Usually I wouldn't devote an entire post to talking about the actual broadcast from HBO or any other network, but there was some important stuff last night on the revamped World Championship Boxing presentation that we didn't see on the Boxing After Dark show from the week before. And there is also a quote that probably deserves to be addressed.
Let's start with the quote, from Larry Merchant: "Oscar de la Hoya is in nearby Anaheim where his company got a 5 million dollar fee from a t-shirt maker, so that he can be personally involved in the promotion of a mixed martial arts show. It would take that much to get me to go to one of those things."
I like Larry Merchant, but he and Lampley have got to get over their infantile vendetta against MMA. Look, we get it, you don't like it. Can't these guys take the road that ESPN writer Dan Rafael takes? Rafael has repeatedly stated that he has watched MMA, he understands the appeal, but it's just not for him. That's fine. Lampley and Merchant seem to think this childish sniping is going to change the fact that mixed martial arts has a massive lead in key demographics like 18-34 year old males and, you know, pretty much everyone else besides Latinos and African-Americans and old people that like combat sports still and haven't given up on boxing while grumbling that they don't make 'em like Marciano no more, conflabbit.
I also think it's worth taking issue with the validity of Merchant's suggestion that Oscar was paid $5 million to appear at the Affliction show. According to Bloody Elbow's Michael Rome, the entire Affliction payroll for the performers last night was around $4.6 million, if Fedor's unverified bonus is the $1.3 million that is being reported. Maybe a bit more than $4.6 million.
Are you telling me that in this economy, with a company that is struggling financially and had horrible results selling tickets in Anaheim last night, that Oscar de la Hoya got $5 million at the lowest point of his career since he became a superstar to just sit there? That's more than the entire fighter payroll of that show.
I get the feeling Larry may have been slightly misinformed. No doubt Affliction paid Oscar to appear, but $5 million? Come on.
Also, I have to take some offense as a fan of both sports to Merchant's snide remark and Lampley's shared chuckling because the two would, I will guarantee, use the word "barbaric" or "dangerous" when talking about why they don't like mixed martial arts. I don't care who likes what sport, and I don't really care why they do or don't. It makes no difference in my life. But we're watching a fight on HBO where Antonio Margarito tried to come to the ring, reportedly, with a "plaster-like substance" on his wraps, and MMA is barbaric?
Glass houses, guys.
Apart from that, though, HBO has done a phenomenal job with their remodeling effort for World Championship Boxing. New animated graphics have finally gotten the program out of feeling like it's stuck in 1996, there was a great pre-fight feature on Shane Mosley and the BALCO scandal, and when Lampley was given the wraps story, he did what he does best: he reported dutifully and honestly on the spot. Lampley also called the fight beautifully, as he always does.
Bigger than that, too, there were short video features on both fighters just before they walked to the ring, sort of like what UFC does before their fights. Little sit-down interviews, soundbyte stuff, things that engage the viewing audience.
Those changes made a world of difference for the broadcast, I thought, and all kudos to the HBO production team for an all-around great job with the broadcast last night. The new look and feel was long overdue, and they're off to a great start.