|For Change, a Championship Series - Plus Blows on Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley, Bernard Hopkins vs Roy Jones Jr and more!
By JD Camacho, DoghouseBoxing.com (Oct 13, 2009)
According to respected fight scribe Thomas Hauser, HBO boxing needs a new marketing strategy. Buying the best fights for the best prices doesn’t seem to work anymore. Limited television dates, a slashed budget, and a single-promoter output deal might strangle HBO Sports in the near future. Worst of all, HBO seems to have reached an impasse in creating new stars. The touted Victor Ortiz quit, in the eyes of many. The bruising James Kirkland remains in a Vick-like exile. Alfredo Angulo appears more limited than rugged, and the charismatic Cristobal Arreola seems more heart than hype. So how do you solve both the paucity of star pugilists and the warped marketing strategy?
With an annual championship series, of course.
In all the major sports, fans have something BIG to look forward to each and every year. The Super Bowl. The Finals. The Bowl Championship Series. The World Series. March Madness. The Masters. Wimbledon. The Chase for the Championship Series. You get the idea.
Boxing has never needed an annual event to feed its fanbase. But in an era of increased sanctioning bodies, restricted television coverage, and dwindling star power, perhaps boxing craves that kind of stability. So, here’s an idea for an annual championship series for HBO boxing.
WHAT’S THE PLAN?
The gist of the idea revolves around two or three four-man tournaments, every year, on HBO Sports. Each four-man tournament would mirror Don King’s Middleweight Championship Series from 2001: three fights, elimination style. As admirable as SHO’s Super Six tournament seems, the format could be too complicated for the casual fan and take too long to complete. Plus, four fighters are naturally easier to deal with than six, and three fights are easier to manage than twelve. The weight classes with the most interesting possibilities and the most clouded picture would be selected.
Something similar to the present-day’s welterweight division would perhaps be exempt. Too much ego to be plausible. Besides, the championship series would be designed to build new stars rather than deal with a handful of current ones.
WHAT’S THE BENEFIT?
The benefits would be much the same as SHO’s Super Six tournament. Good fighters are matched in good fights. The format creates demand. Demand creates money. The winner boosts his profile.
Think a pair of fights is too short a time to significantly enhance a fighter’s star power? Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao went from hardcore commodities to mainstream stars in a mere two fights. Of course, a certain Golden Boy had a lot to do with that but with the right amount of hype, in a format a fan can follow, and with good, meaningful competition, a boxer can emerge as someone to watch. For example, none of the Super Six has much recognition outside their home country. Some, like Carl Froch and Andre Dirrell, don’t even have recognition in their own nation. And yet, the scope of the Super Six and the prestige the tournament carries has granted the six fighters press coverage in multiple countries - and more hype than they could have ever hoped to generate themselves.
Imagine a four-man junior welterweight tournament with Timothy Bradley, Devon Alexander, Amir Khan, and Juan Urango. All four have hometown fanbases. All four have belts.
Or how about a lightweight tournament between Edwin Valero, Michael Katsidis, Anthony Peterson, and Juan Diaz? All four have different styles. Two have goose eggs attached to their records.
What about a featherweight tournament with Chris John, Steven Luevano, Yuriokis Gamboa, and a weight-jumping Juan Manuel Lopez? There’s only a single loss between all four fighters, they each bring something different stylistically, and they each represent a different nationality.
Unlike the fantasy six-man tournaments others imagined in the wake of SHO’s Super Six, small four-man tournaments like these seem more plausible. And they might have a similar effect. Creating a new star, or even a legitimate contender to a current star, should be worthwhile.
HOW WOULD THE BUSINESS END WORK OUT?
HBO has about thirty boxing dates a year and, according to Hauser, about a $60 million budget to work with. Is it impossible for six of those dates to be used for heavily hyped tournament matches from two different tournaments? Even four of those dates, with the semifinals of each tournament being given split-site production, seem manageable. And the purses for each fighter need not be extravagant. And even if they had to be, it’d perhaps be better than overpaying the talented Chad Dawson to fight a rematch against Antonio Tarver that few wanted to see and that built to nothing in particular.
If Ken Hershman, SHO’s boxing czar, can deal with six fighters, five promoters, and two sanctioning bodies to get a twelve-fight deal done with SHO’s limited budget, what’s stopping HBO’s Ross Greenburg from working with four fighters to get a three fight deal done with an even bigger budget?
Of course, this idea rings like a pipe dream. But a year ago, the Super Six tournament would have sounded the same.
-Shane Mosley is close to a deal to fight Andre Berto. I imagine that HBO and Berto representative Al Haymon would like to create a star out of the young Berto. But Mosley is a huge jump up in class. That didn’t work out too well for the Haymon-managed HBO fighter Cristobal Arreola the other day…
-Speaking of Mosley, his decision to pursue Berto may suggest that Golden Boy head Richard Schaefer informed him that Floyd Mayweather was looking elsewhere for a fight. Where’s elsewhere? I, for one, hope it’s somewhere near Pacland…
-I don’t understand the perception that Miguel Cotto is washed up. He’s had two fights since the Margarito debacle. In the first, he looked exactly the same as before against an overmatched opponent. In the second, he fought through a horrible cut to earn a decision against a Top 5 welterweight NOBODY has an easy time with. Sure, I thought I saw Cotto wilting a bit in the Clottey fight. But he still fought through it, saw the bell, and won the fight. Perhaps he's declined a smidge. But to say he's shopworn may be overdoing it…
-Roy Jones. Bernard Hopkins. The two names are forever linked in boxing lore. So what if the fight’s overdue? Neither is coming off of a loss, and neither has declined to the extreme point of becoming “shot.” Even Jones is still a legitimate Top 10 light heavyweight. As a boxing fan, I want to see them settle the long-standing score. Sue me…
e-mail JD at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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