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Manny Pacquiao & the Downfall of HBO Boxing

By Mike “Rubber Warrior” Plunkett

Recently boxing promoter Rick Glaser posed a key question to a number of diehard fans, asking what HBO needed to do to once again become the king of the heap where boxing was concerned. In years past HBO was known for producing some of the most riveting, bang for the buck match-ups, many of which have gone down as legendary encounters, but over the past three years the cable giant has been serving up match-ups that are less than scintillating. With the recent announcement that Top Rank Inc. has joined forces with CBS/Showtime, the reality is that the departure of Manny Pacquiao will leave an unmistakable void in HBO’s programming. The agreement brings together the top athlete and personality in the sport, with Showtime the fastest growing premium television network in the U.S., and its parent company the CBS Corporation. Below are the responses of several astute hardcore fans, their viewpoints on what is happening and what HBO needs to do in order to regain its former appointment as the premier cable outlet for professional boxing.

Frank Rivera

“Honestly in my opinion I don’t think HBO losing those two fights is going to hurt them. In fact I think it was a good move on HBO’s part for not wanting to air another PPV under their name that might be a poor or OK fight. HBO wants to give their fans good and exciting boxing matches this year and so far it has not panned out but before their first two bouts we all thought that Devon Alexander vs. Timothy Bradley was going to be a great fight. Then HBO showcased Nonito Donaire vs. Fernando Montiel and again we thought it was going to be something to watch. But Donaire had other plans that night. On paper HBO does have a good lineup in the next few months”.

“As far as change goes I definitely think it’s time for Larry Merchant to say good-bye. The man has been around for a long time on HBO and it’s time for a change. Another thing HBO can do in my opinion is try to setup some sort of tournament in any of the weight divisions. HBO did very well when they partnered up with Don King and did the middleweight unification tournament back in 01. Sorry but putting Manny Pacquiao vs. a shot ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley & Miguel Cotto vs. Ricardo Mayorga on PPV is not worth the money”.

Michael Strazzere

“HBO not getting a Manny Pacquiao or Miguel Cotto fight is good is good for boxing? They are two of the top three or four of today’s most popular fighters. Boxing is dying, period. They need to stop the corruption and bullshit. Most sports fans today couldn’t name ten active boxers. MMA is about to blow it out the water, and you can hate on MMA but it is growing while boxing is shrinking. My point is there are no better fights for pay per view, or not much better, which is why boxing sucks now. I like watching the fights but big picture, if HBO is turning down the one fighter who is known that actually fights and his next opponent in future Hall of Famer in ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley, what does that say bout boxing in general”?

Juan Carlos Gonzalez

“I liked all the fights HBO announced on the Fernando Montiel vs. Nonito Donaire broadcast. Why are boxing fans such drama queens? Is boxing really dying? Then why are boxers making more and more money all the time? It would seem people are talking about Smackdown and RAW when they talk about HBO and Showtime. If all you care about is Pacquiao-Mayweather-Cotto fights, then yes, I guess HBO is doomed. I think Showtime is getting better and catching up, but to say HBO boxing is done or dying in silly and premature. Look at their lineup for nearly all of 2011. It’s great. Manny Pacquiao isn’t the whole of the boxing world”.

Mark Snow

“It’s real simple. For more than 15 years the problem has been glaringly obvious. Boxing hides its best product from the widest audience. The Super Bowl is free. We just watched the NBA All Star Game and the league thrives. If they took the approach boxing has been taking, it would cost $100 to watch. But they might sporadically show you a low-level D-League game for free. No way to build a fan base, and within 20 years it would be marginalized. Now HBO is giving us bouts that ESPN would have shown 8 years ago, everything else is pay-per-view. Greed Kills. And unfortunately in our case, since there is absolutely no one with a long term vision for the sport (unlike other sports with commissioners, owners, etc.) greed has just about killed boxing”.

Dave Stafford

HBO TV specials on free TV on the weekends for certain fights, ala the old school ‘Saturday Night’s Main Event’ concept. More shows like 24/7′ covering the training camps and lives of the fighters for more match ups. It’s more interesting getting to know who the fighters are and how they prepared for their fights. Bring back ‘HBO’s Legendary Nights’’. I would love to see some more episodes of that show covering classic rivalries and matchups. Have different variations of matches…maybe an ‘Old School Boxing’ style where the round doesn’t end till someone goes down. Of course the fighters could pick and choose whether or not they wanted to participate in such a match…this should not be for the commission or sanctioning body to mandate”.

Scott Williams

“HBO needs to get rid of the agreement with GBP and bring back more Boxing After Dark top quality match-ups on free HBO”.

Mike Plunkett

I’m a big believer in competition. Showtime has taken its queues and upped their game substantially. Now the onus will be on HBO to counter Showtime and pull up its socks. The end result might very well be an overall increase in the number of quality match-ups the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 90’s. I also very much agree with Dave Stafford’s response and the logic behind HBO providing a number of key and quality match-ups for free. It makes sense on a number of fronts given today’s limited viewership and to some extent it would help the sport regain some lost ground. At the end of the day, quality and mass exposure will be the key components that will breathe new life into a sagging but otherwise great sport.

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