Is Showtime Boxing Knocking out HBO Boxing?

Patrick FaustCorrespondent IMarch 7, 2011

Showtime pulled off a major coup when they got the Pacquiao vs. Mosley PPV
Showtime pulled off a major coup when they got the Pacquiao vs. Mosley PPVChris Trotman/Getty Images

Competition is good.  It literally is the driving force behind everything in the world.  But due to the fact that we’re limited by space, time and this writer’s intellect, we’ll narrow it down to the world of sports and in particular, the sport of boxing. 

Competition is good.  It’s so good in fact, that we as the population of the world spend a lot of money to watch in person or tune in on the television to watch competition take place.  In the case of boxing, the competition takes place between two men in the middle of the ring.  But what of the competition between the entities that provide the boxing broadcasts that we love so much?

The battle between HBO and Showtime in recent months has gotten a whole lot more interesting.  With two Top Rank Promotions pay-per-view cards headlined by Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao respectively being produced and distributed by Showtime, it certainly looks as if they’ve closed the gap, if not completely overtaken their long time nemesis.

The real kick in the, uh, rear end we’ll say, is that Cotto and Pacquiao were mainstays on HBO for years.  Whereas Cotto may have slipped ever so slightly recently, in the ring and in popularity, Pacquiao is bigger than ever.  Pacquiao is an international phenomenon, and until Floyd Mayweather Jr. comes out of exile, he is unquestionably the biggest draw in boxing, bar none. 

Competition is good.  Or at least it should be for us, the consumers.  Competition means that the competitors have to raise the level of their game or be considered irrelevant.  For years HBO has been the top dog in the boxing industry.  Fighters wanted, and still do in all fairness, want to fight on HBO.  But the competition between the two networks has begun to benefit the fighters as well.

Take for example, Showtime’s Super Six World Classic tournament.  It was a novel idea, and although there have been some bumps in the road, it has been highly entertaining and highly popular.  The super middleweight division is loaded with talent and Showtime executives noticed this and gave these fighters a platform and the fans benefited from this.

It’s apparent that the two networks generally have different philosophies when it comes to how the select the fights they put on television.  HBO likes to sign fighters to multi-fight deals and Showtime usually likes to just buy fights.  This has given us a lot of “showcase type” fights on HBO where we see one of their fighters in soft against a guy who is there for no other reason than to be on the wrong end of the showcase.

However, the executives at Showtime took a page right out of their competition’s playbook when they decided to sign Lucian Bute to a three-fight deal.  This was a shrewd maneuver for more reasons than just the fact that they got a very popular fighter or the very obvious reason that they kept him from their rivals.  This move was so slick that they’ve effectively taken out another one of HBO’s more popular fighters.  Enter:  Kelly Pavlik.

With Bute going to Showtime and Pavlik’s team announcing that he’ll go to super middleweight full time and Showtime still having the Super Six tournament, with whom would HBO match Pavlik?  I have no information on this, but I don’t think it would be a great stretch to suggest that we’ll see Pavlik fighting on Showtime soon, other than on the undercard of the Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosley pay-per-view, of course.

Yet for all of the maneuvering and all of the back and forth, the bottom line is, who is putting on better fights?  HBO or Showtime?  Well, we had our first fight of the year candidate with the Brandon Rios vs. Miguel Acosta tilt, which as we all know was on Showtime. 

But, it’s not as though HBO hasn’t tried.  They gave us Timothy Bradley vs. Devon Alexander early this year and although it didn’t live up the hype, that’s not HBO’s fault.  And they gave us Nonito Donaire vs. Fernando Montiel and it’s not HBO’s fault that Donaire knocked Montiel out in the second round.

HBO has nice schedule of fights lined up for this spring, but other than the Eric Morales vs. Marcos Maidana/Robert Guerrero vs. Michael Katsidis card, and the interesting fight this coming weekend between Sergio Martinez and Sergei Dzinziruk, there isn’t much that would be considered anything much better than what we’ve been getting.

Showtime’s slate isn’t exactly awe-inspiring either, but they do have the last two matches in their bantamweight tournament which should be very entertaining and at least one half of the semi-finals of the Super Six tournament, the fight between Carl Froch and Glen Johnson, should be exciting.  Also, as it stands, the Pacquiao vs. Mosley pay-per-view card is loaded. 

There is another new development that will go a long way in determining the winner of this competition between these networks.  That is the announcement that Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye are finally close to signing a deal to fight one another.  It has yet to be decided who will broadcast this, which will be the biggest fight the heavyweight division has seen in some time.  If Showtime get’s this fight as well, it would be a devastating blow.

Come on HBO, it’s time to step up your level of competition.  Showtime has.