Lem Satterfield

Exclusive: Showtime’s Espinoza shares network’s vision for boxing

On why the Ortiz-Berto II clash leads off the year:

“This is a fight that was important because I’m very confident that it’s going to be compellining programming based on what a thrilling fight the first one was. But individually, these are guys that we want to be in business with. These are two young guys.

“Ortiz and Berto are personable and will sit there and talk to their fans and, perhaps more importantly, they will fight for every second of every round. Those are the kinds of people and the kinds of boxers we want to be in business with. The undefeated records really don’t matter to me.

“At the end of this, ultimately, we’re in the television business. So the ability to deliver a compelling and entertaining product is really the top goal. So I’m convinced that these guys are, together, capable of delivering that for us.”

On the Showtime Championship Boxing series:

“What we’re starting to do on our Showtime Championship Boxing is to start televising what would normally be the untelevised undercard fights. So, there, you get a win-win for everybody involved.

“More fighters get exposure, and promoters get their fighters on television, you draw in the people who may not otherwise see boxing for five or six fights, and we get more programming for people who are fans of boxing.”

On the tournament format:

“It is a format that we want to continue. What we saw with Andre Ward is that it sped up the development in his visibilty. Ultimately, with his charisma and the talented guy that he is, he was going to be on the national stage sooner or later.

“But the tournament gave him a platform on which to say, more quickly than otherwise, ‘now, I’m the guy in this division.’ Andre came in and took care of every challenge, and, at the end of it, commanded recognition and had earned it.

“One of the things that boxing as a sport has been lacking is the sense of continuity. Almost every other sport has that element. The NFL season builds to a Super Bowl. The NBA and the NCAA basketball tournament build to a playoff and a championship.

“There is a sense of these building story lines. You see Butler in the first round, and then, all of a sudden, you see Butler during the final. Everyone has become familiar with Butler’s story when at the beginning of the tournament, no one even knew who Butler was.

“The boxing tournament is a great example of building structures toward that same continuity. You can go back to Bernard Hopkins-Trinidad. What brought Hopkins and Trinidad to prominence is the mini-tournament. That’s what sort of broke them onto the scene.

“I would love to do more tournaments. What we need to experiment with is finding the sweet spot. For all of the good things that the Super Six delivered, we also learned that we were asking a little much of the fighters in terms of the time frame.

“I think that there will be some modifications. The bantamweights are a good example of a simple four-man tournament that spurred these rivalries. Even though the tournament is actually over, we’re still going to see round robins where these fighters are still fighting each other.

“Vic Darchinyan still wants another shot at Abner Mares. The tournament is over, but you’ve still got these rivalries. So I think that something between the four man tournament and the Super Six round-robin is the sweet spot. Not quite as long as the round-robin, but still, with a little bit more of a buildup with the four man tournament.”

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