Top Rank Promotions and HBO
This Saturday night from the Madison Square Garden in New York City, HBO presents a night of boxing that will feature Terence Crawford defending his WBC and WBO junior welterweight belts against Felix Diaz. As of this moment, it’s not clear which is the more eye-opening occurrence – the fact that HBO is actually airing a live show or that it’s broadcasting a card promoted by Top Rank Promotions.
There used to be a time when Top Rank was the leading content provider for HBO, having developed Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao throughout the years. While CEO Bob Arum had dalliances with other networks (most notably when he took Pacquiao over to Showtime for one fight back in 2011), HBO has been the main platform for his clients.
But currently outside of Crawford and WBO super featherweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko, there really isn’t much business being done between Top Rank and HBO. It got to a point at which Pacquiao’s bout against then-WBO welterweight titlist Jessie Vargas last November was a pay-per-view distributed independently by Top Rank.
In recent months, Arum has spoken openly about new avenues of showcasing his talent that would ultimately make the premium cable networks less of a factor moving forward. But as of now, he has yet to unveil this plan.
Throughout the years, whether Seth Abraham and Lou DiBella, Ross Greenburg and/or Kery Davis and then Ken Hershman and now Peter Nelson were at the helm of HBO Sports, Arum has never been afraid to air his disagreements and grievances (both publicly and privately) and it’s clear his relationship with “Network of Champions” has seen better days. Perhaps having pay-per-view franchises like the aforementioned gave him such leverage and leeway.
Currently, Top Rank is in a transition period. The “Pac-Man” is in the twilight of his Hall-of-Fame career and you get the sense that the surly Crawford has a limited ceiling, in terms of star power. Right now HBO is certainly in the Saul Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin business and more firmly aligned with Golden Boy Promotions and K2 Promotions. But it would be unwise to ever count out Top Rank, which has the longest track record of developing stars.
One of them could be current WBO featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez, who, on April 22 at the StubHub Center, engaged in a crowd-pleasing 12-round affair against the tough Miguel Marriaga. In years past, this was exactly the type of fight that would have been featured on “Boxing After Dark” (which seems to be an endangered series nowadays) but instead was another pay-per-view telecast produced and distributed by Top Rank.
Valdez has the look of a star, one you’d think HBO would want to invest in. But he’s made just one appearance on the network back in 2015 against Ruben Tamayo, which was seven fights ago. He’s come a long way since that outing. “Absolutely, he’s a star. He’s a star which hasn’t unfortunately, because of circumstances, had the visibility he should. But I believe that will be changed and changing rapidly,” stated Arum last week.
In his last four bouts, Valdez has been featured on pay-per-view cards and his last outing – in which he was the headliner – most likely had the smallest audience watching. Shouldn’t a fighter as telegenic and fan-friendly as Valdez be on bigger stages?
“Yes,” agreed Arum, who quickly added with a chuckle, “Now don’t ask me what the platform is because I’ll say, ‘No comment,’ but, yes, I know. Remember, Valdez has never been on HBO but that speaks volume to me.”
(Arum is forgetting about that Tamayo fight but, hey, in his defense, it was a rather forgettable fight.)
Valdez-Marriaga was a fight Top Rank wanted to pair with a bout featuring WBO super middleweight beltholder Gilberto Ramirez vs. the undefeated Jesse Hart. But HBO didn’t show much interest in this doubleheader for whatever reason. It was a decision that was puzzling to the Top Rank brass.
In the past, Arum has rattled his saber about taking his business over to Showtime but everyone knows with whom they do the bulk of their business. Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of CBS – Showtime’s parent company – Les Moonves might be his old friend but Al Haymon has a virtual monopoly on Showtime’s dates.
Speaking of Ramirez, who defeated Max Bursak over 12 rather repetitive rounds on the Valdez undercard, there are still plans to pair him versus Hart. Arum confirmed this but, when asked about a time frame for this fight, he answered,’”No comment.” ( Now Arum giving “No comments” is akin to Donald Trump being modest – you just don’t expect it). Perhaps this is all tied to Top Rank’s new grand plan.
This past Olympic cycle, Top Rank signed Michael Conlan and Shakur Stevenson (who fights on the undercard this weekend at MSG), along with other talented young prospects like Teofimo Lopez. Logic says they wouldn’t have restocked their cupboard to this degree if they didn’t have a plan to develop this next generation.
Earlier this year, Arum happened to tell this scribe that, in life, nothing ever changes; nothing ever stays the same. Perhaps he was talking about his company’s relationship with HBO. Sources tell UCNLive.com that Arum has been in contact with the network about his event in Brisbane, Australia on July 2, that features Pacquiao against Jeff Horn at Suncorp Stadium.
When asked about the stateside television component for this fight, Arum gave the obligatory “No comment” but added, “There will be a deal.”
Word is ticket sales for this weekend’s card at the Garden are lagging…A full night of boxing begins on Showtime (starting with the Gervonta Davis-Liam Walsh fight in London) at 6 p.m. ET, followed by Gary Russell Jr.-Oscar Escandon at 8 p.m. ET, from the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland…The HBO card begins at 10:15 p.m. ET from the Garden…FS1 goes on at 10 p.m. ET and features David Benavidez-Rogelio “Porky” Medina from Laredo, Texas…“Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN” returns this Thursday night and has a main event of Diego De La Hoya-Erik Ruiz…Soooo, the Lakers take Lonzo Ball?…This season of USA’s “Friday Night Tykes: Steel Country” has been incredible…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.