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Showtime’s Comeback Bid

10/04/2010 12:29 PM Eastern

Showtime will take aim
at the TV boxing category over
the next six months with the
telecast of two championship
tournaments and a rare pay-perview
event.

The network will telecast a
single-elimination championship
boxing tournament in the
115-pound bantamweight division
beginning in December. The
tournament, the first ever in the
division, is set to start Dec. 11 with
division contenders Joseph Agbeko
fighting International Boxing
Federation bantamweight champ
Yonnhy Perez and Abner Mares
battling current junior bantamweight
champ Vic Darchinyan,
who’s moving up in weight to participate
in the tournament.

The winners will face each other
sometime in mid-2011.

“We think we have four of the
best bantamweight fighters in the
world, and it gives us another way
to showcase incredible fighters in
what we think will be great fights
in a format that hasn’t really been
done in the weight class before,”
Ken Hershman, executive vice
president and general manager
for sports programming for
Showtime, said.

The bantamweight tournament
follows on the heels of the
network’s ongoing Super Six super
middleweight tournament,
which pits the top six fighters
in the division in a round-robin
tournament. The third round
of the tournament, which has
been delayed on numerous occasions
this year by fighter injuries,
will resume Nov. 27 with an Andre
Ward-Andre Dirrell fight for
Ward’s World Boxing Association
title, Hershman said.

Showtime will also air, on a
tape-delayed basis, the Arthur
Abraham-Carl Froch bout set to
take place in Helsinki, Finland.

The final Group Stage 3 tournament
bout is set for Nov. 6 with
Allen Green fi ghting former light
heavyweight champion Glenn
Johnson. Johnson last week replaced
fighter Mikkel Kessler after
the former super middleweight
champion pulled out of the tournament
with an eye injury in August.

Hershman said he’s confident
the network will accomplish its
goal of crowning a tournament
champion by third-quarter 2011.

“I think that the delays are
now past us, and everybody’s
on the same page and marching
forward,” Hershman said. “We
should be pretty close to schedule
in finishing the tournament.”

He conceded that the network
has lost some momentum with
boxing fans but said he expects
viewers to come back to see how
the tournament ends.

“You have to pick up where you
left off and rebuild that momentum,”
he said. “This is a win-orgo-
home scenario for most of the
fighters, so these are compelling
fights. When they are upon us,
people will forget the delay and
focus on how exciting the tournament
is.”

Showtime will also take a
swing at the PPV boxing category
when it distributes the Dec.
18 Bernard Hopkins-Jean Pascal
light heavyweight title fight.
The PPV event is the first Showtime-
distributed PPV fight since
the October 2005 rematch between
Diego Corrales and Jose
Louis Castillo. Since then the pay
TV network has focused most of
its boxing efforts on its two on-air
franchises — Showtime Championship
Boxing
and ShoBox, which
features up-and-coming fighters.

“This is an opportunity that
came along that we felt comfortable
with,” Hershman said.
“We view PPV as something
that should be used selectively
and opportunistically, but
it’s not the driving force behind
our boxing programming — we
want as much on Showtime as
possible.”

September