It’s been a long, winding road, as it relates to the bout between WBO welterweight titlist Jeff Horn and undefeated two-division champion Terence Crawford. Originally there was chatter that this bout would take place at the Madison Square Garden, in New York, with Manny Pacquiao on the undercard, as part of a pay-per-view event. Then it was shifted to the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas (without the “Pac-Man” participating) for an ESPN telecast on April 14.
However as the calendar turned to March and then crept into the middle of the month, there was still no formal announcement of this card. It was revealed earlier this week that, due to Crawford suffering a hand injury, this match-up would be delayed. With that the battle between WBO 122-pound champion Jessie Magdaleno and Isaac Dogboe was moved to the ESPN card on April 28, in Philadelphia.
Coincidentally (or not), it was revealed that Horn-Crawford now will be broadcast on ESPN’s new app, ESPN+, a subscription service that will cost $4.99 a month and feature live sporting events. Boxing will be showcased prominently, as a dozen Top Rank shows will be broadcast on this platform.
When contacted by UCNLive.com, the President of Top Rank Todd duBoef declined to comment on the specifics of this deal but said these cards on ESPN+ were an ”additive” to their cards already scheduled on the main network (which will have around 18 broadcasts in 2018). Word is this streaming service will also feature shoulder programming related to boxing and perhaps Top Rank archives and international bouts.
This has been in the works, since ESPN purchased a majority share of BAMTech last year. It’s clear they are using Horn-Crawford as a way to attract subscribers to this app (and yeah, you could certainly make an argument that one of the best boxers in the world is being relegated to playing to a smaller audience, for this particular outing) and that the network is certainly committing to the sport like never before.
Moving forward, the question is, will the ESPN+ app be used more for developmental cards for Top Rank’s younger prospects and boxers with smaller profiles who need to be kept busy? That would’ve been difficult for Top Rank to do so with fewer than 20 cards a year. Recently they had been farming out some of their prospects to Tuto Zabala Jr.’s All Star Boxing for cards broadcast on Univision.
Or will this app be utilized to feature their marquee attractions like Crawford and WBO junior lightweight beltholder Vasyl Lomachenko?
It’s obvious that there are many facets to this partnership with the “Worldwide leader” and Top Rank, so what’s next in this roll-out?
Speaking of ESPN, it is televising the card from the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, featuring the bout between Jose Ramirez and Amir Imam for the vacant WBC junior welterweight title. Also on this card is Oleksandr Gvozdyk facing Mehdi Amar for the WBC interim light heavyweight title. This broadcast starts at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.
The undercard stream on Watch ESPN will begin at 5:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. PT.
Also on this evening, Thompson Boxing Promotions is doing a private show from the Doubletree Hotel, in Orange, California, and it will begin its stream beginning at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. with the rebroadcast of Danny Roman’s successful defense of his WBA 122-pound title versus Ryo Matusmoto in Tokyo, Japan. Following Roman-Matsumoto, it will stream the live card (which will feature the 2018 debut of Michael Dutchover).
ARUM VS. KING
Despite their rivalry of the past, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum is pretty complementary of his archrival Don King, who brings Amir Imam to the dance this weekend against Arum’s guy, Jose Ramirez.
Perhaps time has mellowed past animosity but Arum says of King, “He’s a professional. He knew how to give me the needle. I fought back and we had some memorable times. Whether it was (Oscar) De La Hoya-(Felix) Trindiad, (Sugar Ray) Leonard-(Roberto) Duran, (Miguel) Cotto-(Ricardo) Mayorga, we went at it. But y’ know, we ended up providing a good show and ultimately it’s the fighters that fight and not the promoters.”
This could be the final match-up we see between Top Rank and Don King Productions.
“You never know with Don. We can be in our hundreds and doing fights together,’ ‘joked Arum.
Given that Ramirez is a huge draw in the Fresno area, why was this card placed in New York City?
“Well, there aren’t many Irishmen in the Central (California) Valley,” quipped Arum. “New York is a hotbed of the Irish. They paint a green line down 5th Avenue and we were very successful with our show on St. Patrick’s Day last year with (Michael) Conlan and so we decided to go back to the Garden on March 17th.
“Jose’s fight is a very, very good fight and a good opportunity to win a title and so we put the fight there.”
Should Ramirez win the WBC belt, the plan is for him to make his first defense in Fresno, where he has drawn sizable crowds.
Here’s a full, two-hour edition of “The Next Round,” with Gabe Montoya and me, in which we’re joined by Jim Boone for his “Box-Office Report.”
beIN Sports(Espanol) has a card from Monterrey, Mexico, featuring the hard-hitting Jaime Munguia tonight…Integrated Sports has a pay-per-view card from Boston that has a main event of Danny O’Conner-Steve Claggett…HBO Sports announced that it will provide live coverage of the heavyweight bout from the O2, in London, between Dillian Whyte and Lucas Browne, on March 24…Wake me when the “Final Four” is on…How good has ABC’s “Scandal” been in it’s final season?…I can be reached at email@example.com 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.