During the spring and summer, rumors intensified throughout the boxing industry of the unlikely scenario. The marriage between boxing and HBO appeared headed for divorce.
Rumor became fact Thursday. HBO, the network associated with boxing broadcasts for five decades, will stop televising fights in 2019.
When fight fans observe their calendars for live broadcasts next year, a huge void will be noticed with HBO’s absence. The premium cable network has terminated a 45-year partnership with the sport.
Hints that the end seemed imminent was noticeable after a decline in telecasts this year. Meanwhile, rival Showtime increased its boxing coverage, and ESPN reached multiyear deals with promoters Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions to televise fights.
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A statement released by HBO noted that the expansion of boxing broadcasts via multiple outlets played a role in the decision.
“Boxing has been part of our heritage for decades,” the statement read. “During that time, the sport has undergone a transformation. It is now widely available on a host of networks and streaming services. There is more boxing than ever being televised and distributed. In some cases this programming is very good. But from an entertainment point of view, it’s not unique.”
Nonetheless, it will be strange not having HBO as a huge player. From its inaugural telecast featuring the Joe Frazier-George Foreman heavyweight title fight in January 1973, HBO grew into the preeminent platform for signature fights.
A Who’s Who of boxing elite, ranging from Muhammad Ali to the sport’s top pay-per-view attractions of the past 30 years, appeared on the network.
HBO broadcast 1,111 fights since its debut. Pensacola native Roy Jones Jr. and Oscar De Le Hoya each appeared in a network high 32 telecasts. Other fighters whose careers featured extensive HBO coverage were Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao, Lennox Lewis, Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto.
“We’re deeply indebted to the many courageous fighters whose careers we were privileged to cover,” according to the statement.
Although Las Vegas and New York were frequent locations for HBO fights, Miami also factored in noteworthy telecasts, none more prominent than the memorable Aaron Pryor-Alexis Arguello junior-welterweight title fight at the Orange Bowl in 1982. HBO also televised championship fights featuring Jones and Felix “Tito” Trinidad from AmericanAirlines Arena, as well as a title bout headlined by Pernell Whitaker at the James L. Knight Center.
Mayweather, a part-time Miami Beach resident, appeared on HBO-televised bouts from Miccosukee Resort and Gaming and AmericanAirlines Arena.
Larry Merchant, who analyzed HBO fights for 35 years, compared the end of boxing at the network to the stages of a great fighter’s career.
“Once upon a time we were a promising kid,” Merchant said in a statement. “Then a challenger. Then a champion. A great champion. A long time champion. And then a has-been who finally retired.”
HBO has not disclosed if additional fights will be televised this year following the Daniel Jacobs-Sergiy Derevyachenko middleweight title fight Oct. 27 in New York.
Even if Jacobs and Derevyachenko is indeed HBO’s final fight, the network will not rule out a resumption of boxing coverage.
“As always, we will remain open to looking at events that fit our programming mix,” the HBO statement read. “This could include boxing, just not for the foreseeable future.”
AROUND THE RING
Hawaii’s Logan Yoon won a unanimous decision over Panama’s John Renteria in the main event of a card Friday night at the Seminole Hard Rock Events Center in Hollywood. All three judges scored the welterweight bout for Yoon, 98-92, 100-90 and 99-91.
In other bouts: welterweight Livan Navarro won by unanimous decision over Armando Alvarez; welterweight Derrieck Cuevas won by unanimous decision over Silverio Ortiz; junior-lightweight Mussa Tursyngaliyev won by unanimous decision over Deivis Bassa; featherweight Jessy Cruz scored a TKO over Sergio Aguilar when Aguilar failed to answer the bell for the fourth round; junior featherweight Jorge Romero scored a TKO over Jeno Tonte at 2:47 of the third round; lightweight Dustin Arnold won by unanimous decision over Raul Chirino; and light-heavyweight Irosvani Duvergel won by unanimous decision over Emmanuel Sanchez.