By Rich Mancuso
Say goodbye to Jim, Max, Roy, and Harold. HBO, once the premiere network for boxing, has thrown their last punch and it was a matter of time. The network over the past few years saw a roster of fighters go to the other competition with Showtime, ESPN, and the new streaming DAZN Network. Promoters are utilizing the increasing number of vehicles used to stream fights including ESPN with Top Rank and Eddie Hearn with DAZN as a paid platform.
In other words, this was a fight to survive as HBO and their boxing division tried to stay afloat and placed their revenue into alternative programming. It was just a matter of time and the boxing industry expected the inevitable news that became official Thursday afternoon.
So it appears the rematch with Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, televised on HBO Pay-Per-View, that generated a reported 1.1 buys, was a good and final punch. Though HBO Boxing will continue their scheduled commitments and close shop after October 27th.
That night, a championship doubleheader from New York at the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden, includes a middleweight title fight between Danny Jacobs and Sergey Derevyanchenko for the vacant middleweight title.
HBO could have one more telecast in the works and their year end year special as part of the farewell. A sad day at the network division in New York and gone for now, but a revamp down the road and possibly joining the others as another streaming network to showcase the fights has not been discussed.
“Forty-five years of great memories and boxing,” said a source close to the network. “You hear the rumors and now it has hit that the final punches will be thrown and thank all the legendary fighters and great promoters for the memories.”
But this had to occur and not for reasons that the sport is on a continued decline. To the contrary it is the fighters that make a network work. HBO lost the big names over the past few years to other networks. The Hall of Fame champions saw their last punch.
Reaction from the boxing world is a mixed bag with the closure of HBO and boxing. They were the first and original until the competition gave them a good and lasting fight. Though Peter Nelson, the executive vice president of HBO Sports said, “Our audience research informs us that boxing is no longer a determining factor for subscribing to HBO.”
And that does not hold for the other networks. Simply put, HBO was out of the boxing business as they did not have the names. You can’t draw the audience without Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto. And with the Klitschko brothers reign as heavyweight champions at a conclusion, it was difficult for HBO to be a mix in that division.
For Eddie Hearn, Bob Arum, the PBC alliance with Showtime, they have the fighters and of course the digital platforms that HBO failed to pursue. The sport and exposure has gone in another direction and financial backing is a major role that HBO failed to obtain with their boxing division.
They were left with Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin,Jamie Munguia, Dmitry Bivol, Sergey Kovalev, Daniel Jacobs, Roman Gonzalez, and Rey Vargas. Not the household names that are drawn to the other networks and minimal money to be a part of the competition.
Errol Spence Jr., Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter? Names and faces of the sport also associated with the PBC and Showtime. Top Rank with their seven- year and lucrative deal with ESPN has shown the ability to develop that new face.
They have achieved that with Jose Ramirez. The 140-pound champion is a rising star and recently defended the title with a possible fight of the year against Antonio Orozco. That fight was tabbed as one of the highest rated on the ESPN televised platforms.
HBO also failed to mention the decline in cable subscriptions at a rapid rate. The consumer is more geared to other means of obtaining premium networks and the cable industry is aware of that concern.
And by all means, the demise of HBO does not mean that boxing is a dead sport. This is just a sign of the times in a digital era.
“As a person who fought on HBO 32 times and worked with the network to televise hundreds of fights under the @goldenboyboxing banner, I know firsthand the debt of gratitude the sport of boxing owes everyone at the company,” Oscar De La Hoya said on his Twitter account.
De La Hoya, promoter of Canelo Alvarez is a part of that HBO history. Combined the two fights with Alvarez and Golovkin did not surpass the 4,6000,00 buys that Mayweather and Pacquiao brought in during their mega fight in May of 2015 that was televised in conjunction with HBO and Showtime Pay-Per-View.
We grew up with HBO Championship Boxing. Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant,Roy Jones Jr. Max Kellerman and the “Fight Judge” Harold Lederman, in between George Foreman, Lennox Lewis, Andre Ward, and a cast of others. And of course a parade of champions.
