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Network Television and Why Pacquiao-Mosley Is Relevant

Manny Pacquiao has become the vehicle to get boxing back on network television. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Manny Pacquiao has become the vehicle to get boxing back on network television. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Non-fans keep asking me why anyone should care about the May 7 fight between Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley, and frankly I'm quick to admit that there is an exceptionally strong chance that the fight is no more competitive than any of Pacquiao's recent fights. That Mosley is too old. That the matchup is more "event" than it is "fight."

But Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports posted a terrific article about the reality of this fight today, and I strongly recommend everyone read it. Through Manny Pacquiao, and this fight, boxing is making a serious push to get back on network television.

From the advent of television through the mid-1980s, boxing was one of network TV’s staples. But then HBO and Showtime came along and, desperate for programming to supplement their movie offerings, began to broadcast boxing.

They began to wave large license fees at promoters for the rights to broadcast their fights. And promoters eagerly accepted the inflated fees. But to [Top Rank executive Todd] duBoef, it didn’t feel right.

"I looked at it as short-term gain ending in a long-term failure for the sport," he said.

duBoef made up his mind last year to try and make a major move:

The landscape began to shift in January 2010, when, after negotiations to make a match between Pacquiao and Mayweather fell through, Top Rank instead made a match for Pacquiao with Joshua Clottey.

It was being held on the same date, March 13, that the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout was to have been held, and HBO Pay-Per-View was going to distribute. But HBO Sports executives declined to do a "24/7" series around the fight, though they were going to do one had the show been Mayweather-Pacquiao.

Beginning with the De La Hoya-Mayweather fight in 2007, HBO’s "24/7" series had proven to be a hit with boxing fans and helped drive pay-per-view sales. When duBoef couldn’t convince HBO Pay-Per-View to do a "24/7" on Pacquiao-Clottey, he determined he would finally act on his instincts and shop for a television partner with wider distribution.

This has all resulted in Showtime becoming a major competitor to HBO, which has dominated the boxing landscape in the United States for the last decade, as the host network for Oscar de la Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Pacquiao, and basically all of boxing's biggest stars. By landing a Pacquiao fight, Showtime -- and their network partner under the Viacom banner, CBS -- made it clear that they had arrived on boxing's biggest stage.

So that's the biggest reason to care about this fight. I'm not suggesting everyone pay $54.95 to see it. But if the pay-per-view is successful, and the Fight Camp 360 episodes that air on CBS draw good ratings, then there is a chance that maybe, just maybe, we see a live, major boxing fight in front of a CBS viewership that reaches 115 million homes, instead of Showtime's 19 million or HBO's 29 million.

And if you've been wondering why many boxing fans are so keenly interested in Todd duBoef's ideas, this article presents a lot of reasons. Again, strongest recommendation to read for those interested in why this event is relevant, and the business of boxing in general.

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