Peter Nelson, the executive vice president of HBO Sports, is fighting back the perception that HBO's interest in boxing is waning in a year of reduced programming -- rumored to be a result of budget cuts at the network.
There's been plenty of talk among fans about the noticeably fewer number of cards aired on the network, with even Top Rank promoter Bob Arum saying the network can't properly accommodate his stable of fighters. So when you consider this along with the fact that a good portion of the fights they have aired this year have been gross mismatches, well, it doesn't exactly exude confidence in where things are headed.
Highlighting some of the lopsided fights in 2016, HBO has aired Gennady Golovkin vs. Dominic Wade, Luis Ortiz vs. Tony Thompson, and Andre Ward taking on Sullivan Barrera and Alexander Brand. None of these fights were remotely competitive. But in a conversation with RingTV.com, Nelson takes issue with that characterization of their recent programming.
"We've had great competition this year — arguably the fight of the year in Vargas and Salido," Nelson said of Francisco Vargas' draw with Orlando Salido in June. "We've had Terence Crawford on the network; we've had Gennady Golovkin on the network. We've got Golovkin coming up again on the network (against Kell Brook on Sept. 10). We've got top pound-for-pound fighters on the network like Roman Gonzalez, who's fighting this weekend, fighting for his fourth lineal world title — significant fights, meaningful fights, fights that come from someplace and go someplace."
Nelson also points to the upcoming Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward fight that HBO will distribute in November, which is a great fight to be made, although it should be said that that fight will be aired on PPV and not HBO's network station. And to those who have concerns about the network airing too non-competitive fights, Nelson says:
"We don't try to litigate opinions," Nelson responded. "We just try to create great fights and work with fighters who are committed to trying to keep the sport elevated. Every time there's an opportunity to make a great fight we go out on the hunt and most of the time we find that the fighters who want to fight on HBO want to dare to be great and those are the fighters we want on the network every single time."
So although Nelson declined to comment on the network's finances, he does reaffirm that HBO will remain committed to boxing programming, stating that it serves as a brand elevating element for the network and will remain so for years to come.