when need be. The reality is that when it comes to fights televised on the two premium cable networks, their license fees largely fund these promotions. It’s on their dime. So in theory, they have a lot of say in terms of what goes up on their airwaves. Admittedly, both Top Rank and Golden Boy are putting on some really good looking match-ups to finish out 2012 but you wonder; while we’re getting the best fights Top Rank and Golden Boy can make (such as Nonito Donaire versus Toshiaki Nishioka and Abner Mares against Anselmo Moreno), will we ever get the “Filipino Flash” - should he come out victorious versus the respected Japanese southpaw - squaring off with the winner of Mares-Moreno?
Right now, the answer is a resounding no.
Because what we have in large part our two separate leagues of boxing on two networks. Looking at the rest of the schedule on HBO and Showtime from October till the end of the year, Top Rank has three shows (including the pay-per-view card on December 8th between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez) all under the HBO umbrella with none on Showtime. Golden Boy, right now, has four shows at the premium cable level and only one (the November 17th date featuring Adrien Broner) is on HBO. The rest of their content is on Showtime, which has been the recent trend.
So are the networks now enabling this divide between Top Rank and Golden Boy? Are they now part of the problem? And how do they become part of the solution?
Espinoza says,” My role is to continue to pressure them and push for the big fights. I think one example is Mares-Donaire, which is something I’ve been pushing both sides for since April and it’s a case of bringing a horse to water in this case but, ultimately, especially when the mistrust is so great in the track record of slights and perceived slights is so long, at some point, all the network TV pressure in the world can’t make two parties come to an agreement if they don’t want to. There’s a general consensus that if the networks just continue to pressure these guys, they’ll get in business. That’s simply not true.”
What happened two weekends ago could be looked upon as a good thing. On the flipside, you could look at it as something that is the impetus for more competing cards. It’s similar to what the NFL is going through. For all the gnashing of teeth over the replacement referees, as long as the public interest doesn’t wane, does the league really have any reason to come to the table with the regular officials? And as long as Top Rank and Golden Boy can sustain their business models without having to work with each other, why would they?
Perhaps they really don’t need to; and more than that, maybe they really don’t want to.
“I can encourage them and I will,” said Espinoza, “but ultimately, the fundamental right of every businessman is to choose who he does business with.”
Ok, so who’s been getting the dates on HBO and Showtime in 2012? Well, let’s take a look (and for this, I only included “World Championship Boxing,” “Boxing After Dark” and Showtime’s “Championship Boxing” telecasts).
- February 18th (Goossen Tutor/Don King): Paul Williams vs. Nobu Ishida, Tavoris Cloud vs. Gabriel Campillo
- March 10th (Top Rank): Orlando Salido vs. Juan Manuel Lopez II
- April 21st (Golden Boy): Abner Mares vs. Eric Morel
- June 1st (Golden Boy): Quadruple-header from Home Depot Center
- June 23rd (Golden Boy): Josesito Lopez vs. Victor Ortiz
- July 28th (Golden Boy): Robert Guerrero vs. Selcuk Aydin
- Sept 8th (Golden Boy): Lucas Matthysse vs. Ajose Olusegun
- Sept 15th (Golden Boy): Saul Alvarez vs. Josesito Lopez
- Oct. 20th (Golden Boy): Quadruple-header from the Barclays Center
- Nov. 10th (Golden Boy): Abner Mares vs. Anselmo Moreno
- Dec. 1st (Golden Boy): Miguel Cotto vs. Austin Trout
So that’s 11 total broadcasts (and nothing else has been scheduled yet for Showtime) but the breakdown shows that nine of them have been with Golden Boy, one with Top Rank and a card that was co-promoted by Goossen Tutor and Don King. This does not include the telecast that was to have featured the bout between Cloud and Jean Pascal that was originally scheduled for August and then scrapped as Pascal suffered a training injury.
The last nine cards were under the auspices of Golden Boy.
