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Exclusive: Showtime's Espinoza shares network's vision for boxing
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Stephen Espinoza: "Boxing, in my eyes, is the most exciting and enthralling live experience of any major sport. I would put it against any other sport -- from the World Series to the Super Bowl to anything else."
Showtime's Stephen Espinoza shared his vision of the network's future plans for boxing during a recent exclusive interview with RingTV.com.
A sports attorney, Espinoza is the U.S. cable network's new executive vice president and general manager of sports and event programming, hired after Ken Hershman left the position to become president of HBO Sports in November.
In his new role, Espinoza will direct a major push by Showtime to begin televising high-level, meaningful fights geared toward increasing the sport's profile and visibility, starting with the Feb. 11 rematch between Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto.
Nine days after RingTV.com first reported Espinoza's hiring, Showtime bought Ortiz-Berto II for $2.25 million, an amount which trumped the offer of $2.15 million by HBO, which televised the first fight, won by Ortiz.
Ortiz-Berto I featured a total of four knockdowns -- two by each fighter -- and will serve as the prototype for selecting future bouts by Espinoza, whose criteria will include the competitive nature, as well as the stature and personalties of the combatants, which will count as much or more than their title belts or glossy records.
Espinoza discussed his views on topics ranging from pay-per-view events to the the various media platforms at Showtime's disposal for boxing. (The network plans to promote Ortiz-Berto II with elements usually reserved for pay- per-view events, including spots on the CBS network.)
"The excitement that this fight is generating actually reverberates around our company," said Espinoza. "The support that this fight will get includes the support of our parent company, CBS, and all of its platforms -- the network, CBS interactive, and all of the various channels of both CBS and Showtime. We will throw our full support behind this fight because it deserves it."
Espinoza also spoke on the role of formats such as the Super Six Super Middleweight Boxing Classic and Winner Take All (bantamweight) tournaments.
RING super middleweight champ Andre Ward emerged victorious for the title from the Super Six tournament, scoring a unanimous decision over Carl Froch on Dec. 17 to end a six-man round-robin event which spanned two years.
Espinoza also envisions scenarios during which he might work directly with rival HBO, particularly in relation to events involving potential fights with the sport's premiere attractions such as Ward, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Sergio Martinez.
Below are Espinoza's thoughts on a variety of topics.