|Ross Greenburg in the Doghouse: On Floyd Mayweather, Stephen Espinoza, SHOWTIME, Manny Pacquiao, Canelo Alvarez, Broner, Malignaggi, Oscar, Klitschkos and so much more
By David Tyler, Doghouse Boxing (June 17, 2013)
Ross Greenburg was president of HBO Sports from 2000 to 2011. He was executive producer for HBO Sports in 1985. During his tenure he won 51 Sports Emmys and 8 Peabody Awards. He is considered the greatest sports documentarian ever. Let's once again welcome Ross Greenburg into the doghouse.
David Tyler: Ross, will you please update the readers on your activities since your departure from HBO?
Ross Greenburg: Sure...I formed Ross Greenburg productions in July 2011 and worked with NBC packaging programming and documentaries. I've also assisted NBC with their Costas Tonight show. We worked extensively with NHL to form NHL original productions...an NFL film style production unit that added more life to the sport and did some packaging programming for them and the NFL and NBC sports network. Worked for the USGA packaging some programming for them that appeared on NBC sports...a documentary on Jack Nicklaus's first major tournament when he beat Arnold Palmer at Oakmont in 1962. Recently I have forged relationships with both Showtime as a programming consultant and also packaging documentaries for the next two years....also with EPIX packaging some documentaries. So, it's been very hectic and getting more hectic. It's been very rewarding because I am back to my producer roots and I really enjoy rolling up my sleeves and producing programs.
DT: You sir, are a busy man! Let's talk some boxing. Did you put on your Showtime consultant hat and play a role in signing Floyd Mayweather to a six fight contract?
RG: I wasn't involved in the negotiations for Showtime. Once Stephen Espinoza got the deal, he reached out to me because my non compete agreement was over. He asked me if I was interested in packaging some programming. Ross Greenburg productions produced a documentary on Mayweather for CBS and Showtime. I was happy to climb on board...in terms of boxing negotiations I'm letting Steve carry the ball. Steve is really good at what he does and getting Floyd Mayweather is a perfect example of his skills. Steve said to me that very few people that have sat in the chair and understand the inner workings of boxing negotiations and how fights take place. I can give him some counsel from my years of experience and that's my role.
DT: Since you have left HBO, the quality of Showtime Boxing events has improved significantly. To what do you attribute Showtime's success?
RG: I think it's Stephen Espinoza, David Dinkins Jr. and Earl Fash. The three of them are committed to upgrading the production of their broadcasts and especially boxing. That's Stephen Espinoza's world and he has been able to focus and look for quality fights and fighters in this sport. In many ways we have similar thoughts about boxing. It's pretty obvious that the best televisied boxing events are on Showtime Boxing. You can't make a great production out of mediocre fights...it's a winning strategy of taking the best fighters and producing the best fights on Showtime Boxing. The best fighters, the best fights, the best production equals pleased customers or viewers. That's the goal...to please the viewers.
DT: How huge was it for Showtime to sign Floyd Mayweather?
RG: That was a very huge get for Showtime. It's huge for Stephen and the management team at Showtime. I think that the sport has evolved over time to where we have one superstar. Canelo Alvarez, Manny Pacquiao, maybe some others are stars but not on the level of Mayweather. The point is that it feels like Floyd is caring the load much the same way Oscar De La Hoya did around ten years ago. Now it feels like Floyd is carrying the sport and the sport revolves around him. He is at the center of the current boxing universe. If you put him on your network then you have a leg up on the competition. That's exactly what Steve has accomplished.
DT: I am impressed with Paulie Malignaggi's work as an expert analyst. Your thoughts about Paulie on Showtime Boxing?
RG: I think he has done a great job. He has great instincts as a broadcaster...he is able to see the fight and give the viewers little tips and pointers that only a fighter would know. His call of the Canelo Alvarez/ Austin Trout fight was as good as it gets as an analyst. Same for Mayweather/ Guerrero. He is hitting his mark and he sees it...even though he is still an active fighter, he can move to the side and analyze a fight well.
DT: September 14, 2013 is a very big day...over 20 million viewers will tune in for this event. Of course I'm talking about the Alabama / Texas A&M game on CBS. And by the way, Floyd Mayweather takes on Canelo Alvarez that evening with over two million viewers expected for this event on Showtime PPV. Your thoughts about the fight?
RG: It's the biggest fight that can be made right now. That's a tribute to Floyd and Canelo...it was a tough negotiation and hats off to them for making it happen...both looking to fight the best available opponent. I think that Floyd is at a point in his career that he is looking for the best available opponent in each and every fight that he has as he winds down his career. That's a great thing for a fighter to do this...I saw Sugar Ray Leonard do this, I saw Oscar De La Hoya do the same. They knew to maximize their star power, legacy, and bank accounts, you have to search for the best available fight every time you get into the ring. It's a classic match up...you have the boxer against the puncher, you have an intriguing weight differential. You have maybe one of the greatest fighters ever, because of his art form, in Floyd Mayweather. Canelo Alvarez is a strong, young, hungry, Mexican challenger with lots of support from his huge fan base. I look forward to being ring side because of the electricity this fight is certain to generate.
DT: I have had several offers of Ringside seats to the fight, hopefully I see you there. Ross, lets discuss Manny Pacquiao. What does he have to do to earn a shot against Floyd?
