By Sean Crose
Let’s face it, we boxing fans gripe a lot. And while it’s true we often have good reason to, sometimes it’s nice to sit back and appreciate when things are done right. Like this weekend, for instance. On Saturday, HBO will be showing the Juan Manuel Marquez – Mike Alvarado matchup. It’s a fight that’s absolutely perfect for the network. Why? Because it’s too big for basic cable, but way too small to be a pay per view event.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
In other words, it’s the kind of bout that’s supposed to be on HBO – or Showtime – all the time. Unfortunately, that’s often far from the case these days. The truth is that the pay cable networks seem as quick to show a tuneup match as they are a serious, relevant bout. That may not be entirely true, but appearances – like them or not – are important.
A quick glimpse into the past can offer us some clarity. Back in the 80s, HBO would feature bouts like Chavez-Rosario, Curry-McCallum, and Tyson-Holmes. That’s right, Tyson-Holmes. HBO, you see, aired live Tyson fights all the time. All. The. Time. How far we’ve come. Or deteriorated.
For the record, the decline in quality of pay cable bouts is not entirely the fault of HBO or Showtime. Not at all. For the boxing landscape has changed greatly since the 80s. Network television is no longer running good fights on Saturdays and Sundays. In fact, they’re not running boxing matches at all.
HBO and Showtime, then, are filling a void. For a price. Always for a price. Although this is quite understandable in a business sense, it stinks that fans have to pay a monthly fee for fights they used to be able to watch for free.
Which is why HBO’s Saturday telecast is something to be happy about. Marquez-Alvarado is the kind of high quality matchup that would have belonged on the network in any decade. It’s just that good. The Froch-Groves rematch HBO will be showing later this month is that good, too. Heck, it may even be better (talk about a battle in Britain).
So yeah, HBO fights can definitely still be worth the price of admission. The same can be said for Showtime, which has delivered with the Broner-Maidana, Porter-Malignaggi, and Hopkins-Shumenov matchups. If only both networks would show such quality bouts more often. Let’s face it, Stevenson-Fonfara is decidedly not a Showtime caliber fight. All things being equal, it belongs on basic cable.
Then again, in fairness, Kovalev-Agnew belonged on basic cable, too. As did the Mike Perez-Bryant Jennings double header from last winter. In short, these were most decidedly not the kinds of events viewers should have had to cough up their hard earned money to see.
Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t look like things are going to change any time soon. It’s painful to have to criticize people who get punched in the face for a living, but we’re in the age of the easy way out. Popular fighters – some, certainly not all – appear to have a sense of entitlement. Throw a threatening opponent in their direction and they pack up their toys and head to another sand box. Those fighters know who they are, and so do you.
Thing is, there appear to be plenty of fans and business people who are willing to indulge these individuals. That makes things bad for the viewer. Yet it also makes it very important for fans to show their appreciation when fights like Marquez-Alvarado are broadcast on pay outlets. Ratings, after all, speak volumes.
They also have a way of changing the landscape.