Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer is excited about securing a deal with the August-launching Fox Sports 1 network, which will be available in about 90 million homes as soon as it goes live, replacing the Speed network. (This is something I want you to mentally note so that you don't wonder if you "get that channel" when it starts, like happened with the Versus -> NBC Sports Network change.)
Schaefer says that the series, not surprisingly, will be used to build young fighters, something he feels he can't do with Showtime, and couldn't do with HBO:
"As good as Showtime is, and the as good as HBO is, they are really not in the business of building up young fighters. When we have a fighter on an undercard, it is hard to build up a fan following without having those eyeballs. So when a fighter does finally get onto Showtime or HBO, because of his potential, they are usually unknown because nobody has seen them before and there is no name recognition. And I think this is the reason why UFC has been so successful, because they have that open platform for those fighters who later became stars within the UFC. And boxing has never really had that.
"I think that is one of the reasons why there is less of a connection today between the public and the boxers. Not like before when you had Oscar De La Hoya and Sugar Ray Leonard televised on free over the air networks. This is a big thing for us, but this is a bigger thing for the sport of boxing, to have a powerful force like Fox putting their weight behind boxing."
While much of the interview -- which is good and well worth reading, by the way -- is Schaefer playing a tiny violin for himself, crying the blues with a Virginia ham under his arm because he's got no bread (yeah!), he makes good points here.
Now, the trick is going to be in execution. Boxing promoters have this oddly smug way of thinking everyone is much, much stupider than they are, and that they can con people into tuning in to see mismatch fights where prospects run over old guys, has-beens, never-weres, and never-will-bes. This has never proven to be an effective strategy; if they have, say, someone like Jermall Charlo (not Jermell) smoke some nobodies, what's going to happen is that those guys are going to then "graduate" to Showtime undercards, no more well-known or ready than they were before their glorious exploits on Monday nights, live on Fox Sports 1.
There is nothing naturally bad about having more boxing on TV, but when promoters talk about a series like this like it's a big deal, they have a history of not following up. Golden Boy's "Fight Night Club" series was hot garbage, and they did their best to kill whatever value was left in Solo Boxeo Tecate when they took over that show for a while. Their Fox Sports and Fox Deportes fights have been largely ignored. Top Rank has had the same problems with FSN fights, and their legendarily horrible Versus series, which Bob Arum built around Tye Fields, a lovely guy but one of the biggest crocks we've seen pushed on us as a legitimate prospect in recent memory, and we've seen some junk.
So will this series make a real impact? Hey, I hope so, but this is a guilty until proven innocent thing for me, and that goes for anything like this, with any promoter having a house deal with any network. Main Events has done a good job with NBC Sports, but there's no denying that some shows are more useful than others. If, like Main Events has done with matchmaker Russell Peltz, Golden Boy can at least make a sincere effort to book fights that should be entertaining if not competitive, then they'll have something fight fans will like tuning in to see on Mondays. If they run another long series of boring, predictable matchups, they will lose the potential audience before they ever grab its attention, and that includes a good number of your "boxing-heads" and "fight freaks."