Today, June 20 marks the official start of summer and, in 2016, the season actually has a fairly busy boxing schedule. Things kick off this Saturday night as CBS airs the welterweight title contest between WBA titlist Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and Showtime will broadcast the heavyweight title bout between IBF beltholder Anthony Joshua and Dominic Breazeale.
As you look ahead to next month, you’ll see that HBO has cards on July 9 (Tyson Fury-Wladmir Klitschko II for the WBA/WBO/lineal heavyweight titles) and July 11 (Sergey Kovalev-Isaac Chilemba for the IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight titles) and then a pay-per-view card on the 23rd featuring the junior welterweight title unification tilt between the WBO’s Terence Crawford and the WBC’s Viktor Postol.
“Sometimes the schedule just works out in a particular way; they break a certain direction,” said Executive Vice President of HBO Sports Peter Nelson. “I think we’ve just been fortunate that a number of fights came together and we’re looking forward to a great July. It’s been a great year so far.”
The plan was to have Andre Ward take a July 30 tune-up before his Nov. 19 showdown with Kovalev but, as of yet, no fight has been announced. There is a chance this tune-up bout will be backed up or scrapped altogether, according to sources.
Also on the July docket are three “PBC on ESPN” cards that quite frankly look a lot like “Friday Night Fights” broadcasts (seriously, Sam Soliman again?!) and Fox has the WBC heavyweight title fight between Deontay Wilder and Chris Arreola from Alabama on July 16. For a short time, it looked like two other PBC cards featuring Adonis Stevenson-Thomas Williams and the return of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. would be on this same date – and it didn’t look like Showtime would be involved in any of those cards.
“We’ve been discussing it but it really wasn’t in our plan, not that we can’t alter course, but I’d say it’s probably unlikely that we do something on July 16 just because we’ve already set the schedule for the summer already and allocated money accordingly,” Stephen Espinoza, the head of Showtime Sports explained a couple of weeks ago. Since then, the Stevenson-Williams fight has been shifted to July 29 on Spike and it looks like the Chavez fight could be moved back. We’re a month out from July 16 and no formal announcement has been made on that event.
“It’s an attractive range of fights on that date but, as is always the case, there’s not an endless budget supply, so, as much as we’d like to do those, I’m not sure we’ll be in the running,” continued Espinoza, who’s network is airing one of the most anticipated clashes currently on the ledger on July 30, when WBA featherweight titleholder Leo Santa Cruz and Carl Frampton meet. The original co-feature was to have the rematch between Daniel Jacobs and Sergio Mora (which was taken off this card for whatever reason and will return in either August or September).
There is also your usual variety of boxing broadcasts on Telemundo, Estrella TV/RingTV.com, beIN Sports and UniMas throughout the month.
As you head into August, it looks like, with the Summer Olympics, both HBO and Showtime will pretty much go dark (and this is usually the case, regardless). “We’ve never been terribly busy in August. We haven’t looked that far ahead, just yet but we’re still reviewing our schedule and we’ll see what we have in store,” stated Nelson.
From Showtime’s perspective, August is a time to shut it down when it comes to its boxing program.
Espinoza explained,”It comes out from two things: Traditionally August is not a great month for viewership and then you combine that with the attraction of the Summer Olympics and it’s just not the best time to go head-to-head with that kind of programming.”
So what does Showtime do as the leaves turn?
“Our plan is to come back in the fall, although the second part of the plan when we announce it – we’re not going to go head-to-head with the massive college football games that happen in October and November,” stated Espinoza. “I think we’ll try to steer clear of October, November. I’m not saying we’ll go completely dark but we’ll try to stay out of the heaviest times when we’ll be competing with college football, the World Series and baseball playoffs and all that kind of stuff where it gets really tough to find some daylight in October and November.”
While the NFL is king when it comes to television ratings, college football dominates on Saturdays and does major ratings on prime time on CBS, ABC, ESPN and, now, Fox.
“If you go back five years, you didn’t have networks – multiple networks – doing massive college football games on prime time Saturday night. It’s a relatively new occurrence and I think we have to adjust accordingly. So we’ll come back in September, be a little bit quiet in October, November, and then do something again in December,” says Espinoza, who, as a Stanford grad, is a college football fan himself.
Lineal middleweight champion Saul Alvarez will be fighting on Sept. 17 and then you have Kovalev-Ward in mid-November at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
OK, if “Canelo” isn’t facing IBF/WBA/WBC middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin, it’ll be interesting to see how well this event (which I assume will be on pay-per-view) does financially. As for Golovkin, look for him to return in September, regardless. As for Kovalev-Ward, I wonder if that room is a bit too big for that fight. Yes, it’s an anticipated match-up, from a hardcore fan’s perspective, but does it resonate any further than that?
The T-Mobile Arena is a fancy, modern venue but it’s also very big and cavernous (and, for a building whose corporate sponsor is T-Mobile, it has terrible wi-fi, ironically). But Kathy Duva swears they will have no problems at the box-office. (In that case, let’s just hope she’s in charge of this stuff and not Roc Nation Sports.)
Speaking of college football, a major promoter asked me via text what the schedule looked like on December 3. Well, that just happens to be the day of the conference title games (SEC, Big10 and ACC) so I replied, “Go the next week.”
So Joe Smith Jr. ain’t so average after all, huh? I’ll eat crow like many others. He shocked everybody by stopping Andrzej Fonfara the way he did…The Pagara brothers (Albert and Jason) and Mark Magsayo are at the Wild Card Boxing Club. They have some upside…Sept. 3 could be the date for the welterweight unification bout between the IBF’s Kell Brook and the WBO’s Jessie Vargas in Sheffield, England…Looks like I might be going back to Sloan, Iowa in November…”OJ: Made in America” was simply a masterpiece. It’s one of ESPN’s crowning achievements…There are some monster intersectional college football games on Sept. 3 and the 17th with match-ups like ‘Bama-USC and Ohio State-Oklahoma taking place. Yes, fall camp is just around the corner but, of course, the marquee game on Sept. 3 is Miami-FAMU…Speaking of which, let’s try and not schedule anything major on Oct. 29. I’ll be in South Bend as the mighty Miami Hurricanes take on Notre Dame. Yes, my flight and hotel are already booked for that weekend…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.