Restocking the shelves at HBO
On last weekend’s broadcast from the Turning Stone Resort & Casino, in Verona, New York, HBO’s Max Kellerman stated, during the bout between Alberto Machado and Jezreel Corrales, that this wasn’t really the caliber of fight – or fighters – that was up to the past standards of the “Network of Champions.”
A short time later, Machado – who was behind in the fight – rallied to stop Corrales in the eighth round to capture the WBA 130-pound title in dramatic fashion. Yeah, it wasn’t exactly the stuff of “Legendary Nights” but it ended up as a fairly entertaining bout, which crowned a new champion.
Last weekend’s card was a tripleheader that featured the tape-delay broadcast of the IBF/WBA bantamweight title unification between Ryan Burnett and Zhanat Zhakiyanov, from Northern Ireland, and the co-feature from Verona was the 12-round snoozer between Demetrius Andrade and Alantez Fox.
Here’s a look ahead at the HBO boxing schedule to finish out 2017:
– November 4: Dmitry Bivol vs. Trent Broadhurst
– November 11: Daniel Jacobs vs. Luis Arias, Jarrell Miller vs. Mariusz Wach, Cletus Seldin vs. Roberto Ortiz
– November 25: Sergey Kovalev vs. Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, Jason Sosa vs. Robinson Castellanos, Sullivan Barrera vs. Felix Valera
– December 2: Miguel Cotto vs. Sadam Ali
– December 16: Billy Joe Saunders vs. David Lemieux
OK, the best way to describe this lineup is “Quantity over quality.” Outside of Saunders-Lemieux, everything else is just basically filler.
It is a good sign that HBO has a busy schedule coming up, to end the year. There had been plenty of speculation over just how committed the network was, both short-and-long term, to the sport, which has been a big part of its DNA for the past few decades. Boxing remains the last remaining sport it broadcasts live and they devote such programming (such as “The Fight Game with Jim Lampley”) to it. Speaking of Mr. Lampley, it would be safe to assume his recent contract extension doesn’t happen without boxing being a central focus of his work at HBO.
But it’s clear that the challenge Peter Nelson (the Senior Vice President of HBO Sports) has is to fill the gaps that have been left, going all the way back to the jettisoning of Al Haymon and his vast stable, a few years ago, to, more recently, the departure of Top Rank, which took its clients (including HBO staples undisputed junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford and WBO junior lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko) over to ESPN.
Then there are Saul Alvarez and unified middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin, who are now both basically twice-a-year pay-per-view performers.
So Nelson must now rebuild the HBO boxing franchise and it’s evident that these upcoming cards are really about an investment into the future of the brand. Think Butch Davis in 1995, as he took over the Miami Hurricanes, when they were hit with probation and limited scholarships. Before eventually constructing one of the all-time great rosters in college football history, before his ill-advised move to the Cleveland Browns, he hit rock bottom in 1997, as the ‘Canes plummeted to 5-6 and there were banners flown over the Orange Bowl lampooning his efforts as the CEO of the program.
Rebuilding a dynasty is never easy and you must be able to see the forest for the trees. Patience and vision are a must.
It’s clear that, with “Canelo” and “GGG,” HBO has planted its flag in the middleweight division, which is why Andrade and Jacobs are now in the fold. While former unified light heavyweight champion Andre Ward retired and is now a color commentator for the network, Kovalev is still active and it’s clear that Bivol and Barrera are being groomed as potential opponents at light heavyweight.
HBO had planned on doing the all-Mexican showdown between WBC junior lightweight beltholder Miguel Berchelt and old warhorse Orlando Salido, on December 9. Now with Berchelt out of that fight, with issues with his right hand, there is an effort to make the rematch between Salido and Francisco Vargas. Tevin Farmer, a 130-pound contender, was supposed to be on this broadcast and Sosa-Castellanos is another match-up in this division.
As Al Haymon has clearly established himself as the primary content provider for Showtime and Top Rank now in partnership with ESPN, HBO has crafted solid relationships with Golden Boy Promotions, K2 Promotions, Main Events, Banner Promotions, Star Boxing and, now, Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing.
It’s been a very good 2017 for Showtime, which has provided such match-ups as Leo Santa Cruz-Carl Frampton, James DeGale-Badou Jack, Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko (live), Errol Spence Jr.-Kell Brook and Mikey Garcia-Adrien Broner. While their schedule tapers off a bit in both volume and caliber, to end the year, overall it’s been a campaign they can be proud of, overall.
As for HBO, it’s clear that this is a rebuilding process but they aren’t getting out of the boxing business. They simply have to restock their shelves with product.
It may take awhile.
February 3 is the date for WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez to return to the ring…Bob Arum says that Terence Crawford will begin his 2018 on March 10…Golden Boy has shifted its November 16 card from Puerto Rico to Cancun, Mexico, for obvious reasons…So, is a lightweight unification bout between Jorge Linares and Terry Flanagan imminent?…Thursday night is a big chance for Bryce Love of Stanford to make a statement in the Heisman Trophy race…Did they really have to snitch on DeShone Kizer like that?…I admit I gave up on Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” weeks ago…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.