Manny Pacquiao probably shocked many boxing fans last week when he bolted from HBO to Showtime.
That's apparently the case, according to ESPN.com, which reported Friday that both Pacquiao and Shane Mosley would not be on HBO for their next fight. Promoter Bob Arum didn't confirm in the article that Showtime and CBS were handling the fight, and a Showtime spokesperson declined to comment.
At first I was a little stunned myself, but then I remembered this isn't the first time that something like this has happened. Several other stars have bounced back and forth during their careers. The Klitschkos come to mind most quickly, and I remember Roy Jones Jr. doing the same. While Manny Pacquiao is definitely a bigger name, this is part of the sport and it will continue to happen long after he's retired.
But is this move good for boxing? I don't think it's great, but it's also not the end of the world, either. Let's break it down, though. You decide. Here are five reasons why it's good, and five why it's bad:
Moving to Showtime means fans will be treated to color analyst Al Bernstein, one of the most knowledgeable and respected people in the sport.
If you've been around for a while, you'll probably remember some of the work Bernstein did when he was at ESPN. You always walk away learning something, or at least knowing the person talking knows his stuff.
Jim Gray (pictured) usually does interviews in the ring. Gray's irked me in the past for his moves with Pete Rose and I lost respect for his involvement in "The Decision," but I have to admit some of his interviews with Mike Tyson have been incredible—and crossed the line into surreal and disturbing.
Do you honestly think if Manny Pacquiao's fight with Shane Mosley had the makings to do blockbuster numbers that HBO would've let it go? HBO executives saw the writing on the wall. Fans overwhelmingly don't care about this fight, don't support it and it's been ripped by many who cover the sport.
HBO is cutting bait. No need to waste money and time going after fans who have no interest in this fight.
Moving to Showtime will maybe help this fight boost its eventual pay-per-view numbers, which should happen with the additional promotion that could come from extra marketing on CBS. This will allow for regular sports fans who may not watch Pacquiao to get exposed to him and possibly watch the fight.
Moving to Showtime will definitely mean fans lose the quality of a slick, well-produced HBO broadcast for title fights. As harsh as it may sound, when you stack them side-by-side, you know which network has a better production value.
Whether Pacquiao remains with Showtime for the rest of his career or not, this move will hopefully force Showtime to put more emphasis and money back into producing more boxing shows and improving their quality. Changing priorities, and the economy, will often cause networks to downsize the amount of shows they do, but fans should always have plenty of options to see as much boxing as possible on multiple networks.
If you've watched HBO long enough, then you've probably become a fan of the occasional documentary series "24/7," which is aired before some of the major fights HBO telecasts. The insight and stories are incredible, and the sights you get to see make the fights and fighters come to life even more.
Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton are some of the fighters who've been on there, but the king of the series has been Floyd Mayweather Jr., who is tailor-made for the series.
Fans are still going to get Manny Pacquiao fight. He's just going to be on a different channel. It's just like when Conan O'Brien switched channels. As I mentioned before, this isn't the first time fighters have jumped networks, and it will continue to happen after Pacquiao's career is over.
Let's look ahead for a second and play the what-ifs: What's going to happen if and when Manny Pacquiao actually fights Floyd Mayweather Jr.? Floyd is an HBO fighter, and Manny is with Showtime right now. Will the two networks be able to put aside their differences and do a joint telecast again like they did for the heavyweight tilt between Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis? Or will both networks dig their feet in and refuse to budge with helping make this fight happen?
I remember all the complicated details that went into negotiations for the Lewis-Tyson fight, and expect it would happen all over again from a network angle. Add on the negotiating for random drug testing that's been discussed here, and this could bog down very quickly.
They'll often say in football that when one player gets injured, that just gives another one a chance to step up and perform. The concept is almost the same here. With one fighter now gone to another network, that just means HBO will get the chance to showcase another fighter.
My personal choices? I'd say give me Andre Berto (pictured), the winner of the upcoming Bradley-Alexander fight or Andre Ward.
No matter which network Pacquiao fights on, one of the biggest problems that remains for boxing is figuring out a way to get major title fights either back on network TV or regular cable. Promoters have gone on about it for the last 15 years or more, but there's been no substantial change, and they know that boxing was at its height when fans could see Muhammad Ali fight on ABC.
Put the sport back on one of the big three networks, or follow UFC's example and get a deal with a network like a Spike or Versus, and you're in business.
I don't have a big problem with Pacquiao's move. Fans still get a chance to see him fight, so that's the main thing. I'm just concerned about the potential ramifications and possible problems that could arise if and when Pacquiao and Mayweather fight.