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Top Rank, ESPN sign four-year deal for boxing on network

Top Rank and ESPN will be working together exclusively for four years.

Manny Pacquiao v Timothy Bradley Media Tour Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

The working relationship between Top Rank and ESPN is here to stay, as Dan Rafael reports that the promotional company and the network have signed a four-year deal, notable because it is exclusive, and means that Top Rank fights will only be seen on The Worldwide Leader.

The fights we’ve seen thus far on the network — Pacquiao-Horn, Lomachenko-Marriaga, and Crawford-Indongo — were not part of an exclusive deal, but did turn out well enough that everyone involved kept working on this level of a deal, and now we’re here.

The likely November 11 rematch between Jeff Horn and Manny Pacquiao will air on ESPN, and, you know, so will all of Top Rank’s other major cards. Here’s what Top Rank has laid out right now with ESPN:

  • September 22: Oscar Valdez vs Genesis Servania, Gilberto Ramirez vs Jesse Hart
  • October 31: Jessie Magdaleno vs Cesar Juarez, Artur Beterbiev vs Enrico Koelling
  • November 11: Jeff Horn vs Manny Pacquiao II
  • December 9: Vasyl Lomachenko vs Guillermo Rigondeaux

The latter two cards are not finalized yet, but are expected to be done soon.

For years, Top Rank worked not exclusively with HBO, but just about all of their major events were aired on that network, either on the premium cable channel itself or through HBO’s pay-per-view brand. It was rare to see Top Rank work with Showtime (Pacquiao-Mosley a notable exception).

This deal makes ESPN, as Rafael put it, “a major player in boxing for the first time in its history.” And there’s no question we’ve seen the winds of change sweep in in recent years, first with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions project bringing major boxing back to network TV on CBS and FOX (and formerly NBC, as well as a brief and disappointing run on ESPN), and now with Top Rank abandoning premium cable.

Showtime remains a player with big fights on its network, mostly through Al Haymon’s stable, but more and more HBO is seemingly being edged out, with Golden Boy their last major promotional tie, and Golden Boy has been in something of a transitional period the last few years, too. There are still some notable fights coming to HBO, but there’s no arguing that they’re not at the weakest they’ve been in memory as a boxing brand, as everyone looks to maximize exposure for something of a rebuilding of boxing’s identity in the modern age.

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