By: Sean Crose
No one may have been surprised when news broke this week that Showtime was getting out of the boxing business. Fans simply knew it was coming. That didn’t make the experience any less painful, however. Showtime has been in the boxing racket since the mid-eighties. It’s broadcast more classic fights and legitimately great fighters than one can count. The broadcast team is nothing if not top notch. There’s been, in fact, a whole lot to like. With only a few boxing broadcasts left on Showtime’s agenda at most, credit has to be given where it’s due, and the network’s legacy in the fight game is no doubt secured.
What does any of that mean for the true boxing lovers, though? Not much. The truth is, we’re going to miss this home of the sweet science. I admit that when HBO left the sport, I was pretty much done with that network anyway. I had suspected HBO had decided boxing was too uncouth for its new sophisticated outlook and therefore simply shrugged my shoulders, cancelled my subscription and never looked back. Things are different now that Showtime is out of the fight business, however. Perhaps it’s because the network as a whole seemed to actually LIKE boxing. Perhaps it’s because corporate overlord Paramount ordered poor Showtime to pull the plug. It doesn’t really matter when all is said and done. What DOES matter is where the sport will go from here.
And, in a lot of ways, it’s going nowhere. DAZN will still broadcast fights. ESPN will still broadcast fights. What’s more, other entities are now involved in the boxing industry, entities that may soon become major players. Considering the fact that Showtime wasn’t running much more than pay per view cards in recent months anyway, it’s pretty safe to assume boxing’s fandom will deal with the network’s exit in a healthy manner fairly quickly. Still, there’s unsettling questions that need answering. For starters, will boxing continue to slip further and further away from the American mainstream? Admittedly, streaming is the future, but right now big cable outlets still carry a lot of figurative water. At the moment, only ESPN is currently broadcasting boxing. Who is to say it will continue to at this rate?
Also, what’s going to happen to fighters who demand a fortune before they’ll even consider fighting a legitimate opponent.? Will they change their ways, agree to fight at market value, and see if they can bring in the kind of numbers that warrant astronomical fees and pay per view headliners? Or will these fighters continue on with the mindset that using Floyd Mayweather’s business strategy will earn them Mayweather style fortunes (hint – Mayweather earned enormous sums of money because millions actually wanted to watch his fights).
Lastly, will fighters and their camps decide it’s okay to make bouts with fighters from other camps on a regular basis? Bad as the loss of Showtime is for the sport, it means there’s one less political camp to have to please in the current conditions. Premier Boxing Champions, for instance, one of the biggest fighter organizations in the fight game, is now going to be on the hunt for new broadcasters. If a deal is made where it’s clear PBC fighters will be more easily able to face fighters from outside organizations than it apparently is now, that will be nothing but good for boxing. Of course, other organizations like Top Rank, Golden Boy and Matchroom will have to play by the same rules as PBC if things are to truly improve.
Which leads to the final point – (some) popular fighters, broadcasters, promoters, advisors and managers will have to simultaneously decide to be reasonable if boxing is to find itself in a better, stronger place. If they don’t, then one of two things will likely occur: Boxing will continue to shrink, or a new breed of savvy, clear headed fighters will force the business to change. One option would be welcome. The other would provide more of the same.
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