Not Exactly an “Oktoberfest” for Boxing By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Oct 18, 2010) Special to Doghouse Boxing / - Tweet
There's been a lot of entertaining stuff on HBO in October. I've enjoyed “Boardwalk Empire” (which, for my money, might soon be up there with “The Sopranos” or “The Wire” in due time). It's great to have Bill Maher back; no matter what your political philosophy is, this show is always good for few laughs. And Kenny Powers, well, that's who I want to be when I grow up. But there is something missing from my various HBOs on my digital cable receiver- boxing.
This is the main reason I subscribe to both HBO and Showtime.
In 2010, both networks have decided to take the month off. Boxing has no official off-season like other sports but it seems as though October- as the leaves turn and the baseball playoffs commence- has become a period in which those who are in charge of network programming stay clear of the “Fall Classic.”
Going back to 2005, boxing has been sporadic, to say the least, on both major premium networks.
HBO- Oct. 1: Roy Jones vs. Antonio Tarver III (PPV)
Showtime- Oct. 1: James Toney vs. Dominick Guinn, Chris Byrd vs. DaVarryl Williamson, Oct. 8: Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo II (PPV)
HBO- Oct. 7: Nicolai Valuev vs. Monte Barrett, Oct. 14: Joe Calzaghe vs. Sakio Bika
Showtime- Oct. 7: Diego Corrales vs. Joel Casamayor III, Vic Darchinyan vs. Glenn Donaire
HBO- Oct. 6: Manny Pacquiao vs. Marco Antonio Barrera II (PPV), Oct. 13: Juan Diaz vs. Julio Diaz
Showtime- Oct. 6: Samuel Peter vs. Jameel McCline
HBO- Oct. 4: Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Marcos Ramirez, Alfredo Angulo vs. Andrey Tsurkan, Sergio Martinez vs. Alex Bunema, Oct. 18: Bernard Hopkins-Kelly Pavlik (PPV)
Showtime- Oct. 11: Chad Dawson vs. Antonio Tarver I, Vitali Klitschko vs. Sam Peter
HBO- No boxing
Showtime- Oct. 17: Arthur Abraham vs. Jermain Taylor, Carl Froch vs. Andre Dirrell, Oct. 31: Yonnhy Perez vs. Joseph Agbeko, Antonio DeMarco vs. Jose Alfaro
As you can see, not much happens in this month as it relates to action on either HBO or Showtime, who were both planning to do shows in the first week of October this year. But Showtime's “Super Six” bout between Froch and Abraham had to be moved back because of an training injury to Froch and there was talk that HBO was going to do a broadcast centering around Andre Berto in Brooklyn, which was scrapped eventually (Berto will now face Freddie Hernandez on November 27th on the undercard of Juan Manuel Marquez-Michael Katsidis).
But a few patterns have emerged; HBO, it seems, is willing to do some pay-per-view shows during this stretch and both networks are willing to put cards on their airwaves during the first weekend of October. But as the divisional playoffs become the League Championship Series and eventually the World Series, boxing gets stuck in the broom closet for a few weeks.
The good news- especially this year- is that things usually pick up in November all the way into mid-December. But this year has been an especially puzzling one from HBO in terms of their scheduling. They took off all of February because of the Winter Olympics (I guess the logic being that followers of this sport will be transfixed by figure skating and the luge) and they have had some unusually long gaps in their boxing schedule this year outside of that. From June 5th (when Miguel Cotto defeated Yuri Foreman in Yankee Stadium) to the early weeks of August (with consecutive shows featuring the likes of Devon Alexander and Chad Dawson-Jean Pascal), HBO had all of one show (Tim Bradley's decision over Carlos Abregu). From August 14th to November 6th (when HBO picks up again with a doubleheader from the Prudential Center featuring Zab Judah and a bout between Robert Guerrero and Vicente Escobedo), they will telecast all of one show in 11 weeks.
Hardly the stuff you'd expect from a company that bills itself as “The Network of Champions,” huh?