RG: He has to win aggressively...the beauty of boxing is that you are always one fight away from being back in the big picture. He has to beat a significant opponent in a significant way and he is back. He has a big fight coming up in the fall that will be a test for him and his desire to work his way back to the top. Once again, one fight can change the landscape in this sport and Pacquiao has done that before.
DT: Showtime is aligned with Golden Boy and HBO is aligned with Top Rank and they are all at war with each other. Is this a good thing?
RG: First of all, I know that Stephen Espinoza and Showtime are committed to taking the best fighters in the world and putting them on the air. There is not an exclusive at Showtime in regards to Golden Boy. You will see other fighters and other promoters make their way to Showtime Boxing...if they have the goods, Steve will buy them. I really can't speak for HBO at this point.
DT: I think that if the public is seeing the best fights, then it really doesn't matter whether both fighters belong to the same promoter. Agree?
RG: An absolute truth. If one promoter stockpiles the best fighters in the world...and they happen to be in the same weight division...the Floyd Mayweather/ Canelo Alvarez bout is a close example, then you will not be able to stop that fight from happening. Everyone knows that Floyd Mayweather has his own promotion company. He decides who he fights and for how much money. Those of us that have sat in the chair and made decisions about fights, owe it to the viewers to put forth the best product available. We don't consider who is promoting who, the main consideration must be your audience, your subscribers, your fans, your viewers. That's exactly what Stephen Espinoza is doing at Showtime.
DT: Ross, in the past you have told me that a PPV event should be on par with a grand slam event, the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA finals...a really big event! Do you still feel the same?
RG: Exactly, I have always said that if you are going to ask people to pay for the product, it had better be on the level of a Super Bowl or NBA Finals otherwise it just doesn't work...the system will break down and I think that's exactly what's going on with the sport. Of course the Mayweather/ Alvarez belongs on PPV but I do think there was a time period where promoters were getting very greedy and eager to make the quick dollar. This hurt the sport of boxing by throwing 200,000 to 300,000 buy fights onto PPV. This instead of having their fighters fight on Showtime live and maximize the viewing audience where the fighter can grow his star power...then they can show up on Showtime PPV and fight Floyd Mayweather. If you take a look, that's exactly the flight path of Canelo Alvarez. So far he has not appeared on PPV but he has got the big PPV event with his huge following based on his appearances on Showtime boxing.
DT: Ross, who takes the baton after Mayweather?
RG: Certainly Canelo Alvarez can take the baton in the ring. What a launching pad that would be for him. He has already established himself as a superstar but if he should beat Floyd Mayweather, then he immediately takes that mantle because he has the star power and charisma. You will know it when you see it...I can vividly remember the aurora and star power around Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya, and Mike Tyson to name a few. Other than Canelo Alvarez I can't think of a fighter that has that charisma and star power.
DT: Adrien Broner?
RG: Yes, I think Adrien has a lot of ability in the ring and that can grow into something but I think he needs work on his image. The great ones like George Foreman and the other fighters I have mentioned are great marketers of their image...certainly Floyd Mayweather has shown to be a great marketer of his image. I just don't think we have seen Adrian Broner create that image yet and that's up to him, his promoter, his manager and himself to figure out who he is and how he can connect with the American public. Time will tell whether he can grow into that kind of image.
DT: Will an American Heavyweight Champion emerge anytime soon?
RG: I don't think so...I used to say that there is some 14 year old kid in middle America who is 6' 4" , 240 lbs. hitting a heavy bag with dreams of becoming heavyweight champion but I now believe these kids are playing basketball or football. I just don't think enough of the kids this size are going into a boxing gym and that's sad. I have never seen the sport go this long without an American heavyweight champion. We are clearly in a terrible era for American heavyweights and all boxing fans know that nothing lights up boxing like the heavyweights. I don't look out on the horizon and see an American heavyweight or any heavyweight around the world that truly captures the public's imagination.
DT: If the Klitschko Brothers were from New York City would there be a different perception?
RG: Absolutely, a huge difference, if they grew up here they would be icons now. But they were not born in America and have created a great fan base in certain parts of Europe but have not emerged as icons in this country.
DT: Ross, I have never seen a lengthy documentary, Ken Burns style, of boxing. We have some great historians like Mike Silver the author of "The Arc of Boxing" who could help document the history of this sport? Your thoughts?
RG: Yes, I do think boxing needs this type of documentary. As a documentarian over the last 30 years I can tell you there is nothing richer than the history of this sport. It's tied into American history all the way back to Thomas Edison inventing the film camera and testing it on boxing events in the late 1890's starting with America's first sports hero, John L. Sullivan. Obviously going through the world wars and the like of Dempsey, Jack Johnson, the rich history of Joe Louis, and of course Sugar Ray Robinson. A host of great stories about immigration in this country and how boxing was used to put people into the melting pot...how the Wars affected the sport...World War I and Jack Dempsey through the Vietnam War and Ali...it's just a great mixture of sports and American history. It is a great topic with great subject matter. I would love to do it and I think it would be a great project and yours truly would love to put this together. David, you have given me an idea for Ross Greenburg Productions.
DT: Ross, thank you for your time and thoughts. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors with Ross Greenburg Productions.
RG: David, best wishes to you also.
Readers: Would you like Ross Greenburg Productions to produce a documentary about the History of Boxing? Let me know and I will pass along the information.
Thanks for visiting doghouseboxing.com,
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