Heavyweights Key To Epix Becoming Network Heavyweight

By Jake Donovan

If there’s a big fight to be seen in the United States, it will appear on either HBO or Showtime – most likely in that order.

That’s become the norm for the past couple of decades, to the point of being accepted by far too many as just the way it is in the sport today.

Premium network EPIX has done everything in its power to change that perception.

“We began with Vitali Klitschko and Odlanier Solis a year ago,” pointed out Travis Pomposello, chief creative officer of Epix who is also in charge of its boxing division as senior vice president. “It was a bust of a fight but having a Klitschko on our air was a blockbuster success.

“Ever since then we’ve been trying to up the ante with each broadcast, and the manner in which we pursue the highest quality of fights.”

EPIX entered the boxing mix last March with the aforementioned heavyweight title fight, in which Solis threatened to make a fight of it before suffering a knockdown and blowing out his knee all in one fell swoop towards then end of the opening round.

More was hoped of the broadcast, though it wasn’t the only downside to the network’s boxing debut. There were also technical difficulties with the online feed at, though perhaps a good problem as too many subscribers logging on at once to sing on – upwards of 100,000 or so – caused many to miss the undercard portion of the telecast.

The main event went off without a hitch – save for the actual fight itself, though each broadcast improved with time.

An attempt to air a doubleheader from England last May turned into a singular event, though the  highly anticipated grudge match between then-unbeaten prospects George Groves and James “Chunky” DeGale was enough to atone for the light heavyweight unification bout that fell off the show.

The only major problems that came with the remaining broadcasts were limited to what took place at ringside – highly controversial decisions turned in during separate broadcasts for Felix Sturm’s disputed points win over Matthew Macklin and Robert Helenius’ questionable call over Dereck Chisora this past December.

A silver lining is offered in the vision EPIX has for the 2012 season. The premium network is flying out the gate, going back-to-back-to-back with heavyweight title fights in three straight weeks from February 18 through March 3.

While UK-based network Boxnation has become every boxing fan’s dream, that it’s limited to UK viewing without the benefit of online piracy has handicapped the size of the audience available for many of the fights on its blockbuster 1st quarter schedule.

For everyone else able to access EPIX either through their cable/satellite subscription or online at, a trio of heavyweight title fights coming out of Germany now player to a much larger viewing public.

The run begins with the February 18 clash between Vitali Klitschko – arguably the most dominant heavyweight titlist in boxing history – and Dereck Chisora, who wisely parlayed the momentum from the Helenius fight into the biggest opportunity of his career.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever had anyone like him,” Pomposello confesses of the charismatic Brit, who threatened to “make love” to Helenius during the press hype prior to their fight. The fringe heavyweight contender has since toned it down, merely offering to kiss Klitschko at some point.

There remains skepticism as to how competitive he will be even against a 40-year old Klitschko who despite his advanced age continues to mow through the competition.

Such was evidenced in his one-sided drubbing of Tomasz Adamek last September on HBO, marking his first appearance on the network in nearly two years. The Ukrainian was limited to viewings on ESPN’s online feed ( before returning to American airwaves in EPIX’ test case last March.

For whatever reasons, American powerhouse HBO is unable to translate the Klitschko brothers’ heavyweight success into heavyweight ratings – or at least the type of numbers that justify the paycheck that comes with airing their fights. Showtime hasn’t at all been in the mix since the elder Klitschko’s return to the ring in October ’08.

Somehow, EPIX is able to make it work. His appearance last March was enough convince the brass to bring him back next month. This time he returns with younger brother and lineal champion Wladimir Klitschko, who next defends his crown against former cruiserweight king Jean-Marc Mormeck two weeks later.

Wedged in between is an alphabet heavyweight title fight which will mark the third straight showcasing of unbeaten Alexander Povetkin. The Russian’s vacant title win over Ruslan Chagaev aired live on EPIX’ airwaves, as did his eight-round beatdown of Cedric Boswell last December.

That he’s featured in between Klitschko bouts and that all three are airing on EPIX is no accident. While it doesn’t guarantee head-on collisions in the near future, the buildup certainly doesn’t hurt.

