HBO stunned the boxing world here in America when it made the controversial decision to not televise any Klitschko Brother World Heavyweight title fights (not involving Haye or Adamek) because, HBO’s top executive said the twin towers of boxing are “boring”, HBO didn’t want to send production teams to Germany’s time zone, there wasn’t much interest in heavyweight boxing, and sports fans had trouble differentiating each brother from the other.
The maneuver all but makes the richest, most prestigious title in all of sports virtually irrelevant in the United States – which could have a negative trickle-down effect on sports fans’ interest in lighter weight divisions.
One lighter weight class that could help pick up the slack of the HBO revenue stream is the welterweight division which is poised to stage the biggest money fight in boxing history between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. The executives at HBO have invested a lot of money in marketing and developing the popularity of Floyd and Pac and – you would think – are very eager and determined to make the fight happen right about now. The primary reason HBO has developed Floyd and Pac-Man to the point of becoming the world-renowned superstars that they are now is to capitalize on the jackpot profits a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight would produce.
But if Mayweather were to reject the big plan by refusing to sign the massively lucrative contract in his possession now, what course of action should HBO take? The man that has said so many times that Pacquiao is too one dimensional to beat me, Pacquiao knows he can’t beat me, and that God won’t let me lose to Pacquaio or anyone, would in effect, be biting the hand of HBO that has been so good and kind and generous to him throughout his entire professional career.
HBO has earned the right to collect the big payoff that a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight would, without any question, generate. But if Mayweather chickens out for the intent to box a series of handpicked exhibitions against the likes of Judah, Campbell, Matt Hatton or Saul Alvarez, would HBO actually find that acceptable?
Those kinds of fights would be even more suspenselessly boring that Mayweather vs. Baldomir or Marquez – and certainly would not be worthy of being televised on the prestigious HBO airwaves where we are accustomed to seeing the best vs. the best. And if anyone thinks a Mayweather exhibition tour against a series of inferior handpicks will make a fraction of the money that the Pacquiao fight would, they need a head examination.
HBO should apply the same, consistent, hardline policy it just hit the Klitschkos with – announce publicly – loud and clear – that HBO will not televise any Mayweather fights unless it involves Manny Pacquiao. Simple as that. Period. End of discussion, as Leonard Ellerbe would say.
Mayweather has no where else to go. Showtime doesn’t have the budget and probably has zero interest in televising a series of mismatch sparring sessions. Cowboys Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Giants Stadium or Dodger Stadium have expressed zero interest to stage an outdoor Mayweather fight against any handpicked opponent. And chances are, our friend Ellerbe was lying through his teeth when he claimed that an entity in Dubai was interested in paying multi-millions to stage a Mayweather fight.
HBO has the power to make things happen, to do what it believes is best for the short and long term interests of the sport. The way the sport is now, HBO is almost bigger than the sport itself, in a way. Where would boxing be without HBO televising and promoting it to the public? The Pacquiao vs. Mayweather fight is the event that could explode the sport to a new level of excitement and electricity, back to where it belongs…the glory days of when the best fought the best, like Ali and Frazier, Duran and Leonard, Hagler and Hearns,
With that said, if HBO opts to continue to support, bankroll and reward the career of Floyd Mayweather if he ducks Manny Pacquiao this week, it will be one of the most curious and suspicious business decisions ever made by boxing’s decision makers.
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