For more than four decades, HBO has been home to literally hundreds of the biggest fights and most iconic names in boxing, dating as far back to George Foreman’s annihilation of Joe Frazier back in 1973. Over the years they’ve been the go-to destination for the likes of Roy Jones Jr, Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Manny Pacquiao, and countless others.
Less than two weeks removed from broadcasting the thrilling pay-per-view rematch between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, HBO has confirmed that they are done televising live boxing.
The New York Times broke the news on Thursday.
“This is not a subjective decision,” HBO Sports vice president Peter Nelson said in a recent interview. “Our audience research informs us that boxing is no longer a determinant factor for subscribing to HBO.”
“There’s plenty of boxing out there,” Nelson said. “But what we have not seen is a lot of signature destination fights.”
Many boxing insiders and fans have long suspected that HBO, once the dominant force for broadcasting the sport in the United States, was steadily withdrawing its interest and resources. At the turn of the 21st century, their annual boxing budget was a whopping $90 million. In recent years, that number has been more than halved, thus certain fights that would’ve been on regular HBO went to pay-per-view, and others struggled to keep an active schedule due to a lack of available dates. Event quality also suffered mightily with the budget cuts, and Bob Arum eventually pulled his Top Rank stable off the network and signed a deal with ESPN in 2016.
This officially marks a substantial shift in the way boxing is televised in the US. HBO and Showtime used to be the 1-2 punch, with other cable networks usually picking up lesser-quality cards. Starting in 2019, the collective rights fees of Premier Boxing Champions (FOX and Showtime), Top Rank Boxing (ESPN), and Matchroom Boxing (DAZN) will be estimated in the neighborhood of $300 million. There will be more live boxing on network TV, cable TV, and subscription streaming platforms than ever before, and all parties involved have dates to fill and rights holders to satisfy. As you can see, unless they wanted to reverse course on budgeting, HBO was simply outgunned.
Tom Loeffler, the promoter of Gennady Golovkin, told boxing reporter Chris Mannix that several networks have already expressed interest in showcasing him down the road.
Other recent HBO fighters who will now compete elsewhere include Canelo Alvarez, Roman Gonzalez, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Jaime Munguia, and Dmitry Bivol. A light heavyweight championship rematch between Eleider Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev, first aired on HBO in August, has already been picked up by ESPN for Super Bowl weekend in February.
Times are a changin’ in the boxing world, and fight fans have every reason to monitor how promotional alignments and broadcasting deals affect the sport moving forward.
HBO’s next telecast is set for October 27th in New York City, as Daniel Jacobs (34-2, 29 KOs) takes on Sergey Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KOs) for the vacant IBF middleweight title in the main event. ESPN reported that the network could still schedule shows in November or December, but only the October show is confirmed. Once 2019 rolls around, the curtain will close on HBO Boxing after 45 years.