Tag Archives: tv

ESPN Announces Major Deal With Top Rank


By: Sean Crose

Perhaps lost in all the mania surrounding the Floyd-Conor weekend was the huge news that ESPN has announced a major deal with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions. Arum, one of boxing’s most prominent promoters (perhaps the single most prominent one) is now letting his stable of boxers fight exclusively in the domain of ESPN (which is part of the Disney universe).

According to Variety, ESPN “will have the exclusive ability to televise and stream live Top Rank fights in the U.S., as well as deliver pay-per-view events with the promoter’s matches.” Long story short, the network, which has been having troubles of its own recently, is getting into the rejuvenating sport of boxing in a significant way.

ESPN had already indicated its newfound interest in the sweet science this summer by showing Manny Pacquiao’s stunning – and controversial – loss to Jeff Horn to huge ratings. It then showcased rising stars Vasyl Lomachenko and Terence Crawford respectively. Now, according to the network’s boxing writer, Dan Rafael, “high-level cards are on the way, with 18 on tap for the first year of the deal.” This is nothing but good news for fight fans, as the home of Arum’s fighters until very recently was pay-cable outlet HBO.

The Arum-HBO relationship cooled, however, and now names like Pacquiao, Lomachenko, Crawford and others will be found on basic cable– at least more than they ever have been. Pay Per View cards will still be a part of life for fans, only now Top Rank pay per view cards will be brought to the public via ESPN. The deal is set to last four years. If the marriage of the two entities proves successful, however, it can be expected to last longer.

All of this is – of course – a considerable development for followers of the sweet science. Top names on basic television are never a bad thing. Yet fans will be disappointed if Arum goes the road boxing guru Al Haymon did when he had his name fighters appear in top fights on basic television sporadically, at best. Top fighters, at least the top fighters in Arum’s stable, will need to be matched strongly with at least some regularity in order for the ESPN partnership to prove successful. If the deal works out, however, boxing will effectively take a huge step back into the mainstream of American sports, a place it hasn’t been in a long time, save for the occasional superbout.

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Pacquiao To Face Horn On ESPN


Pacquiao To Face Horn On ESPN
By: Sean Crose

ESPN, the most famous sports network in America, will be playing host to the Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn welterweight title bout on July 1st, according to the network’s own top boxing writer, Dan Rafael. The fight, which will go down in front of a huge live crowd in Australia, will headline a card that begins 9 PM, Eastern Standard Time in the US. “It will be,” Rafael writes, “the first time that a Pacquiao fight will air live on basic cable and is his first non-pay-per-view fight since he knocked out Hector Velazquez on HBO in September 2005.”

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This is big news for fight fans, as a star as big as Pacquiao hasn’t fought on basic television in ages. The question fans may now ask is whether or not Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, is looking to do what PBC mastermind Al Haymon was said to be trying to accomplish a few years ago – bring high level boxing back to regular television. According to Ring Magazine’s Mike Coppinger, Arum’s Top Rank Promotions will be behind a series of fights to land on the network. Whether this means stars such as Bud Crawford and Tim Bradley will appear in major bouts on basic cable remains to be seen.

With pay cable network HBO appearing to have cooled way down on boxing in the past several months, many suspected Arum (having long done business with the network) had something up his sleeve. In fact, the man himself was open about this. The announcement of Pacquiao- Horn on ESPN, then, shouldn’t be all that great a surprise. There’s little chance, after all, that the bout would have done well on pay per view. Virtually no one in America knows who Horn is. What’s more, Pacquiao is no longer the pay per view star he once was after losing his mega bout with Floyd Mayweather.

It will be interesting to see how the general public reacts to this. The fight will be aired on the Fourth of July weekend, which means many will have things other than major sporting events on their minds. It’s also worth noting that Pacquiao-Horn isn’t considered a super fight by any stretch of the imagination. Should Pacquiao have been facing a top opponent like Crawford, it could truly be telling how serious Arum might be about bringing boxing to the masses. There’s little doubt, however, that ESPN will promote this bout well. It’s now up to the viewers themselves to decide just how successful this card will be.

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Bounce TV Gets A Surprise(And Huge) Ratings Win With It’s PBC Broadcast


Bounce TV Gets A Surprise(And Huge) Ratings Win With It’s PBC Broadcast
By: Sean Crose

Boxing fans and analysts can be a mean bunch. They can be a great bunch, sure, but they can be mean as hell at times. Indeed, some Twitter cranks I know might well openly admit their less than pleasant take on all things boxing. Here’s the thing, though – the nastiness can be grating as much as it can be (let’s face it) genuinely funny. Case in point: Bounce TV, a little-known cable network, has been running Premiere Boxing Champions fights for some time now. And it’s practically been laughed out of Dodge by the fight world’s know it alls.