Meanwhile, Showtime actually had a full slate of early autumn boxing that imploded. September 18th was the original date of the Juan Manuel Lopez-Rafael Marquez match-up (now re-scheduled for November 6th after Marquez injured his hand in a freak accident with the trunk of his car). Then the following week was supposed to be the date when Andre Ward and Andre Dirrell were to go at it. Well, we all know that bout has gone by the wayside under rather dubious circumstances. October 2nd was the original date for Froch-Abraham, which is now taking place on November 27th.
But it's clear, as the post-season begins in baseball, boxing will take a backseat on the premium cable networks, especially HBO.
"It's their prerogative," said Bob Arum, head of Top Rank Inc., “and Ross Greenburg (HBO Sports President) really believes that baseball makes a big impact on his ratings and you can't convince him otherwise. And Showtime never used to be spooked by baseball but maybe they are now and I think they've had some fallouts in some fights. If I had a pay-per-view fight, I wouldn't hesitate to put it against baseball. Although, I must say, particularly in the division series, they sometimes have three games a night."
Certainly, HBO and Showtime can program their networks any way they please but I got this rather revealing email from one Matt Swider (whose travels to both Dallas Cowboys Stadium and Yankee Stadium I chronicled and who spends thousands of dollars traveling to fights across the country every year). Swider, who, like many of you other faithful readers, is a longtime subscriber to Home Box Office (specifically for their boxing) and wrote recently of HBO's reticence in scheduling October fisticuffs:
As you can see, LSU UF was the biggest draw of both weekends… 2 teams in the south in college towns scored better than LA v NY baseball (and this just looks at one damn game, not even including what ABC, ESPN, etc had on in terms of college football primetime)
So, isn’t it just as simple as Ross doesn’t want to bother “working” when he could be at Yankee Stadium for the playoffs? Bc using his logic HBO should sit out the fall entirely, as the true fall Sat ratings titan doesn’t take any weeks off
This crew at HBO has really snowed a lot of people, this is just a minor example."
Then, the Not-So-Friendly-Neighborhood-Swider-Man, who obviously read too much Maxboxing as a youngster and has become quite the cynic, added later:
"Its just ridiculous. This is the dvr, on demand, digital download era. There's always going to be choices. To take month's off at a time off because of supposed competition the likes of mlb or the winter olympics????
Are they trying to say our product is that bad? Well, some of their cards might be, but in general its a shame and insult to the boxing fan. And I don't know the number but I'm sure the boxing fan is still a statisically signifcant number of their subscriber base."
Talk to other major promoters and they will tell you that the sporting events they really stay clear of are “March Madness” and the Super Bowl. But, in what has become a scheduling tradition for HBO in recent years, the weekend before the Super Bowl has become a staple. And on January 29th of 2011, HBO will be broadcasting the junior welterweight showdown between Bradley and Alexander. For years, HBO, resisted the idea that this slot was an ideal one in which to place a high-profile prizefight.
It can be argued that football is now America's pastime (especially if you go by television ratings) and yet during much of football season, fights are scheduled by both HBO and Showtime. The baseball playoffs, for some reason, are given special consideration, it seems. There is an argument that, during this stretch, it becomes even tougher to get coverage in the general media. But as Arum said about the dearth of boxing in the daily newspapers during this time, "October, January, February..." In other words, boxing doesn't get any more or less inches on the page than it does at any other time. In fact, there is no sport as reliant on specialized, niche websites, as boxing.
Personally, there's nothing better than after a whole day of watching college football (which begins at 7 AM with ESPN's “College GameDay” and doesn't end till the primetime games are finished on ESPN and ABC, followed by the late Pac-10 games on Fox Sports) and then switching over to HBO or Showtime and watching some boxing. To me, that's the perfect fall Saturday.
But I think I speak for many of you when I state that we don't particularly care about the Phillies-Giants and Yankees-Rangers games. But give us an option to watch Lucian Bute and Vitali Klitschko on an internet stream on ESPN3.com and we'll find a way.