A slow death it was, The history for now and memories will go a long way in the sport.
DAZN, the live and on-demand sports streaming platform, today announced its boxing broadcast team. The legendary Sugar Ray Leonard and Brian Kenny will call the action, Kay Adams and Chris Mannix will host each fight night, and LZ Granderson will report from ringside.
They will work their inaugural event as a unit when world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua defends his WBA, WBO and IBF belts against Alexander Povetkin on Sept. 22 from Wembley Stadium in the U.K. Beginning in October, the team will broadcast all Matchroom USA fights on DAZN including the previously announced Vargas vs. Dulorme on Oct. 6 and Saunders vs. Andrade on Oct. 20.
“What DAZN is doing is very exciting for both boxing and sports media,” said Leonard. “With all of the boxing dates DAZN already has on the calendar, they are going to have me quite busy – and that’s a great thing for fight fans because it means that good fighters are staying active and taking on meaningful challenges.”
Leonard will provide ringside analysis for the fights, drawing on his Hall-of-Fame career as a six-time world champion, Olympic gold medalist and a legendary sports icon of the 20th century. As a fighter, Leonard’s skill and speed were matched only by his guts and heart. In a golden era of boxing, he took on – and prevailed against – many all-time greats. Out of the ring, Leonard has enjoyed a long broadcasting career working with ABC, NBC, FOX, ESPN and HBO.
Kenny will serve as the blow-by-blow announcer. Winner of seven Sports Emmy Awards, he has spent more than three decades in boxing, covering the sport for ESPN, Showtime and FOX. Prior to his current anchor role with MLB Network, Kenny spent 14 years at ESPN, anchoring SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight and Friday Night Fights. On Friday Night Fights, he hosted the biggest names in boxing from Joe Frazier to Rubin “Hurricane” Carter to Floyd Mayweather. Kenny is a recipient of the BWAA Sam Taub Award for excellence in boxing broadcasting.
Leonard and Kenny last worked together in 2017 when they called the international broadcast of the Mayweather vs. McGregor super fight and have appeared together on screen across multiple networks over the past decade-plus.
Adams and Mannix will host each broadcast. Adams is best known for hosting Good Morning Football on NFL Network and DirecTV’s Fantasy Zone. Mannix is an award-winning boxing writer for Yahoo Sports and has worked as a ringside reporter for NBC, Showtime and EPIX. He currently hosts the popular Yahoo Sports Boxing Podcast and has also covered the NBA for multiple outlets over the past 15 years.
LZ Granderson will handle ringside reporting duties for DAZN. The award-winning journalist has covered everything from the NBA and tennis for ESPN to national politics for ABC. In addition to his work in television, Granderson can be heard each weekday on “Mornings with Keyshawn, LZ and Travis” on ESPNLA 710, is a senior writer for The Undefeated, and writes for CNN. He also co-hosts livestream coverage of world premieres for Marvel Studios and was a co-host of the popular ESPN TV show SportsNation.
“We’re committed to bringing our subscribers not just top-notch boxing and MMA – but also top-notch production,” said Joseph Markowski, DAZN SVP, North America. “With this broadcast team, viewers will be in good hands and we look forward to introducing a series of innovations to our fight night experience in the coming months.”
Early action at each Matchroom USA fight night will be called by broadcast veteran Todd Grisham and former world champion Sergio Mora. Additionally, Akin “Ak” Reyes and Barak Bess, known for their boxing shows on Sirius XM Radio and ThisIs50.com, will interview some of the biggest names in the sport throughout fight week.
Fans can sign up for DAZN for only $9.99 per month – following a one-month free trial – by registering at DAZN.com or by downloading the DAZN app on a wide range of connected devices, including smart TVs, PCs, smartphones, tablets and game consoles. For more information, fans can follow DAZN’s U.S. social channels: @DAZNUSA on Facebook, @DAZN_USA for Twitter, and DAZN_USA for Instagram.