As previously reported, on April 17, HBO is planning on airing a split-site doubleheader, with the undercard being Lucian Bute against Edison Miranda in Montreal, and Kelly Pavlik facing Sergio Martinez in the main event. Pavlik's fight hasn't been officially worked out yet, but either way, Pavlik will be getting that spot. Just one issue - on April 17, Showtime is also airing its own split site doubleheader, with Andre Ward facing Allan Green and Mikkel Kessler facing Carl Froch.
That's right folks - HBO is squaring its own super middleweight directly head to head with Showtime's lauded super middleweight tournament.
This is a case of pure gamesmanship by HBO. Showtime put in the effort and is putting in the money to make the Super Six tournament happen. While it's still an exciting event and Showtime should be lauded for their efforts, it did not invite either Pavlik or Bute to participate in the tournament. If you believe Showtime, it's because they would have been too expensive, and if you believe the conspiracy theorists, it's because Kalle Sauerland was trying to set up a tournament where his fighters - Abraham and Kessler - would be in the finals. Ironically, Pavlik in his last fight probably made a fraction of what Kessler or Abraham are making on a per fight basis to participate in the tournament.
Because Pavlik and Bute were not invited, HBO is using the opportunity to build up its own super middleweight, the HBO way. Rather than having an egalitarian tournament to determine the winner of the spoils, HBO knows that Bute and Pavlik are the two biggest threats to the winner of the Super Six. HBO also knows that if Bute and Pavlik fight each other down the line, the winner of that fight would likely be in the top 2 in the weight class, and thus the winner of the Super Six won't be a true champion.
By setting this split-site card, and by pitting it directly against the Super Six, they are putting Showtime on notice: they will build up a Pavlik-Bute fight to make it big; they will pit the two against each other around the same time as the finals for the Super Six; and after the Super Six is over, they will outbid Showtime to get the most significant fight of them all, the Pavlik-Bute winner against the Super Six winner, after Showtime has already invested its money to turn the Super Six winner into a star.
What HBO is doing is nothing short of brilliant or evil, depending on how you look at it. But while Showtime is forcing HBO to raise its game, HBO just has too much money compared to Showtime to let them win. On one hand, this probably means that we'll get a megafight that creates a true champion a couple years down the road. But on the other hand, they're marginalizing the Super Six, turning it into an eliminator for the right to face Pavlik or Bute.