Most of the response to last night's HBO boxing doubleheader has been fairly negative. While we can (almost) all agree that Adrien Broner is a special talent, his main event fight with Vicente Escobedo was considered a probable easy win going in, and that was before all of the nonsense before the fight, with Broner missing weight, missing weight again, the fight being reportedly called off, and then the fight being salvaged by the magic of Al Haymon.
Add in that the main event turned out to be a pretty big mismatch, and the fact that the co-feature was a bout on par with the quality one would expect of ShoBox or ESPN Friday Night Fights, and you have a recipe for a pretty shoddy card.
I started thinking about this a bit deeper when Steve Kim of MaxBoxing tweeted this earlier today:
Canvassing the opinions of those in theindustry, the consensus is that HBO hit a low-point last night with that show
And the more I thought about it, after just finding it an interesting tidbit at first, the more I realized that this may not be even a tiny exaggeration, and that last night's show may have been the weakest HBO effort I can recall.
Nothing against Escobedo, but I think most of us can agree that when you call a guy a "solid pro," that's not exactly what you're looking for in a premium cable main event. Escobedo is a nice guy and a pretty good fighter, but nobody thought he was going to win this fight, quite frankly, and those who thought he'd be thoroughly out of his depth were correct.
Keith Thurman had never been on HBO before. Now, it's absolutely true that at some point, everyone from Oscar De La Hoya to Floyd Mayweather to Manny Pacquiao had never been on HBO before, too. You have to make your HBO debut sometime, right? But I don't think many will argue that Thurman against Orlando Lora wasn't a really terrible matchup for HBO.
I have said that personally I don't really expect what some do from HBO, in that I don't expect them to have only marquee matchups. And for what it was, Thurman-Lora was a fine fight. But I'll concede that if HBO is supposed to be the home of big league boxing, this did not cut the mustard.
In fact, neither fight did, though Broner-Escobedo would have been a fine undercard bout with a better main event.
Now I want you to understand that I'm not saying this to dump on the fighters. They have no responsibility here. They were signed up to fight, and they all came and fought. The in-ring action may not have been classic, but it certainly wasn't boring, as we got conclusive finishes in both fights, and nobody stunk out the joint.
This is about where HBO is right now. Ken Hershman came over from Showtime as the shining light, the man who had made the clear No. 2 network a true competitor with HBO. At Showtime, Hershman had freedoms that he may no longer enjoy. At Showtime, Hershman was allowed to be creative enough to come up with the Super Six World Boxing Classic, which may not have been my favorite thing in the world, but was certainly an original, progressive idea, one that took very hard work to get done, or even get off the ground.
When Hershman was hired by HBO, I was excited. I thought there was a chance that with HBO's deeper pockets and bigger connections, Hershman could stand his ground for the network and for boxing fans, and give us some great fights that we wanted to see.
But so far, Hershman's tenure isn't notably different from that of Ross Greenburg, the previous HBO Sports President who wound up painted as the villain whenever HBO disappointed, and took a lot of blame that maybe shouldn't have been sent his way.
Stephen Espinoza, who replaced Hershman at Showtime, has been criticized for showing favoritism to Al Haymon fighters, notably guys like Jermain Taylor whose best days are way behind them, and Golden Boy Promotions, the company Espinoza worked for as an attorney before going to Showtime. But has Showtime really had any worse -- or better, for that matter -- a year than their bigger rival? It seems as though with the new regimes, both networks have taken a step back this year, and there are too many worries that both sides are either playing favorites, or being played by supposed favorites.
Maybe in time, both will settle into their jobs, and everything will turn out peachy. But since we all gave Ross Greenburg hell for some of the decisions he made, it's only fair that we at least consider doing the same for the new boss, who so far has been about the same as the old boss, and maybe not even quite on par.