In other words, boxing fans watch boxing at anytime of the year. It doesn't matter what else is taking place. This is what we watch. We might have a passing interest in who wins the World Series, the Olympic bobsled or who takes the Big 12 crown but boxing is our passion.
"Yeah but there's not enough of them," Arum pointed out. "In other words, to have a successful viewership, rating, you have to not only get boxing fans but sports fans."
Well, at least November is just a couple of weeks away. Till then...
As I was watching the fight between Vitali Klitschko and Shannon Briggs go on and on to the overall detriment of Briggs' health in the late rounds, I was reminded of Sonny Liston's quote after he had butchered Chuck Wepner (who required about 80 stitches after their fight, when he was made a bloody mess by Liston). Liston was asked if Wepner, who was nicknamed “The Bayonne Bleeder,” was the most courageous opponent he ever faced.
Liston, deadpanned, "No, his manager was."
In other words, those who should've been in charge of their man's safety didn't do their job. Yeah, I know that referee Ian John-Lewis deserves some heat for allowing Briggs to continue on, long after Klitschko had built an insurmountable lead this weekend in Germany but ultimately, Briggs’ cornermen have the ultimate authority to protect their man, who tried his best but was simply outgunned. Fights of this nature, where the stakes are high and a fighter simply won’t go away are extremely difficult for referees. Much like the ill-fated bout between Gabriel Ruelas and Jimmy Garcia in 1995, you had an overmatched foe who was tougher than he was talented. And while everyone will point fingers at the third man in the ring, I've long believed that those in his corner are the ones who should bear the ultimate responsibility.
The fighter’s code states that they don't quit but they will comply with their trainer in circumstances like what was transpiring on Saturday.
Briggs, who was hospitalized after losing a lopsided decision to Klitschko, showed an incredible amount of courage- which is his job. Unfortunately, so did his corner- which isn't theirs.
My most recent batch of international boxing DVDs has come in from my guy, “Trader Tim” (good thing everyone else around the world doesn't care as much about baseball as Greenburg) and I got a packet that contained: Pongsaklek Wonjongkam-Suriyan Por Chokchai, Mzonke Fana-Cassius Baloyi, Moruti Mthalane-Zolani Tete, Tshepo Lefele-Kat Takayama, Jeffrey Mathebula-Takalani Ndlovu and Ranee Ganoy-Fatai Onikale.
Again, it amazes me how Tim and his cohorts gather these fights. I began the process of watching these fights over the weekend- I mean, it's not like there's fights on HBO or Showtime, right?- and I saw something I had never seen before. In Wonjongkam's successful defense of his WBC flyweight title, his opponent, Por Chokchai, in the tenth round, threw up something awful in the middle of the ring. I mean, he was spurting out stuff like he was “Old Faithful.”
It was truly disgusting. Spectacularly disgusting.
But I give him credit; he fought on. Now, I was always under the impression that if you hurled your lunch during a fight that the fight would be stopped. Well, I guess not.
But now, I've seen it all.
I think Shawn Porter is developing nicely. I think he's a much better fit at welterweight than junior middleweight...As for Antonio Tarver, well, it was just about what you'd expect, his victory over Nagy Aguilera on “ShoBox” but call me crazy; I wouldn't mind seeing him face Tomasz Adamek. Seriously, it would be a battle of former light heavyweight champions; both are mid-sized heavyweights and I think it could be a decent action fight. And since Tarver's with Al Haymon, I think he's very much HBO-approvable...Seriously, who will be the Cowboys’ head coach by the time we all roll into town for Pacquiao-Margarito?...I haven't been at the Fantasy Springs Casino in about a decade and I have to say, they have really classed that place up. I'm impressed. The only downside was the interminably long delays in between fights. Yeah, I know there are TV issues but what about the folks who actually spent their time and money to attend the fight live?...Frankie Gomez got by his toughest test to date as a pro by defeating the seasoned Ramon Montano on that card...Is this the year for Boise State and the BCS? It sure is working out for them the past few weeks....