HBO KO’s Longstanding Boxing Coverage: “It’s Not Unique”
On Thursday, the sports world was turned upside down as HBO announced that they were closing the proverbial doors on boxing coverage by the end of 2018. The premium network announced that after 45 years of televising boxing, they’re moving on to other forms of entertainment that are more “high profile, high access, and highly ambitious.” HBO considers itself a “storytelling platform” and the feel that boxing no longer tells compelling stories.
According to numerous media outlets, HBO made the following official announcement:
“Boxing has been part of our heritage for decades. 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.”
For many of us boxing fans, we grew up watching boxing on HBO. In fact, the two entities were synonymous with each other in a marriage that really revolutionized the sport and PPV. To date, HBO has aired over 1,100 fights. The company’s first televised fight was a historic heavyweight showdown between Joe Frazier and George Foreman on January 22, 1973. Foreman stopped Frazier in the 2nd round and became the heavyweight champ in front of the live audience in Kingston, Jamaica, and those watching on HBO.
In 1991, HBO PPV was born and Foreman was a part of that historical moment as well. However, George ended up losing this bout to Evander Holyfield who retained the undisputed heavyweight title. A few years later, in 1996, HBO debuted “Boxing After Dark,” which became a huge hit for fight fans.
More HBO Boxing Numbers
On February 25, 1989, Mike Tyson destroyed Frank Bruno as 35.7 million people viewed the massacre on HBO. That was more than a 1/3rd of their subscribers and still holds the record for the company’s highest rated fight. Tyson was a huge draw and made a total of 17 appearances with HBO.
However, Tyson wasn’t the only megastar to be connected with HBO. Some of boxing’s all-time greats have also been associated with the company that was once dubbed the “heart and soul of boxing.” According to HBO, the following fighters had the most appearances on their programming:
- Roy Jones Jr. (32)
- Oscar de la Hoya (32)
- Shane Mosley (27)
- Floyd Mayweather (27)
- Manny Pacquiao (24)
- Miguel Cotto (24)
- Lennox Lewis (23)
- Bernard Hopkins (23)
- Wladimir Klitschko (22)
- Arturo Gatti (21)
- Pernell Whitaker (19)
- Marco Antonio Barrera (19)
- Mike Tyson (17)
As you can see, HBO was home for some of the sport’s greatest in-ring legends.
Who Will Fill the Void Left Behind From HBO?
Despite the sadness of this marriage ending, it doesn’t come as a surprise. Over the last few years, ratings have been declining and HBO has shown less commitment to covering the sport. However, HBO’s iconic position with the sport of boxing does still leave a void.
Showtime will remain one of the premiere outlets for broadcasting boxing. They’ve had a longstanding rivalry with HBO and I can only imagine how the company’s brass is feeling after their competitor has “left the building.” ESPN is a major player in the sport of boxing as well, with their year-round coverage and boxing programming.
DAZN is a name that all boxing fans and MMA fans should get to know quickly. This premium platform just debuted in America and will continue its push toward becoming a major player in broadcasting both boxing and MMA. The company’s first fight was the recent heavyweight bout between Anthony Joshua and Alexander Povetkin, which took place last weekend. This Saturday, DAZN will kick off their MMA coverage with the highly anticipated Bellator 206: Mousasi vs MacDonald.
In addition to broadcasting boxing fights, ESPN, Showtime and DAZN will all be pursuing boxers who are no longer going to be under contract with HBO. These fighters include some of the sport’s biggest names in Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin.
These other networks and platforms may be able to fill the void in providing coverage of boxing, but they won’t be able to replace what HBO has done for the sport of boxing and for how HBO brought generations of fans some of the sport’s most memorable moments. The departure of HBO from boxing is a sad day for the sport and for all of us who grew up watching boxing on the network. It’s the end of an era, a goodbye to our childhood memories, and a reminder to everyone that “all good things must come to an end.”
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