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Al Bernstein on the "Cold War," Networks’ Roles and More


By Matthew Paras

Danny Garcia and Erik Morales square off in a rematch tonight for Garcia’s WBC and WBA junior welterweight titles that will be yet another Golden Boy Promotions event televised by Showtime. The fight will be the 14th of the 20 televised Showtime events this year featuring either a Golden Boy or Al Haymon fighter. In fact, four other upcoming cards will be headlined by boxers under the Golden Boy banner as well.
This relationship, which has brought the network bigger profile fights than years’ past, can be credited to Showtime’s new boss, Stephen Espinoza. But after all the changes that have occurred at Showtime in the past year, one thing at the network has remained constant – Al Bernstein.

“In my professional career, it’s surprised me that I’m not only involved in one sport and probably 80% of my time has been boxing but I always seem the only one who doesn’t change on shows,” Bernstein said.
Even with the increase in high-profile fights for Showtime, it’s no secret that politics between Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank prevent some of the best fights from happening. Since 2007, tensions between Top Rank and Golden Boy have been high due to a contract dispute with Manny Pacquiao. The companies continue to clash to this day, most recently with failed negotiations for a Robert Guerrero and Timothy Bradley clash.
Bernstein told Maxboxing he understood why two companies wouldn’t want to do business with each other but ultimately the feud doesn’t help the sport.
“The problem is it means in certain weight classes, fans have almost no chance seeing fighters that truly should be in the ring against each other,” he said. “Now it’s always over the long haul in life that it’s been troublesome for two promoters to make fights together but it’s been done more.
“At the end of the day, fans are the losers.”
As for fixing the solution, Bernstein doesn’t know an exact answer. Could networks like HBO and Showtime hold the power and force promoters to play nice?
“It’s kind of like figuring out peace in the Middle East,” Bernstein joked. “People think of networks as the ultimate arbitrators that they can demand what they want. To some degree they can and those are the people you can look to. I guess.”
Regardless, changes at Showtime this year have gone beyond actual match-ups. Commentators Gus Johnson and Antonio Tarver have departed for the time being due to Johnson’s FOX commitments and Tarver’s suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
Now Bernstein, who is in his 30th year of commentating and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in June 2012, shares his duties with Mauro Ranallo and a rotating door of fighter analysts.
“During one stretch [at ESPN], I had something like eight different partners in eight different weeks and so that kind of prepared me for this current run at Showtime,” Bernstein said. “What you need to be able to do in those situations - and I’ve developed a knack for it - is to roll with the punches.”
Along with commentary changes, the number of fights televised has changed. Tonight, Bernstein will be calling the main event along with three other fights (Paul Malignaggi vs. Pablo Cano, Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam and Randall Bailey vs. Devon Alexander), all title clashes. It’s the third quadruple-header (along with June 2 and September 15) Showtime has televised this year and appears to be the network’s newest trend, Bernstein said.
“The bottom line is, I think it’s a simple matter of math,” Bernstein explained. “If you put on four fights and you try to make four good matches, your chances of getting two good ones out of them are much better than if you put on two fights that night.”
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