By Ryan Maquiñana
HBO Sports vice president of programming Kery Davis commented on the network’s decision to treat the upcoming Sept. 8 super middleweight title tilt between Andre Ward and Chad Dawson as “worthy of a mega-fight.”
“We’re doing a ‘24/7’ show that will premiere on August 25th. It’s only going to be one installment this time, but that’s not all,” Davis told BoxingScene.com. “They already shot a ‘Face-Off,’ and then we’re doing ‘Two Days’ with Andre Ward.
“We’re doing all the types of things that we do for a pay-per-view-type fight, and I think this fight fits the bill even if it’s just on regular HBO.”
As Davis announced on the dais during Monday’s presser in Oakland, the prefight buildup will cast the magnifying glass over both training camps for the latest installment of the award-winning “24/7” series—one that is usually reserved for HBO’s high-profile pay-per-view events.
With a current dearth of American fighters capable of driving a pay-per-view capable of garnering six-figure buys, it has become evident that HBO would like to groom the new crop of crossover idols.
“I agree with you, and look at this fight. Look at the landscape of boxing right now,” he said. “You have the top 175-pounder in the world against the top 168-pounder in the world. Whoever emerges as the winner in this fight will be in his prime, and I think the winner will become a superstar in the sport.”
Davis also addressed the bout’s detractors, many of whom have claimed that the matchup will be more of a tactical chess match than a crowd-pleasing war fought at a torrid pace.
“A writer told me when this fight was made that that he didn’t know about the styles of the two guys meshing together, but I told him that I’m not worried about that,” he said. “When you put two guys at this level against each other, all you need to know is that each of these guys would be favored against everybody in the world under 175 pounds.
“For that reason alone, that’s why boxing isn’t just a rumble sport, it’s a science sport. When you put two great athletes together like this, you never know what’s going to happen, but I just want to see who wins.”
Davis event hinted at the possibility of a trilogy if the fighters can rise to the occasion.
“Fights make stars, and if they get involved in a rivalry, for example, this is where stars grow from,” Davis said. “People always talk about how basketball was greatest when the [Los Angeles] Lakers played the [Boston] Celtics, or right now in football, when the New England Patriots play the [New York] Jets, or the Patriots against the Indianapolis Colts for the rest of the world before that.
“Maybe this is such a great fight that we see it three times, and both guys emerging as stars because of it. I think this has the potential to be that kind of fight for them, but in the boxing world, it’s not marketing that makes the stars, it’s the fights that make the stars.”
The premium cable network has seen quite a few changes since Ken Hershman took the helm of HBO Sports, from new programming like “The Fight Game” and “Two Days” to production changes, namely televising fighter meetings with the broadcast team in between rounds.
“We’re going to keep pushing the envelope,” Davis said. “I think one of the things that we’re learning is that people need to learn who these athletes are. They need to see them in their natural habitat.”
Davis elaborated on the personal touch that is necessary to cultivate a star.
“One thing about this sport when I grew up was I had a personal stake in what Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali did because I felt like I knew them,” Davis said. “I felt like if I saw them in the street, I could run up to them and hug them and say, ‘Hey man,’ because they were a friend in my head.
“That’s what we’re trying to do here. In this case, one of the things we’re trying to do is get them more exposure to their fan base. That’s where the fans begin to attach themselves.”
Ryan Maquiñana writes a weekly boxing column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.