The great Thomas Hauser, who in my opinions is the best boxing scribe out there, put together a great piece detailing the move of Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto to Showtime from HBO. If you have not read it, please click HERE. In the story, Mr. Hauser details how certain decisions by the top brass at HBO, the biggest distributor of live boxing on television, led to Top Rank’s Bob Arum to take the biggest cash cow in the business, #1 pound for pound Pacquiao, and the popular Miguel Cotto across the street. It is no secret that Arum, arguably the best promoter in the business, has had his issues with HBO and its executives in the past. So much so that Top Rank has gone independent in certain occasions and produced its own set of PPV cards with their biggest being the “Latin Fury” series in which Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., a fighter that HBO has no interest in showcasing, is featured. The straw that broke the camel’s back according to the story is HBO’s refusal to accept #1 ranked WBO jr. middleweight Vanes Martirosyan as a suitable opponent for Miguel Cotto. Arum argued that the Glendale, CA, native was more than apt to face the Boricua super star in light of HBO accepting Freddie Hernandez for Andre Berto some months ago.
Bob Arum and Manny Pacquiao
Now Arum will allow Showtime to produce the much anticipated PPV fight card between Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley on May 7th. They will work the kinks with a practice run for the Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga war set for March 12th.
Arum mentioned that if it was between HBO and Showtime, he would stay with HBO. HBO has about 30 million subscribers while Showtime is around the 18 million mark. What made the “Old Guy” swing over to the former home of Mike Tyson and Julio Cesar Chavez was the fact that Les Moonves, head honcho of CBS which is a sister company with Showtime, made the pot all that much sweeter with a package which will revolutionize the way PPV shows are promoted. With CBS, now the promotion campaign for the Pacquiao-Mosley mega fight will have the potential to be seen in 115,000,000 homes in the U.S. between CBS and Showtime. In essence, Arum is bringing professional boxing in some way back to terrestrial free network television. What a way for Arum to thumb his nose at HBO, huh? What has been considered the Holy Grail for promoters for years now will be seen in a matter of months.
Some of the concessions that Arum was able to secure from CBS in a written contract are: commercials during the highly rated NCAA basketball championship and other programming during April and May, a countdown series a la “24/7″ to be broadcast on CBS, appearances for some of the fighters on the undercard like Christy Martin on CBS talk shows, another 60 Minutes segment on Manny Pacquiao and last but seriously not least, the CBS Morning Show setting camp in Las Vegas during fight week. Off all the promises, I think the last one is the biggest since the exposure of a whole week of the morning show focused on the fight will be huge.
"Sugar" Shane Mosley
Since Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions emergence as Top Rank’s main competition, the battle lines have been drawn between the two entities. Golden Boy claims that Top Rank hurts the sport by only making in-house fights between its own fighters while Bob Arum does not agree with the influence Golden Boy has over HBO and its dates. One thing that Golden Boy has had great success with thanks to Richard Schaeffer is the inclusion of a number of sponsors that boxing had not seen before such as Southwest Airlines and the tool company DeWalt. Despite of that, Golden Boy has really put their product out there like every other promoter to date, securing dates on television networks that are interested in distributing the sweet science such as HBO and Telefutura. Same thing for Top Rank but now, Bob Arum has opened up a brand new market to show its wares to a broader audience.
The funny thing is, we have seen this before.
I remember as a boy catching Michael Carbajal, Jorge “Maromero” Paez and others on ABC on Saturday afternoons. It was a waited on treat to see great fights on regular TV before the apartment complex where I grew up even got cable installed. Boxing has always been a great television sport. With the action taking place essentially in a 20×20 square, the sport has always translated well on television and has been a staple over the airwaves since the inception of the medium. As of now, the deal between CBS/Showtime/Top Rank does not include any actual fights to be broadcast by the mega network but if everything else goes according to plan, it could only be a matter of time, right?
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Despite all the good that can come of such a deal, I do have a concern. Is the Manny Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosley bout the right fight to feature in such a way? In my eyes, the boxing world only has one shot in trying to capture the heart of the mainstream sport fan and this fight might not be the best example of the “theatre of the unexpected.” Granted, on the “A” side we have the most popular and quite arguably the most charismatic fighter on the planet but what worries me is that darn “B” side. Can the thirty-nine year old Mosley deliver on his side of the bargain and give us a fight? Or will he look as bad as he did in his last two fights in a loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and a draw with Sergio Mora?
Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, has repeatedly stated that the goal in the match up is to knock out Mosley, a feat that many world class fighters have not been able to achieve. If the “Pacman” can at least give us a knockout after a somewhat competitive fight, there is nothing more than we can ask. We must remember that we, the hardcore boxing fans, are not the intended market for this new partnership. Arum and company are well aware that we will stay up until 11:30pm, at least in the west coast, to catch Telefutura, wait until the local Spanish language version of Jerry Springer ends so we can catch fights on Azteca America or search endlessly on the internet for a link for a stream of a jr. flyweight elimination bout held somewhere in southeast Asia. Arum is going after those sports fans that have no idea of why they call boxing the “red light district of sports”. The ones that don’t know of the weekly rule bending by the WBC, the mismatches sold as intriguing match ups and all the other idiosyncrasies that makes us love and hate the sport all at the same time.
Imagine if the fight that was being promoted this way was Pacquiao-Mayweather…