HBO Boxing: Will 2014 be its year?Written by Mike Nashed
Rarely the case in recent years, marquee matchups actually came to fruition, igniting more debate over events inside the ring than out.
It was a year that seemed a throwback to eras past when logic prevailed and for a fleeting few months, fight fans blissfully ignored the sport’s problems in lieu of good, competitive shows.
2014 is shaping up as another banner year for the Sweet Science, but with one notable difference from the year prior. HBO, rather than Showtime, has taken the lead in giving the people what they want.
The deep pockets of CBS, which lured Mayweather into an unprecedented six-fight contract, have undoubtedly established their subsidiary cable network (Showtime) as a force in the fight game.
Poised to strike back, HBO informally kicked off its boxing programming season last Saturday with a solid if unspectacular card headlined by Julio Cesar Chavez Jr./Brian Vera II. The real meat on the bone will come in the form of two mega pay-per-view title bouts, the first of which will take place on April 12th when Manny Pacquiao (55-5-2) squares off with Timothy Bradley (31-0) for the second time.
The pre-fight build should revive the compelling backstory from their first meeting. In June of 2012, Bradley, now infamously, scored a controversial split decision victory over Pacquiao, despite the vast majority of ring siders and other onlookers scoring the fight widely for Manny.
The ensuing months were trying for Bradley, who rapidly became boxing’s persona non grata as result of the perceived judging robbery. Bradley would eventually rehabilitate his image with a 'Fight of the Year' caliber performance against Ruslan Provodnikov in March of 2013 and a clear decision victory over Juan Manuel Marquez in October.
By contrast, Pacquiao found himself at a career crossroads after a knockout loss to Marquez in December of 2012, which was preceded by the Bradley debacle. What a difference 22 months makes, as the Desert Storm has swirled near the top of most pound-for-pound lists, while Pacman must endure questions as to whether he has seen his best days.
An interesting story and a tilt pitting two of boxing’s elite.
Showtime’s first major pay-per-view event of the year comes this Saturday when Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (42-1-1) meets the eminently flawed, now journeyman, Alfredo Angulo (22-3).
On June 7th comes a fight several years in the making, featuring lineal middleweight champion, Sergio Martinez (52-2-2) against 160lb newbie, Miguel Cotto (38-4). A massive star among Puerto Rican boxing fans, Cotto will be fighting in a hotbed of his natives; New York’s Madison Square Garden. The sure-to-be raucous crowd will hope to witness Cotto become the only Puerto Rican to capture titles in four weight divisions.
Martinez will be returning after a 13-month layoff, during which he recovered from knee surgery.
Photo edit by John Garita / Round By Round Boxing
In addition to pairing two of the sport’s biggest stars, there is some bad blood between these men. Another interesting story along with a style match that is likely to excite.
Showtime will counter with what is quite likely to be Floyd Mayweather’s 46th consecutive win, this time against newly crowned WBA welterweight champion, Marcos Maidana (35-3), on May 3rd.
But wait, there’s more! Though not yet juxtaposed in the ring, HBO will feature light heavyweight stars Sergey Kovalev (23-0-1) and Adonis Stevenson (23-1) on separate cards in late March and early May respectively. Most believe that the network is simply trying to build interest in a potential 175lb showdown.
In this case, the interest already exists and discussions have already taken place in preparation for this fight. Kovalev/Stevenson is one of the best fights that can be made in boxing today.
As if that weren’t enough, HBO has yet to schedule fights for two of its biggest stars – Gennady Golovkin and Andre Ward. These men are also potential opponents for one another, and needless to say, this one would be an utter blockbuster.
So, another year is likely to come and go without pressure on boxing to end its ad nausem promotional cold war. Enjoy the fights, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that we’re just kicking the can a bit further down the street.
I am 35 years old and was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. I studied journalism at Boston University, but eventually graduated with a degree in the sciences.
Presently, I work in biotechnology and am also an entrepreneur with a business that specializes in sports entertainment.
I particularly enjoy boxing because, of all major sports, it offers the most poignant moments of truth – “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”
I presently write for multiple online publications, including BoxRec News, and am typically in attendance for most major US boxing events and believe that my strongest area of understanding is of the business side of boxing.
Increasingly, in recent years, networks and promoters have directed the sport. This aspect is sometimes overlooked, however, I believe that one must have a grasp of the various business relationships/rifts in order to truly understand boxing.
Though complicated, it’s a great sport.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow me on Twitter at @mikenashed.