“The lineup has me super excited both as a boxing fan and as the network head of its boxing division,” Pomposello insists. “We have become the heavyweight network. The heavyweight division has always been about the big stars throughout history. There is a tradition of heavyweights on networks and we’re happy to do our part to bring it back.”

Don’t mistake the excitement for the folks at EPIX breaking their arms in patting themselves on the back. No matter how much is done, the mentality of the New York City-based network is that there is always more to do.

“I just wish that Helenius didn’t go down with the shoulder injury,” Pomposello says of the Nordic heavyweight, who has appeared twice on the network, both times on the same card as Povetkin.

Helenius’ EPIX debut came last summer, overcoming a tougher-than-expected challenge from Sergei Liakhovich before stopping the former heavyweight titlist in nine rounds. Less than four months later came the questionable decision over Chisora, which was attributed – by his handlers – to a busted mitt suffered early in the bout.

It has since been reported that the unbeaten contender is heading for shoulder surgery, which will put him on ice until summer time at the earliest. Such turn of events killed plans for a hoped-for showdown with Alexander Dimitrenko, which EPIX was fully prepared to purchase for its viewers.

Instead, the network for now remains content with what is coming up in the next few weeks, though is actively on the hunt for the future beyond March 3. The options are hardly limited to the heavyweight division, though will continue to fit within the parameter of late afternoon/early evening viewing on a Saturday in the states.

The time slot was chosen as a reflection of the era enjoyed by Pomposello and EPIX CEO Mark Greenberg – a former Showtime exec – when Saturday boxing matinees were  routine. Its pairing with everything else EPIX has to offer has made for a solid combination to expand viewership, even if it means investing heavily into the European boxing scene.

“Our series has been mostly in Europe since it fits with the time slot,” Pomposello explains. “What better way to spend a Saturday evening then boxing right around dinner time, then a movie premiere right after that.”

It’s not exactly sure whether its vast movie collection – 15,000 and growing – or its inclusion of the type of boxing shows not normally made available to the American boxing scene has led to the network’s growth. What’s known is that all of the pieces fit into the puzzle.

“As the guy who runs boxing on this network, I’d love to say, ‘Hey boss we have 100,000 new subscribers thanks to boxing.’ We don’t have specific reasons for increased subscriptions, other than certain pinpoints. We got a bump after the Klitschko fight. We got bumps after big movie premieres or a major concert.

“What’s important is that we continue to grow.”

Helping the growth is the ability to think outside the box and not fall into the same formula all too often followed by other networks. Part of that comes with the two-week trial offered on the website.
“The advantage of having our fights on EpixHD as opposed to a linear channel is that I can give the fans a sampling for two weeks. It’s a lot easier for me to give people a guest account for two weeks on our website than it is to call the cable company and make the channel available to Joe Boxing Fan for the next two weeks.”

Those who happen to frequent Times Square around the time EPIX airs a major fight have certainly bore witness to a viewing experience like no other.

“Outside of this office is this screen controlled by one of our parent companies,” Pomposello says of the giant TV screen in the middle of Times Square which has aired EPIX boxing events to the outdoor pedestrians. “It was March and weather was nice and someone in the office came to me and said ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome to air this on the big screen’?”
For the rest of the boxing world now given more options to take in its favorite pastime without having to delve into the world of online piracy, it’s the answer to our prayers – from the viewing platform to the product provided.

“A lot of these fighters are not popular in the US. It’s a great opportunity to bring these fights to the fans that don’t otherwise get the exposure. As long as the opportunities exist, it’s a programmer’s dream come true.”
If there’s a downside, it’s that – unlike the established series offered on other networks – EPIX remains a la carte. There is no guarantee of a steady stream of boxing to come from the network, but the promise that whatever is offered will always be well worth everyone’s time.

“We will remain on a fight by fight basis,” Pomposello reveals. “We’re not looking for a Friday Night Fight series. As a fight fan, I love it. As a premium network, I feel obligated to give them quality. I’ll continue to take the best fights when they are available.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Follow Jake on Twitter at or submit questions/comments to [email protected]

User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by 1mb11 on 01-25-2012

Better than Hopkins vs Dawson II!

