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Showtime Swings at HBO Boxing Dominance

Premium Network Makes First Big Pugilistic Push Since The '90s 3/24/2013 8:00 PM Eastern

Showtime is poised to go toe-to-toe with HBO in the TV boxing ring.

The network is looking to partner with boxing promoter Golden Boy Productions after the Oscar De La Hoya-owned company — home to lightweight champion Adrian Bronner and light heavyweight champ Bernard Hopkins — parted ways with HBO last week.

Add its unprecedented, six-fight deal with pay-per-view champion Floyd Mayweather, and upcoming boxing telecasts featuring popular junior middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia, and Showtime is on the verge of competing with HBO for the pay TV boxing title for the first time in a decade.

Indeed, Showtime has not had this substantial a boxing stable of marketable and popular fighters since the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Mike Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez and Evander Holyfield consistently appeared on the network and in Showtime’s pay-per-view offerings. HBO has dominated both the pay TV and PPV boxing space for the past decade, with fighters such as De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao and Mayweather.

The potential addition of fighters managed by Golden Boy, one of the top boxing promoters in the sport, would further enhance the network’s profile in the TV boxing ring. “It certainly presents a huge opportunity for us,” Stephen Espinoza, Showtime Sports’ executive vice president and general manager, said. “Our goal is to get the most compelling fights with the biggest named fighters, so it’s a positive thing for us and a positive thing for subscribers.”

The move comes as Golden Boy and HBO parted ways, after nearly a decade, due to disagreements related to fighter appearances on the network, according to sources close to the situation. HBO still has in its stable such marquee fighters as junior featherweight champion Nonito Donaire; middleweight titleholder Sergio Martinez; middleweight contender Julio César Chávez Jr.; and former champion Manny Pacquiao.

HBO Sports president Ken Hershman said in a statement that the network “decided to focus our efforts and resources on those strategic relationships where we better share common goals and business philosophies … in order to achieve our goal of the best fighters in the most compelling matchups.”

BIG FIGHTS ON TAP

Showtime will give its subscribers a major one-two boxing punch in April with the April 20 Alvarez-Austin “No Doubt” Trout junior middleweight championship unification bout and an April 27 Garcia-Zab Judah junior welterweight title bout.

The network is also gearing up for its May 4 Mayweather-Robert Guerrero pay-per-view fight, the first PPV event so far in 2013. Showtime last week unveiled a multi-network marketing and promotion campaign that includes a Mayweather documentary slated to air on CBS April 27.

Former HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg will produce Mayweather, a one-hour film about the life of the boxer, according to Showtime. In addition, Greenburg will oversee the production of Showtime’s four-part All Access documentary series, All Access: Mayweather vs. Guerrero, which will debut April 10 and run on consecutive Wednesdays through May 1.

Showtime Sports could tap Greenberg for future projects, as well, Espinoza said.

Both Mayweather and Guerrero could also show up during the three weeks of CBS’s coverage of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, which began last Thursday (March 21).

“[CBS] is a huge platform that delivers a demographic which is mostly aligned to our target audience, so it’s a natural fit to do some cross-promotion across CBS where appropriate,” Espinoza said.

TAKEAWAY

Showtime hopes the end of HBO’s relationship with Golden Boy Productions will give it an opening to return to boxing prominence.

September