By: Sean Crose
“It makes me wonder,” the LA Times on Wednesday quoted Oscar De La Hoya as saying, “if HBO even wants to be in boxing.” The Hall of Fame fighter turned top promoter was expressing a sentiment shared by many over the past several years. Is HBO really interested in the boxing business anymore? The recent activity (or lack thereof) of the pay cable network might suggest the answer is no, that it’s merely easing itself out a way relationship with fight fans slowly, rather than making a clean break. Either that or limiting boxing to such a degree that the few fight broadcasts the network decides to show might no longer warrant a subscription fee from fans.
Yet, with boxing broadcasts suddenly popping up all over television and the internet, breaking up with HBO might not be that hard for those fans to do. Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions, for instance, has moved on to ESPN from HBO and has brought down some nice ratings for itself, thanks very much. If HBOs seeming disinterest in boxing is hurting Top Rank or its fighters, there’s little indication of it. In fact, Top Rank just signed a lucrative contract extension with ESPN not that long ago.
All of this, of course, leads to the question of whether nor not HBO’s star boxing attraction, Canelo Alvarez, will remain with the network after his highly anticipated rematch with Gennady Golovkin this weekend, or if HBO is even all that keen on keeping Canelo aboard. After Saturday, Canelo’s current contract with the network will have expired. Win, lose, or draw, there obviously will be plenty of companies and/or outlets ready, eager, and willing to play host to the Mexican superstar, should the relationship with HBO end. “It’s going to be very interesting for us and Canelo to see what HBO can do to keep him,” De La Hoya said.
Along with ESPN, Showtime, Fox and other outlets broadcasting live boxing, streaming services are marking their mark on the fight game in a big way. ESPN+, British Promoter Eddie Hearn’s DAZN, and even Facebook are now involved in the fight game. Still, De La Hoya feels a sense of loyalty to the network that helped make him a legitimate superstar back in his ring heyday. “I’ve always given HBO the first and last opportunity,” he said, making it clear that he plans to continue to do so after Canelo’s contract runs out on Saturday.
Still, De La Hoya let it be known that he’s not in the business of wasting time. “I do want to fight him in December,” he said of Canelo. Speaking of which, there’s another party who will most likely want to fight again in the near future after Saturday’s superbout.
Gennady Golovkin’s contract with HBO is up this weekend, as well.