One subtext bouncing around as we count down to the Saturday night HBO card, topped by a Danny Jacobs vs Sergiy Derevyanchenko on paper coin-flip scrap at the MSG Theater is that this is the second or third to last HBO production of live boxing.
We got word that the show must not necessarily go on, and received re-confirmation that all things, really, come to an end. Death and taxes are eternal, but beyond that, one can’t get overly surprised when institutions, such as HBO’s boxing shop, close shop. We are in a period of massive re-configuration on this planet and but of course, this includes the boxing space. Streaming is in, PPVs are out, except where they aren’t. Yep, it’s a bit complicated.
Jim Lampley came on the Everlast “Talkbox” podcast Tuesday and he talked about how he felt when he learned the company was going in another direction. He admitted he felt a bit sad but also right away thought that even good things come to an end.
“I have to be sad, because it represents the end of a franchise which has been huge in my life, hugely positive for me, enormous fun for me, and also I am deeply, personally connected to quite a number of people who have built their careers off of that franchise and who’ve seen their families grow and their children grow up as beneficiaries of what we’ve been doing all these years.
“So it’s very, very sad for all of that to come to an end. But of course I saw that coming for a long time,” he told us. ”And the essence of what I saw coming was a very simple divergence. It is the identity goal of HBO to be a clear number one in everything that it does and if it isn’t going to be a clear number one in any endeavor then that becomes a question mark and a challenge to the subject of whether the network wants to continue to do it.
“And in boxing, over the course of the last several years, we’ve seen an increasing sort of diversification in the marketplace, we’ve quite a number of new entrants into the business of seeking rights and relationships with fighters. The idenitity goal of being a clear number one was getting harder and harder to manage and to control.
“And in addition to that, it becomes more and more difficult as all these boundaries and divisons crop up to make the kind of fights that defined out franchise for a long, long time. A perfect example would be the question whether Terence Crawford is ever going to fight Errol Spence. In the era you might describe as the HBO-dominated era in boxing television, ultimately there would be no question that Errol Spence and Terence Crawford would get into the ring together, just as Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns ultimately got into the ring together, just as Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler ultimately got into the ring together, just as Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad ultimately got into the ring together.
“And I don’t see it as a coincidence that all of those were HBO fights. Now I think there is a very logical question whether you are ever going to see Errol Spence fight Terence Crawford, because of their differing allegiances and the boundaries that separate them, and I totally identify and understand an HBO frame of mind that says if the sport is going to diverge away from scenarios where the best fight the best then it becomes harder for us to do what we want to do.
“And this has been going on for several years, so it didn’t shock me at all that the decision ultimately came that by the end of this year that the money which has been sent to boxing all these years must now go to some other series of programming realities.”
My three cents: Superbly reasoned and stated, as per usual from Lampley. Now, could we dig down deeper, and flesh out the theorizing? Sure. Could we poke the stick at the specimen and do more post-mortem-ing? But of course. But I think that has been done at length and well enough from my station, so more would be an exercise in belaboring. Jim is right; OK, he didn’t offer that the purse strings had been cut the last couple years, and that impacted the product that we saw in this home-stretch run. His boss Peter Nelson couldn’t go on record and counter critiques like mine by protesting that his hands were tied to an extent by a thinner checkbook. So, this Lampley explanation as to how and why we got where we are stands for me as a pretty solid summation as to why 2018 will be the last year HBO is in boxing as we know them to be.
Listen to Lampley on the Everlast podcast here.