With Turner Sports looking to get people to watch truTV past the first two days of the NCAA men's basketball tournament once a year, Top Rank has reached a deal with the channel for a new Friday night boxing series, which will launch on May 1.
The first main event will see Ray Beltran take on Takahiro Ao for the vacant WBO lightweight title, which was recently vacated by Terence Crawford, who decided to move up in weight. In the co-feature, unbeaten welterweight prospects Mikael Zewski and Konstantin Ponomarev will do battle.
Since truTV is owned by the same media conglomerate, this series will work as an extension of HBO's long-established boxing brand, too.
"Everybody at HBO is thrilled to see a new platform for live coverage of professional boxing being launched by a bold and creative network such as truTV," said Ken Hershman, president of HBO Sports. "We congratulate Top Rank and Turner Sports on this new initiative. We look forward to lending our support to this important new franchise that will clearly benefit the sport, the fighters and the fans from day one of the series' debut."
Chris Linn, truTV President and head of programming, said, "We see this as a great opportunity to bring more coveted live sports programming to the network and believe Friday night primetime fights will resonate with truTV's young audience."
There will be a hole in regular Friday night boxing schedules coming in May, too, as ESPN's long-running Friday Night Fights ends that month, to be replaced by Premier Boxing Champions on ESPN.
A second card, set for May 15, is also nearly finalized. Jose Benavidez Jr would face Jorge Paez Jr in the main event from Phoenix, with Antonio Orozco and Emmanuel Taylor meeting in a rescheduled bout in the co-feature.