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HBO vs Showtime: The Hatfields and McCoys?

Ross Greenburg of HBO Sports.

Ross Greenburg of HBO Sports. Credit: Courtesy of HBO

It looks like Showtime has drawn first blood in what could be a network war over boxing.

Ok, there won't be any bullets flying like there were during the Hatfield and McCoy feud of the late 1800s. But this could be the start of a real tug-of-war for the top boxing matches.

Always considered HBO’s little brother, Showtime scored major points by reportedly striking a deal with Top Rank to broadcast the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley tilt on May 7 at the MGM Grand. That fight is the second of two Pay-Per-View bouts Showtime will air this year.

The network also signed on to broadcast the Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga fight on March 12, also at the MGM Grand.

Why is this significant?

Most people assumed HBO would be broadcasting Pacquiao vs. Mosley. Even though most insiders believe Pacquiao should have no problems with Mosley, it is a fight that should generate close to 1 million buys. Floyd Mayweather and Mosley drew 1.4 million buys for their fight last May. Pacquiao, universally considered a more likeable fighter than Mayweather, should have no problems drawing fans.

HBO also has a fight scheduled for March 12 on Championship Boxing. Newly announced BWAA Fighter of the Year Sergio Martinez will take on Sergiy Dzinziruk for the WBC Diamond middleweight championship.

Needless to say Top Rank wasn’t pleased to hear that HBO has a show scheduled the same weekend. No one has commented publicly, but speculation is running rampant that Top Rank boss Bob Arum intentionally inked a deal with Showtime to broadcast Pacquiao-Mosley to get back at HBO.

Again, that is purely speculation. But the conspiracy buffs refuse to back off that theory. To be honest, I'm not buying it. I can't imagine Arum would turn away from HBO, which has made him a ton of money over the years, just because they would schedule a fight the same night he's putting on a bout. 

Maybe Showtime just put forth a better offer. It's not a crazy idea when you think about it. Showtime has a major network behind it in CBS. With CBS on board, anyone with a TV will be able to see promotional commercials for the bout.

If it's true that Arum is using Showtime to take a whack at HBO, it's a shame. To be fair, Top Rank has two other fights with HBO in February and March, so if there is a rift between the two companies, it is probably a temporary thing.

What isn’t a shame is Showtime’s foray back into the Pay-Per-View. Showtime hasn’t produced a PPV fight since Jose Luis Castillo-Diego Corrales II in 2005. Having two major networks in the PPV game could be just what the doctor ordered for boxing.

Promoters who don’t normally spend a lot of money putting on fights, may decide to put more resources into building up their fighters if they think there will be a big-money PPV bout down the line. With two networks available, promoters and fighters won’t have to get in line for the big paydays.

New York Sports