Has Showtime taken the lead in the sport of boxing from HBO?
By Hector Franco
Ever since the 1980’s when Showtime first started to cover the sport of boxing they have played second fiddle to HBO. Sure, they had their share of big fights and big moments most notably when they had two of the biggest signings in the history of the sport. In the 1990’s Showtime signed an exclusive contract with Don King granting them access to all of Mike Tyson’s fights until he retired. Sans the Lennox Lewis bout in 2002 which was split with HBO. In 2013, Showtime announced a six-fight deal with Floyd Mayweather Jr. The deal fluctuated in success. It ultimately proved lucrative with PPV’s featuring Mayweather facing Canelo Alvarez and Manny Pacquiao. 2013, was the year that Showtime officially took the lead from HBO as the network to watch boxing.
To quote The Notorious B.I.G.
“”Your reign on top was short like leprechauns.””
2014 and 2015 were slow years for Showtime. 2014 will be remembered for the mismatch card of the decade at the Barclays Center. The card where Danny Garcia faced off against Rod Salka. 2015 was another lost year for Showtime. Most of the talent it usually features were put on terrestrial television on Premier Boxing Champions telecasts. Now it seems that Showtime has taken its time and put out a schedule that will silence its critics.
This past week many anticipated bouts were announced. Bouts such as the heavyweight showdown between Deontay Wilder and Alexander Povetkin. The rescheduling of the Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter bout. Along with a featherweight clash between Leo Santa Cruz and Carl Frampton in the summer. Showtime even managed to steal one of HBO’s most notable acts in Ruslan Provodnikov. All of Provodnikov’s bouts on HBO were exciting. Fights with Timothy Bradley, Mike Alvarado, Chris Algieri and Lucas Matthysse were all entertaining. They also generated high rating’s for the network. HBO along with Top Rank were attempting to feed Provodnikov to Terence Crawford. Crawford is a horrible style match up for the Russian. Now that Provodnikov will be fighting on Showtime it opens up the door for potential match- ups with the likes of Danny Garcia and Adrien Broner. HBO dropped the ball in letting Provodnikov leave.
Thus far this year HBO has had a mismatch filled schedule. Fights like the rematch between Sergey Kovalev and Jean Pascal along with the recent Terence Crawford-Hank Lundy bout, have left fans feeling ripped off. The highlight this year for HBO was arguably the Jessie Vargas-Sadam Ali welterweight bout. Underdog Jessie Vargas stopped Sadam Ali in nine rounds in a competitive, back and forth bout.
HBO has also announced the only two PPV’s of the first half of the year. Pacquiao-Bradley 3 and Alvarez-Khan are bouts that were met with much division between fans. The reaction to Pacquiao-Bradley 3 even with an outstanding undercard has been mostly negative. Canelo-Khan has had a mixed reaction. The bout was a fresh match up that was kept a secret from fans before its announcement that helped elevate the positive reaction to the bout.
The recent announcement of the 130-pound bout between Francisco Vargas and Orlando Salido was certainly a positive for the network. The bout will take place June 4th at the Stub Hub Center in Carson, California. The Stub Hub for the last decade has been the mecca for great fights and Vargas-Salido has the potential to be added to that list. The next week on June 11th, HBO may also get the Nicholas Walters-Vasyl Lomachenko bout along with another Felix Verdejo appearance. It’s unofficial still that HBO will get this bout on its network. The fact is even with all these bouts and PPV’s, HBO has lost its lead in the race with Showtime.
It's only March and boxing is a sport that should be judged by what takes place in the ring not on paper. In other words, it's great that Showtime has put out an outstanding schedule for the first half of 2016, but if the fights don’t deliver in the ring it won’t matter. Let’s hope that no injuries occur to any of the fighters. It seems there’s been quite a few in the combat sports world as of late causing the cancellation and postponement of fights. We don’t want another rescheduling of Thurman-Porter or a let down of an anticipated bout like Bradley–Alexander in 2011.
Showtime has come to the plate and hit a home run with fans. HBO will need to get fights signed and made in order to compete if Showtime continues to get anticipated fights signed. Both networks competing with one another is a positive for boxing fans. It keeps each network from becoming complacent and lazy. Fans understand that showcases and mismatches are part of the sport. However, they shouldn’t become the norm of what’s televised on any network. Showtime as of now has the advantage on HBO; hopefully, this causes HBO to step up. Both networks operating at a high level no matter who is at the top will prove in the long run to be what’s best for boxing fans. The war will continue between the two networks. Fans would like to become profiteers of this war rather than casualties.