Should Boxing Invest Heavily in Network TV Rather Than Cable?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2013

Putting an up-and-coming star like Canelo Alvarez on network television would be a boon for boxing.
Putting an up-and-coming star like Canelo Alvarez on network television would be a boon for boxing.Josh Hedges/Getty Images

Boxing has been called a dying sport since the 1950s.

That's a rash and incorrect assessment.

In fact, the sport still prospers and attracts new fans every generation. Boxing fans recognize the skill and athleticism that it takes to succeed.

But the sport has been damaged by so many things, including the greed that puts nearly every memorable boxing card that features the best fighters on pay-per-view.

A popular fight—such as the memorable fourth fight in the series between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez last December—gave boxing fans a thrill that is rarely found elsewhere.

There was a shocking suddenness when Marquez delivered the hardest punch of his professional career to Pacquiao's chin in the dying seconds of the sixth round. If you missed watching the events unfold, you missed one of the sport's most explosive moments.

Most did miss it. Pacquiao-Marquez IV was an expensive proposition, costing nearly $60 (and in some cases more) to anyone who wanted the privilege of seeing the fight.

While that resulted in a huge payday for the fighters and the promoters, it really did little for a sport that could use new fans.

CBS has recently returned boxing to network television. That's the way for the sport to grow new fans.

It's not enough to put matches on premium cable networks like Showtime and HBO or basic cable networks like ESPN.

The sport needs to show that it wants to be part of the mainstream and return to network television.

That's the way the sport can reach the most viewers. While 91 percent of all homes (per have some form of cable television, network television promotes the sport and sends a message to sports fans.

All four major sports leagues in the United States—the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL—have network television contracts.

All of those leagues put their championship events on network television.

Could NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell raise billions if he wanted to put the Super Bowl on pay-per-view? Of course he could.

But the idea is to grow the sport and allow it to prosper in the present and the future.

All of those sports realize that cultivating new fans is an ongoing necessity.

Boxing decision-makers don't often act with an idea toward growing the sport.

There are a myriad of factions among the fighters, promoters and state commissions. That means there is no centralized leadership that can make a majority of key decisions in the best interests of the sport.

Major-league commissioners make many mistakes as they attempt to lead their sports. But they are usually motivated by the best interest of the sport.

Boxing is motivated by the best interest of the participants. Boxers and promoters look out for themselves, not the sport.

This has not changed since boxing, horse racing and baseball were the three dominant sports in the United State in the 1920s.

It doesn't appear likely to change anytime soon.

But, those who do make most of the key decisions should be able to see that a return to network television can help lift the sport—and all of its participants—to much greater heights.

That's why investing heavily in network television is the best way for boxing to go.