Pretty soon, fight fans might be referring to Showtime's Stephen Espinoza as "The Undertaker."
Long considered the premier television outlet for boxing broadcasts in the United States, HBO continues to reel from rival Showtime’s menacing blows. The once-highly regarded television giant seems to be languishing on the proverbial ropes.
Showtime’s latest hard shot to the body is another big step toward surpassing HBO as fight fans’ preferred programmer. Division stalwarts Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse will meet September 14 on the undercard to Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez.
This is a really big deal.
If you’ve watched boxing long enough, you know boxing pay-per-views can be, for lack of a better word, sparse.
Oh sure, there are showcase fights. Fighter A looks to be the goods, so his promoter matches him with Fighter B, who just happens to be the perfect style Fighter A needs to be in against to look good enough to convince you to buy his PPV fights.
That’s boxing 101.
But with Garcia-Matthysse, the Mayweather-Canelo PPV instantly becomes must-watch TV for anyone who cares one iota about the sweet science. Not only does the main event feature two undefeated fighters in a compelling matchup, but the featured undercard bout of the evening is good enough to stand on its own.
Hardcore fans would be thrilled to shell out the dough for each fight separately. Now, they don’t have to.
How much bigger is Mayweather-Canelo now? ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael believes it’s bigger than ever:
But as huge as the fight is, the show got even bigger -- much bigger -- on Thursday, when Schaefer and Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe announced on a media teleconference that the much-anticipated fight between unified junior welterweight titlist Danny Garcia and powerful interim titlist Lucas Matthysse has been added as the card's co-feature.
Oh sure, but it’s just an undercard fight, right? Not according to Dan the Man:
The fight, an expected action affair that will crown the clear No. 1 fighter at 140 pounds, is so significant that, even as an undercard fight, Schaefer announced that there would be a three-stop media tour -- New York, Puerto Rico and Los Angeles -- in support of the bout.
Let me state that again: an undercard fight is getting its very own multiple-city press tour.
While that might be a bit much, the addition of Garcia-Matthysse is truly another example of the type of persistent outside-the-box thinking that has Showtime nipping at HBO’s heels.
Showtime began broadcasting undercard bouts for its cards at the beginning of last year on Showtime Extreme.
It was a smart move that pays dividends on multiple fronts. First, it gives fight fans what they want: more bang for their subscription buck. Second, it allows Showtime an opportunity to expose fans to fighters they normally would not get to see. Finally, it just plain separates them from their chief competition.
While HBO consistently puts on high-quality fight cards, seldom are they more than one or two fights.
Showtime seems to have increased its star power as well.
Not only has Showtime taken cash cow Floyd Mayweather from HBO, but the exclusive relationship with Golden Boy Promotions has yielded it young stars like Alvarez, Amir Khan and Adrien Broner as well as retaining its ability to build up future contenders like twin brothers Jermell and Jermall Charlo.
Perhaps more importantly, the exclusive relationship has given Showtime access to the man Tim Smith, New York Daily News writer, calls boxing’s biggest power broker, Al Haymon:
By shutting out Golden Boy Promotions, HBO is also by extension slamming the door on Al Haymon, one of the biggest power brokers in boxing. Haymon represents Mayweather and several other prominent names, including Broner. Mayweather does not have a promotional agreement with Golden Boy, but the company has done the bulk of the promotional work for his matches since he left Top Rank Promotions.
There are even rumors Showtime is adding women’s boxing to the mix.
According to FightHype.com, the Mayweather-Canelo undercard might also feature bantamweights Ana Julaton and Yazmin Rivas, a move that would effectively end American television’s de facto ban on women’s boxing.
So does all this spell doom for HBO?
Not necessarily. While the TV giant is reeling at the moment, so too have plenty of fighters who’ve graced their airwaves over the years, only to storm back from the brink of annihilation.
With deep pockets and a lucrative partnership with Bob Arum and Top Rank Promotions, something tells me it’s a little too early to drive the nails in HBO’s coffin.
But that could come soon.
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