Mikkel Kessler (left) vs. Joe Calzaghe on Nov. 3, 2007, a fight which was held after midnight in Cardiff, Wales, so it could be shown live on HBO for an American audience. (Photo: John Gichigi-Getty)
Earlier this week, HBO announced that it would no longer be doing business with Golden Boy Promotions.
With that announcement came the opportunity for other promoters and fighters to slide into the televised dates that may have otherwise belonged to Golden Boy.
In the past, HBO has televised shows from Europe, often airing them in the U.S. in the afternoon with a replay later that night, sometimes coupled with a live American broadcast. Occasionally, as was the case with the Joe Calzaghe-Mikkel Kessler super middleweight unification in November 2007, bouts have been held well past midnight in Europe so they could be televised live in America.
Early Tuesday morning, Kalle and Nisse Sauerland told RingTV.com they’d be open to considering late-start shows in Germany in order to cooperate with American television. With a stable that includes RING cruiserweight champion Yoan Pablo Hernandez, exciting cruiserweight titleholder Marco Huck, super middleweight beltholders Mikkel Kessler and Arthur Abraham, as well as heavyweight Alexander Povetkin, Sauerland definitely has the firepower to put together a quality card or two.
Matchroom Sport’s Eddie Hearn seemed equally optimistic that there could be new opportunities for his company to make a splash on American audiences. Matchroom fighter Carl Froch makes his HBO debut on May 25 against Sauerland’s Kessler in an enticing rematch of a terrific fight. Hearn also previously landed Grzegorz Proksa a fight with Gennady Golovkin on HBO Boxing After Dark, though he hopes to put together his own card rather than fill out B-sides.
And he could surely do just that, with a stable that now includes super middleweight contender George Groves, super bantamweight contender Carl Frampton, and possibly WBO 135-pound titleholder Ricky Burns (though a dispute with Frank Warren over Burns’ contract has yet to be settled), as well as a slew of other top contenders.
The added bonus is that American audiences have previously been exposed to these fighters. Relatively new to the boxing game is premium network EPIX, which has invested in the international boxing scene. They will put on this weekend’s rematch between Abraham and Robert Stieglitz and have previously aired bouts including Huck, Povetkin, Froch, and Frampton in the past. Though not available in many homes, hardcore fight fans have been able to learn how quality these fighters are and would more than likely be interested in tuning in if they were on the HBO schedule.
When reached for comment Thursday afternoon, an HBO spokesperson echoed the language of HBO Sports president Ken Hershman’s statement on Monday:
“HBO has a long history of televising fights from Europe. In keeping with our expressed goal of providing the best fighters in the most compelling matchups, we are open to all ideas.”
What was initially considered a loss for boxing fans could be a win for lesser known promoters looking to get in the mix on premium cable. In the end, American boxing fans might win, because these promoters and fighters would be looking to impress in the hope that they’ll be invited back to HBO’s dinner table following a successful promotion.
Mark Ortega is the boxing columnist for the Martinez News-Gazette and is a member of the Boxing Writers Assoc. of America and the RING Ratings Advisory Panel. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org as well as followed on Twitter @MarkEOrtega.