HBO Boxing Still Has a Place in the Changing Landscape
Televised boxing looks a lot different today than it did a decade ago.
New television deals such as Bob Arum’s multi-year commitment to ESPN and Al Haymon's recent extension with Showtime and new agreement with FOX have expanded boxing’s reach to new levels. Add in the DAZN app which is set to launch soon, and there are more ways to watch boxing then ever before.
All of this exposure has taken some momentum away from HBO’s boxing programming, prompting some fans and those within boxing to wonder if the network’s glory days are coming to an end. Is a longtime staple in the sport really down for the count?
No, it’s just taking a knee. Regrouping. Reassessing the situation.
Due to the vast availability fights on many different platforms, it’s understandable why HBO Boxing has lost some ground. Fighters who used to be regulars — Terrence Crawford, Vasily Lomachenko, Manny Pacquiao and Adrien Broner to name a few — now have other viable options that allow them to be seen. Factor in the retirements of Bernard Hopkins, Sergio Martinez, Miguel Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez and Tim Bradley — fighters who all had memorable matches on the network — and it’s easy to believe HBO has been left behind.
That belief is more perception than reality.
Yes, fights on the network have been reduced this year. Given more thought however, HBO Boxing still has delivered some memorable moments in the sport over the past two years including: Andre Ward’s two thrilling and defining victories over Sergey Kovalev; Joe Smith’s life-changing upset that brought an end to Hopkins’ legendary career; the brief but exciting resurgence of Miguel Cotto’s career under Freddie Roach; the continued dominance of Gennady Golovkin; two exciting matches between Roman Gonzalez and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai; and light-heavyweight Eleider Alvarez’ monumental stoppage of Kovalev in early August of this year.
In a week’s time, HBO Pay-Per-View will again televise the biggest fight of the year; the highly anticipated rematch of last year’s battle between Canelo Alvarez and Glolovkin, complete with what looks to be an intriguing undercard bout between middleweight sluggers David Lemieux and Gary O’Sullivan.
Although HBO is still a relevant in televised boxing, it’s not unforeseeable that there could be challenges ahead. As two of its biggest stars face off next week, what happens if Golovkin or Alvarez get beaten badly? Does either boxer’s mystique and fanfare go away?
That certainly has been the case with Kovalev since losing twice to Ward and being knocked out in his most recent fight. If the same happens to Golovkin or Alvarez, where does that leave HBO Boxing?
Perhaps quality over quantity is their best bet. More cards like tonight’s superflyweight triple-header, which showcases one of the sports’ lesser-known divisions can continue to help HBO Boxing stand out. There are also unique opportunities to highlight intriguing women’s fights, such as the rematch between Heather Hardy and Shelly Vincent on Oct. 27.
While it’s unknown how often HBO will deliver boxing content in the future, it will, as its done since 1973, find ways to remain a viable contender in the vastly growing world of televised boxing.
Even if that means occasionally taking a few rounds off.
By The Numbers: A look at the number of boxing events televised by HBO in the last seven years
2018 9 (as of Sept. 8, 2018)
HBO World Championship Boxing Opening Theme