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The fights were crap. The broadcast team was crap. The production values were crap. There was nothing redeeming at all about such a joke of an operation and fight fans were essentially better off checking out bowling instead. So essentially went the word around the sewing circle. Then came last weekend. I wrote about Bounce TVs PBC card that Friday, and it was a doozy. Rising star Robert Easter did his thing, of course, but it was the two lead up fights before Easter’s appearance that made for truly thrilling television. The middleweight throwdown between Terrell Gausha and Luis Hernandez was most impressive. Same with Rau’shee Warren’s upset defeat at the gloves of Shanat Zhakiyaof in a bantamweight title scrap.

What’s, more the audience in Toledo, Ohio was alive and kicking, something fight fans don’t see much of outside of Europe these days. Oh, and the broadcast team, which included Austin Trout, was very likeable and not the least bit grating (unlike some broadcast teams can be at times). Little wonder, then, that Friday’s card did good ratings. What IS a surprise, however, is that the card actually did far better than good ratings. It did great ratings. Over a million pairs of eyeballs tuned into little known Bounce last weekend. That’s big news.

And good news, as well. Not just for Bounce and Al Haymon, the man behind Premiere Boxing Champions, but for the sport of boxing in general. When people in the seven figure range are going down the channel guide to watch some boxing, it’s always a good thing. Perhaps the most important element of last weekend’s success, however, was the fact that the fights were high quality. People talk when there’s exciting matches on television. They tell the internet, and all who read their words, what’s happening. And then people tune in. That’s something this sport’s powers that be seem to have forgotten.

Those of us who are of a certain age remember a time when, late on a winter Saturday afternoon, great boxing could be seen in less than glitzy locations, with live wire crowds and a genuine sense of excitement permeating throughout the broadcast. Last Friday’s Bounce card reminded me of those forgotten times. Which is why the joke is most certainly NOT on Bounce TV right now. Good boxing brings in good numbers. Sometimes that simple message happens to be delivered in unexpected ways.

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Did Star Wars Gobble ESPN’s Boxing Budget?


Did Star Wars Gobble ESPN’s Boxing Budget?
By Ivan G. Goldman

Word is circulating around ESPN ranks that the network will present 12 of Al Haymon’s PBC shows this year, but so far only one is on the schedule – an April 14 card with fighters and location yet to be announced.

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Employees were also told the network may make a deal to do some shows promoted by Golden Boy. Or maybe not.

ESPN is owned by the $175 billion Disney corporation. You’d think it could scrape up the funds to maintain its relationship with the key sport of prizefighting, but right now there doesn’t appear to be any plan to revive Friday Night Fights as a regular series you can count on. Well, the $4 billion Disney put up to purchase Lucasfilm, owner of the Star Wars franchise, had to come from somewhere.

Haymon’s PBC, which came into the world nearly two years ago with a huge budget and great ambitions to dominate the sport, now limps along on an array of mostly small channels and far more subdued production values. Its war chest is clearly dwindling. But PBC can still boast of a talented stable and its pulse is quite detectable.

With no crossover superstars to build a buzz, boxing stumbles through a rough patch. There’s probably more media attention paid to retired Floyd Mayweather than any active fighters.

HBO, which used to be the face of big-time boxing, has only four shows slated for this year so far, and three of them are pay-per-view. These days the creation of PPV cards doesn’t necessarily signify fights that fans can’t wait to see. More often it means the network is unwilling to front sufficient cash. So the shows must sink or swim pretty much on their own.

HBO is a subsidiary of the $72 billion Time Warner monolith. Its stock shares bounced up 34.5 percent over the past year, but its executives are loath to get behind boxing as they have in years past. As we speak chieftains of $249 billion AT&T are in Washington seeking government approval to swallow Time Warner. That deal might have something to do with HBO’s ragtag retreat from prizefighting.
Remember those boxing shows on premium channel EPIX? History.

Showtime is the bright bulb in the boxing constellation. The premium network isn’t dependent on the PPV financing model and has announced seven shows for this year already. They include a tasty welterweight title unification match March 4 between Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia that will be free to Showtime subscribers. Both are PBC fighters.

Meanwhile, back at ESPN, the sport-savvy network knows what it has to do to be re-identified with boxing in the minds of the fans: Build good fights and the viewers will come.

Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class is a ‘gripping …triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. Available from Permanent Press wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author.

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