Monday, October 17, 2011

Boxing Notebook: Hopkins Pay-Per-View Question and HBO Gets A New Leader

By Rich Mancuso

There probably are better ways to spend $49.95 Saturday night but the continued legacy of Bernard Hopkins will get the public to order his light heavyweight title bout against Chad Dawson. HBO Pay-Per-View will always look at Hopkins and his legacy as a reason as to why this is a marketable pay per view fight. And no matter what the economic signs say, to HBO, Bernard Hopkins is still a draw.

Dawson has the toughest opponent of his career. Hopkins, the 46 year-old Hall of Fame champion vows to continue his legacy and mark on boxing history and that is enough of a story line for HBO to make this a pay-per-view venture. The network expects a little over 300,000 buys, and if that is the result then it becomes a successful night.

But are boxing fans, those in the business, and the general public buying into this fight? The latest odds have Dawson as the heavy underdog. It has been that way from day one when the fight was made. Dawson is focused and perhaps has momentum since reuniting with former trainer John Scully for this fight Hopkins, continued to go about his business and said his resume was a Ferrari and the 29- year old Dawson was a Mercedes.

And there is no mystique about Bernard Hopkins. The only question is how formidable of an opponent is Dawson? You ask the people who have been around both fighters. They give Hopkins the advantage. They know this can be an interesting fight, that Dawson will prevent a quick finish and that Hopkins, as he is so prone to doing, will take this fight to the distance.

“It is not a pay-per-view fight but Dawson will get around him enough to make it go the distance,” said Aaron Davis, a former WBA welterweight champion. Davis, now the owner of a boxing gym in the Bronx New York has never been in the ring with Hopkins. He knows enough about Dawson. It was a different era when the 42-year old Davis was in the ring and Dawson was learning the trade.

But as Davis says, as most boxing experts, do, “HBO gets, good business from Hopkins. He makes you want to watch and observe. Chad has never been this exciting fighter but deserves the opportunity to make a few million.” In essence, it comes down to the buy rate and if a projected 300,000 or more are willing to spend for this fight than Dawson has his deserved pay day.

“It is pay-per-view because of Bernard,” says veteran trainer Bobby Miles who has worked corners for the late Davey Moore, former middleweight champion Iran Barkley and on occasion with Mike Tyson. “If Chad pressures Bernard than it will be an interesting fight. And if the fight gets 300,000 buys than it is a win for HBO.” Miles looks for Hopkins to win by decision, if Dawson as expected puts the pressure on Hopkins.

And for boxing, whether pay-per-view or not, it is still Bernard Hopkins. And if he wins the continuation of boxing history at the Staples Center in Los Angeles will be a worthwhile purchase.

HBO GETS A NEW BOSS: You could see this coming. Ken Hershman has left Showtime Sports and in early January becomes the head of HBO Sports. Though assumed but never a certainty, the move was confirmed by HBO late Thursday afternoon. Though HBO has the credibility and the money, Hershman leaving the network does not mean Showtime is done with boxing as they search for a successor before the end of the year.

The significance is Hershman now having less pressure, more leverage, and power as Showtime has always been second in command when it comes to getting the mega pay-per-view fights and the fighters. Hershman did have brief success earlier this year getting Showtime PPV distribution for two separate fight cards that highlighted Top rank champions Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto, two of the leading money makers in the ring.

That may have been the deciding factor that ultimately saw Ross Greenburg depart the doors at HBO, though other decisions also led to the change of command at the network.

Hershman had the resume so HBO did not need to look outside the boxing industry. A source close to HBO said, “This was in the works when Greenburg left in early July,” also adding that Bob Arum had nothing to with Greenburg going out the door.” That can be disputed as Arum and Greenburg had a bitter war of words which also contributed to the Pacquiao and Cotto fights going to Showtime Pay- Per-View.

So what can Hershman expect? Business as usual with Pacquiao and Cotto back to HBO, and the financial backing that will continue to make HBO the leading television provider of boxing and major pay-per-view fights. He also got an endorsement from Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions who had limited dealings with Hershman at Showtime. Count on one thing though. HBO has never been an advocate of crowning a champion via a tournament, as Showtime and Hershman initiated with the “Super 6” 168-classic that has been ongoing for almost two years. Hershman may not be around to oversee the final between Andre Ward and Carl Froch at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City December 17th.

THROWING THE PUNCHES: What is known, Emanuel Steward is no longer with Miguel Cotto. What is being heard? Steward did not get the contract to train Cotto for his next fight with Antonio Margarito at Madison Square Garden on December 3rd. And it was Steward who failed to return an agreement to Cotto because Steward, as has been confirmed, still has not been paid for the second fight in his corner, the win over Ricardo Mayorga….

Ninito Donaire set to defend his bantamweight titles at the WaMu Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York City next Saturday night on HBO against Omar Narvarez is still not a sell out for the adjacent 5,000 seat theatre…. Joe DeGuardia of Star Boxing is advertising a show at the Tropicana in Atlantic City on the same night of the Donaire card with “two of the most exciting heavyweights in the world”, Vinny Maddalone taking on Mike Sheppard. Maybe to Star Boxing they are exciting, but when was the last significant fight for Maddalone or Sheppard?

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