- Feb. 4th (Top Rank): Julio Cesar Chavez Jr./Nonito Donaire
- Feb 25th (Golden Boy): Devon Alexander vs. Marcos Maidana
- March 17th (DiBella): Sergio Martinez vs. Matthew Macklin
- March 24th (Golden Boy): Danny Garcia vs. Erik Morales
- April 28th (Golden Boy): Chad Dawson vs. Bernard Hopkins II
- June 16th (Top Rank): Chavez vs. Andy Lee
- July 7th (Top Rank): Donaire/Kelly Pavlik
- July 14th (Golden Boy): Danny Garcia vs. Amir Khan
- July 21st (Golden Boy): Adrien Broner vs. Vicente Escobedo
- Sept. 1st (Banner Promotions/Gary Shaw Productions): Gennady Golovkin/Sergiy Dzinziruk
- Sept. 8th (Goossen Tutor): Andre Ward vs. Dawson
- Sept. 29th (DiBella): Edwin Rodriguez-Jason Escalera
- Oct. 13th (Top Rank): Donaire-Toshiaki Nishioka/Brandon Rios vs. Mike Alvarado
- Oct. 27th (GSP): Thomas Dulorme vs. Carlos Abregu
- Nov. 10th (Top Rank): Salido vs. Mikey Garcia/Vanes Martirosyan vs. Erislandy Lara
- Nov. 17th (Golden Boy): Adrien Broner vs. Antonio DeMarco
- Nov. 24th (DiBella Entertainment): Andre Berto vs. Cornelius Bundrage
- Dec. 15th (Top Rank): Tim Bradley vs. TBA
That’s 18 boxing broadcasts on HBO and you see that seven went to Top Rank and six went to Golden Boy. DiBella Entertainment has three dates; Gary Shaw Productions has two (one of which was shared with Banner Promotions) and Goossen Tutor had a show. One pattern you notice is that, early on, they did a lot of business with Golden Boy in the first half of the year but more and more of their cards at this level are now shown across the street.
One development that I have really advocated is how Showtime (under Espinoza’s regime) is now doing quadruple-headers. Bottom line, it’s more boxing and it gives fighters like Leo Santa Cruz a chance to showcase their skills. But it moves along much better when you have a knockout or two, which was the big difference between the June 1st card and the one two Saturdays ago.
“Without question, it’s one of the things were learning as we experiment. The quadruple-header on September 15th moved with the kind of pace and excitement that was really enjoyable for both the fan in the arena and the viewer at home. We didn’t have the kind of pace on our June 1st show and you’re right; it’s really the knockouts that makes the difference. If we got four 10 or 12-rounders, that’s even a long evening for the most ardent boxing fan,"” said Espinoza.
Now, as for the Olympic broadcast that was supposed to be on CBS (as was announced by Showtime and Golden Boy prior to the Summer Games in London) on October 14th, it’s not clear if that will be the date. Espinoza told Maxboxing, “The Olympians didn’t do as well as we thought and we were always pairing up the Olympic date with hopefully a ‘Showtime World Championship Boxing’ the night before. There may be complications and there may be date issues but there’s still a full commitment to the Olympians.”
As for the December 15th date also included in that summer announcement, Espinoza said, “Yes, absolutely,” in regard to fulfilling that plan. As for what will be showcased, he stated, “It could either/or be a mix of both. We certainly like the prospect of amateurs making their pro debuts in the spotlight that the network show could give them but there’s certainly an argument to be made that we should be highlighting guys who are further along in their careers.”
Kathy Duva says that IBF junior middleweight titlist Cornelius Bundrage has till March 30th to fulfill his mandatory obligation to Gabe Rosado (who earned that spot by stopping Charles Whittaker on Friday night) so expect Rosado to have another fight in the meantime...By the way, that “Fight Night” on NBC Sports Network will re-air on Monday night at 9 p.m., ET...Speaking of the “Cold War,” can a bout between Tim Bradley and Robert Guerrero really be made? There is some talk that the Dec. 15th card could take place at the Marlins ballpark in Miami...Carl Frampton dispatched Steve Molitor in dominating fashion...The Nov. 10th card on Showtime could be another quadruple-header, according to Espinoza. Gary Russell Jr. could be added to that card at the Staples Center...Till LSU gets more definitive QB play, I think ‘Bama is the best team in the land...Are the ‘Noles back?...Still can’t believe the ‘Canes pulled it out versus GaTech. I have never seen a game where a team scores the first 19, gives up the next 36 and then scores the last 23 points...I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.