Lem Satterfield

Showtime’s Espinoza ready to compete with HBO for fights

“I’m so excited to be in this position, and to have this be my first official press event in my new position because this is the event that I had targeted as the most attractive and most compelling and must-have fight for Showtime boxing in 2012,” said Espinoza, during the session with Ortiz.

“And I said this about Andre, and it applies equally to Victor, that he’s a classy young man, and he’s a warrior who fights his heart out, and he’s one of the stars of the game and he is the future of the sport. And he’s exactly the kind of guy that we are going to build the future of Showtime boxing on.”

Espinoza’s interviews took place just a few hours before RING No. 9-ranked pound-for-pound fighter Andre Ward (25-0, 13 KOs), of Oakland, Calif., scored a unanimous decision victory over Carl Froch (28-2, 20 KOs), of England, at Boardwalk Hall.

In victory, Ward became THE RING champion, earned Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic Cup, and added Froch’s WBC belt to the WBA title he already owned. The Super Six tournament was the brainchild of Hershman.

Espinoza said those boxers, and others, will part of a major push by Showtime to begin televising high-level, meaningful fights such as Ortiz-Berto II.

“They are guys of integrity and sportsmanship, and, essentially, Victor and Andre represent everything that is the best about this sport,” said Espinoza. “These two represent what Showtime boxing wants to be about. We at Showtime are extremely excited to have gotten the rights to this fight.”

Espinoza said the selection of future bouts will center primarily around the competitive nature, stature and personalties of the fighters as much or more than their title belts or their records.

“I think that Showtime’s strategy has been and will continue to be to get the most compelling bouts available. Sometimes those will involve belts, sometimes, they won’t. We will evaluate the belts on their own, and we will evaluate the bouts on their own independent of the titles. So obviously, we’ll be agnostic in that respect,” said Espinoza.

“We’re not necessarily looking for undefeated guys against undefeated guys. We want good, compelling matchups, good compelling personalities and good compelling programming. What I’m looking for is exciting, compelling, action fighters, like the two of these kids. Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz. Like James Kirkland. Like Lucian Bute, who is always exciting.”

Espinoza acknowledged that it may be a challenge when it comes to matching fighters from rival promoters, such as Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank Inc.

“The challenging structure of this business is that the promoters’ incentives and mine are sometimes in opposition,” said Espinoza. “But, fundamentally, I think that most promoters understand that in order to make stars, you need star quality events.”

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Showtime will establish another precedent by promoting Ortiz-Berto II with elements usually reserved for pay per view events, including mainstream television through its parent company, CBS.

“The excitement that this fight is generating actually reverberates around our company. The support that this fight will get includes the support of our parent company, CBS, and all of its platforms,” said Espinoza. “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.”

Berto’s promoter, Lou DiBella, welcomes the opportunity to be part of Showtime’s initiative.

“Kudos to Showtime for getting this fight and for starting the year off with this fight. They got the fight because they bought it. They bought it in a free market. They made it a point to show that there is competition in our market place, which is good for boxing. So we’re pleased to be on Showtime with this fight,” said DiBella.

“We’re pleased that Andre is going to get the opportunity to reverse that loss and to prove that he is the rightful future fight for Floyd Mayweather, and he’s the guy that should be challenging for the best pound-for-pound monicker and challenging in the welterweight division against the best welterweight in the world, who is Floyd Mayweather.”

Photo by Tom Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions

Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Photo by Tom Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions

Lem Satterfield can be reached at lemuel.satterfield@gmail.com

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