Not much going on this month (as usual)
As you look ahead to the rest of February and the boxing calendar, there is this stark realization: There isn’t all that much going on. Oh, sure, you still have your regular slate of “Friday Night Fights,” “Solo Boxeo” and “ShoBox” telecasts and, of course, the regular schedule of bouts in Europe and other foreign locales. But in the States, how we define a “major” or “significant” fight is pretty simple:
Is it on HBO, Showtime or pay-per-view?
Well, on the afternoon of Feb. 21, WBA middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin makes his annual appearance in Monaco versus Martin Murray and, quite frankly, there’s not much else here for American fans to look forward to. That said, March looks to be one of the most anticipated months in recent memory with the NBC and Spike TV debuts of “Premier Boxing Champions” and Sergey Kovalev-Jean Pascal and Lucas Matthysse-Ruslan Provodnikov on HBO (we promise; Showtime will eventually get into the boxing business at some point in 2015).
But the question is: Why does boxing – a sport that is constantly fighting for attention – go into hibernation in essentially the deadest month in sports? This 28-day window (29, of course, on Leap Year) has a huge vacuum between the end of the NFL season and when pitchers and catchers report. “March Madness” doesn’t start till, well…March and the NBA and NHL play an endless amount of regular season contests that really don’t mean all that much to the general public other than specific cities with those franchises. It could be argued that the biggest sporting event this month is actually the NFL Combine, which certainly speaks to the popularity of football in our country. But this isn’t an actual game unless you count the 40-yard dash and throwing quick outs in shorts as real football.
This year is really no different than any other for boxing when it comes to February, which has become a “no-televise zone” of sorts for our major premium cable outlets that broadcast the sport’s most important events. Looking back a couple of years, in 2013, HBO broadcast Adrien Broner-Gavin Rees while Showtime did a “special edition” of ShoBox (along with one other regular version) that had Ishe Smith vs. Cornelius Bundrage in the main event. Meanwhile, other significant bouts took place in Feb. of 2013 in Europe such as Felix Sturm-Sam Soliman, Carl Frampton-Kiko Martinez and Tony Thompson-David Price I.
This time last year, there was an HBO2 telecast from Macau, China that featured Zou Shiming while Showtime went dark on its biggest series “Showtime Championship Boxing” and had a solitary ShoBox broadcast. Golovkin’s bout against Osumanu Adama was not picked up by HBO and fans had to resort to “listening on the radio” to experience that contest from Monte Carlo.
Once in awhile, you’ll have some really memorable fights like Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz I and Kelly Pavlik-Jermain Taylor II (most recently) that will land in February but, for the most part, it’s a barren month on Bash Blvd. It’s clear that television executives – who are paid to know such things – look at the second month of the year as being rather light on television viewership. But I’ve been told that during the fall and winter months (especially regarding the East Coast), cold weather usually has people bundled up inside watching copious amounts of TV. I guess that doesn’t apply in February for whatever reason.
Perhaps a factor is that many of these venues regularly hosting boxing’s major promotions (Staples Center, Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden) are multi-purpose facilities with tenets from both the NBA and NHL (each sport has 82 regular season games) and finding available Saturday evenings is very difficult since boxing still then has to compete with concerts, circuses and rodeos that come into town, sometimes booking a year in advance.
Also, Las Vegas doesn’t really seem to kick up till March after the football season comes to an end with a huge influx of action on the NCAA hoops tourney.
(Another factor is this: For fighters to have assignments in this month would mean they would have to start their training camps in the thick of the holiday season and through New Years. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve been told that a boxer simply didn’t want to go through a training camp during this period of time and proposed fights are backed up from February to March or even April. Hey, boxers like their egg nog and tamales too.)
But you wonder, given that there is huge hole in sports programming this month, why wouldn’t promoters and TV executives usually so concerned about other events taking the spotlight from their niche sports want to capitalize on this month? They could at least put on an event or two in smaller venues like casino ballrooms that will still provide some content to their subscribers and keep the game moving along. Let’s be realistic; boxing has been a television sport for a very long time as it transitioned out of its major markets and into casinos.
So while the sport world is in a slumber, unfortunately, boxing (in America) also goes to sleep.
I don’t want to belabor this point (and yeah, I know I can do that at times. I can’t help myself) but with HBO matching Showtime’s bid for Matthysse-Provodnikov, as of now, Showtime doesn’t have any major fight cards on its schedule. Meanwhile, if you’re an HBO subscriber, I think it would be difficult to complain about the line-up they have put together for the first half of this year.
What will be interesting about Matthysse-Provodnikov (which is certainly a must-see for any hardcore fight fan) is just where this bout ends up. While the StubHub Center in Carson, AKA the “West Coast Mecca of Boxing,” is where the fight should be, I hear there are some backroom shenanigans going on from other parties trying to prevent that.
Yeah, the fights in 2015 are also taking place outside the ring.
I thought Sergio Mora banked enough early rounds to get the nod on my card over the game Abie Han…Erickson Lubin had a nice win over late-replacement Michael Finney…Lightweight Jose Felix Jr. has been added to Top Rank Promotions’ March 7 card in Macau…I think Alex Saucedo has some upside…The Lakers are really making the push to secure a top-three pick. Good job guys!…”Empire” on FOX just keeps getting better and better (or worse and worse to others)…I dunno; is ABC’s “Scandal” jumping the shark?…”Nashville” is off to a strong start. And yeah, I watch both “Empire” and ABC’s “Nashville.” I got more versatility than Scottie Pippen in his prime…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at http://twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at http://instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at www.tsu.co/steveucnlive.