Comment by lazy on 01-25-2012

The more boxing on tv the better. Cheers to EPIX, even though I can't get it here.

Comment by -Deal With It- on 01-25-2012

[COLOR="SeaGreen"][B][FONT="Palatino Linotype"][SIZE="5"]FACTS about Deontay Wilder 100% KO ratio 100% Winning percentage Never lost a round There's [U]NO[/U] blueprint to beat Deontay Wilder [U]THE MOST STATISTICALLY DOMINANT HEAVYWEIGHT OF ALL TIME[/U][/SIZE][/FONT][/B][/COLOR] [IMG][/IMG] [COLOR="SeaGreen"][B][FONT="Palatino Linotype"][SIZE="5"]Future Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, P4P…

Comment by -Deal With It- on 01-25-2012

And if they keep showcasing these boring, stiff, robotic yurobum'z, dey finna fuk around and go bankrupt. Yal nikkaz over @ epix need to sign mah dawg Wilder, mang.

Post a Comment - View More User Comments (4)
Top Headlines Sugar Ray: Spence Must Use Tactics I Did With Hagler To Beat Brook Amir Khan: Very Few Fighters Can Fill Wembley - I'm One of Them! Beltran: I Should No Problem Getting Green Card After That KO Gary Russell Jr. - If No Unification Next, I Plan To Move Up Thurman: Hard To Be Confident in Brook, He Hasn't Proved It at 147 Berchelt: Miura a True Warrior, Confident I'll Leave With My Belt Juan Manuel Marquez Return Still in Play For July, Says Nacho Team Uzcategui Will Push For No-Contest, Dirrell Rematch Order Ryota Murata Feeling Good About Career Despite Shocking Loss Brook: No Issues With Weight, Close To 147 For Spence Defense ABC Calls For Ban of Dirrell's Trainer Due To Post-Fight Assault Promoter: David Benavidez Will Roll Over Everyone Shelly Vincent Tops Broadway Boxing Card, June 3 Mayweather on Canelo-GGG: May, September Are My Dates Video: Floyd Mayweather, Anthony Joshua Come Together in UK Michael Walsh Eyes Comeback, Set To Return On June 2 Ian Tims vs. Luke Watkins For Vacant Irish Belt, June 10 In Belfast Joshua: Mayweather-McGregor is Bigger With Me on Undercard Adrien Broner To Spend Three Days in Jail For Contempt Charge Groves Admits a Loss To Chudinov Could Be End of His Career Duva: Barrera Was Right on Beterbiev, Smith Deal Easy To Make Agitated Arum: HBO, Showtime Don’t Own the Boxing Business! Mayweather Confident He Would School Golovkin in 'Easy' Fight Big Changes at 108: BoxingScene Ratings Update Frankie Gavin To Return, June 3 In Scotland Brook vs. Spence: Lawrence Okolie To Face Russell Henshaw Video: Anthony Joshua Talks Klitschko, Mayweather, Future, More Brook: After Beating Spence, I Want Thurman Unification Next! Coldwell Hopes Lewis Taylor Shocks Jamie Cox on Brook-Spence Amir Khan Not Happy With WBC's Decision, May Target Peterson Why Do Boxing Robberies Continue To Happen? Video: Shakur Stevenson Talks About Second Pro Fight, Future Deontay Wilder Hopes Joseph Parker Fight Can Come Together Mayweather Expects Davis To Be a Star, Spence To Beat Brook Abel Sanchez: I'd Hate To See Mayweather Get '50' With McGregor Video: Ray Beltran Talks Big Win, Getting His Green Card Crawford: Pacquiao is The Only Fight We're Really Looking For BJ Flores Ready To Step in For Shannon Briggs and Face Oquendo Mayweather: No Rush To Make Davis-Lomachenko Unification Video: Bob Arum, Terence Crawford Post-Fight Interview

Latest Active Forum Threads