Boxing's heavyweight division stirred to life with last night's bout between IBF and WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko and Philadelphia-based challenger Eddie Chambers. Klitschko knocked out Chambers in the 12th round, but the most important result might have taken place outside the ring.
In the absence of a major live telecast in the U.S., K2 Promotions, which is owned by Klitschko and his WBC heavyweight champion brother Vitali, delivered the bout via a live streaming webcast that could be purchased for $14.95. So far, K2 and Don King Productions have been in the forefront of the webcasting business.
Both are invested in the heavyweight division, which is strongest in Europe. For instance, WBA champion David Haye is scheduled to meet American John Ruiz next Saturday in Manchester, England. When U.S. networks have chosen to televise bouts from Europe, the promotional company simply geo-blocked the U.S. from receiving a webcast.
The feeling among the majority of American promoters and cable networks is that pay-per-view telecast remain the most successful delivery method because they lend themselves to communal gatherings where friends might chip in to offset the higher cost of a card price at $50-55. But as more young people in particular migrate to their computers to view television and movies, the market for sports webcasts should improve.
"In five years it would be worth pursuing, but right now, I think that is ahead of the game," said promoter Bob Arum, whose promising heavyweight Odanier Solis was scheduled to fight Costa Rican Carl Drummond last night in Key West. "It is the wave of the future."
It makes no sense to put that fight up against wall-to-wall NCAA Tournament action. However, Stallone said HBO does plan to air more live fights from Europe in the future.
"We want to do live from Europe, and that means 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. in the afternoon [in the U.S.]," Stallone said. "We've found that, if you show the fight live at 5 p.m. and replay it around 10-11 p.m., the combined audience is respectable. The formula works."
Future looks bright
The boxing calendar heats up over the next two months or so. Starting with a Boxing After Dark card next Saturday that features a bout between Ali Funeka and Joan Guzman for the vacant IBF lightweight title.
HBO has live telecasts scheduled six out of eight weeks, including the return of Haitian WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto, the return of WBC and WBO middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik and ending with the highly anticipated U.S. debut of WBA light welterweight champion Amir Khan against Brooklyn's Paulie Malignaggi on May 15 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.