By Sean Crose
This quite possibly may be the longest day in the professional career of Showtime honcho Stephen Espinoza. Not only is Golden Boy head and founder Oscar De La Hoya holding a press conference with Canelo Alvarez to announce Alvarez’ defection to HBO, Floyd Mayweather has gone and made Showtime look absolutely foolish in front of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
For those unaware, the Commission summoned Mayweather before them in regards to an episode of the Showtime program “All Access.” In said episode, fighters are presented as sparing at Mayweather’s gym for far longer than they should be allowed to without a break…all while in the presence of Mayweather himself. What’s more, “All Access” also showed a clip of Mayweather’s female friends apparently smoking pot in his presence.
Mayweather’s response to the Commission’s concerns was that none of what people saw was actually real. The marathon sparring? Not real. The marijuana? Not real. None of it was real. The Commission responded to Mayweather’s pat response by pretty much thanking him for his time and sending him on his merry way. Nothing to see here. Move along.
All of this, of course, pretty much leaves Showtime with a whole lot of egg on its face. Floyd can say he mislead an audience and no one will much care – at least not for long. Mayweather has always presented himself as a kind of anti-Ray Leonard, after all. He openly likes being an American but he has no interest at all in being seen as an all American hero (like Sugar Ray was). And everyone pretty much knows it, too – especially Mayweather’s adoring fans.
What of Showtime, though? Showtime can’t play the role of bad guy because it’s a business, a business which appeals to a lot more than just fight fans. In other words, it broadcasts a ton of other stuff besides boxing. While boxing fans may be impervious to disingenuous business practices, fans of “Ray Donovan” may not be so laissez-faire about the whole thing. And that’s bad for business, at least to some degree.
Showtime’s sports division will ride this all out, of course. Boxing is a marginalized sport, after all. As long as the network isn’t shown to some way deceive its customers in other matters, it won’t take that big a hit on the matter. For it’s pretty well known that boxing fans are well aware of the shenanigans which plague the sport.
Still, Showtime has clearly decided it no longer wants to be what it was in 2013. All the talk about Showtime being boxing’s premiere cable outlet has been thoroughly silenced. Showtime is now known as Al Haymon’s network. It’s now known as the place where Haymon’s fighters steamroll over easy opposition. It’s now known as the destination of choice for boxing’s new breed of fan. Showtime didn’t have to have this reputation, especially after last year, but now it does.
Yet the network still has Floyd Mayweather, a man who can still bring in eyes and dollars. That’s a good thing – while it lasts. For it seems that as long as Showtime has Mayweather’s name it will always have boxing revenue. It’s clear, however, that Showtime can’t count on having Mayweather’s support when it comes to delicate matters. And that has to be unsettling.
Of course the gang over at HBO must be delighting in all of this. It looked like Showtime had their boxing broadcasts on the ropes (no pun intended) not so long ago. Times have changed, though, and so have both network’s fortunes (at least when it comes to professional boxing). It may not be time to call “checkmate,” but the tide has clearly turned in this high stakes chess match.