How Top Rank's Deal With ESPN Changes Boxing


By Andreas Hale

Is there anybody out there that still has the nerve to say that boxing is dead?

The sentiment has spilled out from the mouths of detractors for several years. Some blamed the fact that the best don’t always fight the best. While that is true, it hasn’t always been boxing’s biggest issue.

The biggest problem that boxing has had to deal with over the past couple of decades has been visibility. While other sports have managed to carve out a space on cable television, boxing, for the most part, has been relegated to premium channels on cable and pay per view. The concept has made it quite the challenge for the sport to develop new stars as they are rarely seen anywhere but inside of the squared circle. And when that squared circle is behind a money wall, it restricts the opportunity for people to lay eyes on what could potentially be the next big thing.

This was epitomized by Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev’s rematch on June 17th, which bricked on PPV with roughly 125,000 buys and a low drawing live gate. It’s unfortunate because it was a rematch between two of the top pound for pound fighters in the world and there was a great deal of bad blood between them. However, the lack of visibility for both fighters led to a lukewarm response.

Granted, there were many other mitigating factors that led to the fight being unable to draw a heavy following. But it can be argued that chief among those factors was the fact that most people had never seen neither Andre Ward nor Sergey Kovalev fight. It also didn’t help that it was a pay per view, but that’s something that networks and promoters have to figure out.

In order to rectify this, boxing has to be made available for the casual fan to stumble across on a Friday or Saturday evening.

Al Haymon’s Premiere Boxing Champions got the ball rolling in the right direction by broadcasting big names on free television. However, there were some hiccups along the way with terrible mismatches and backlash from both the media and the fans. At the very least, it was a step in the right direction as fans could tune in on a Saturday night and see Keith Thurman vs. Danny Garcia, Leo Santa Cruz vs. Abner Mares and others. Now, Top Rank has decided to take it a step further with their ESPN deal.

pacquiao-vargas-grand-arrival (13)

Following the monster ratings that Manny Pacquiao’s controversial loss to Jeff Horn did for ESPN by averaging 3.1 million viewers between both television and streaming audiences, both Terence Crawford and Vasyl Lomachenko also have fights scheduled on the sports network in August, albeit in separate bouts. This is ultimately a huge deal for boxing and Top Rank as Crawford and Lomachenko are not only two of the most exciting fighters to watch, but they are also on the verge of breaking through into the mainstream. All they need is what?


And what better place to be seen than on the biggest sports network in the world. Rather than broadcast up and comers via their Friday Night Fights series, ESPN now has the opportunity to give some of the best fighters in the world a platform. With Pacquiao and Horn doing extraordinarily well (and a rematch likely on the way), boxing has proven its relevancy and viability on a major network.

Junior lightweight world titleholder Vasyl Lomachenko will square off against Miguel Marriaga on August 5th at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles while Terence Crawford will step into the ring two weeks later on August 19th and look to unify the junior welterweight titles against Julius Indongo at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska, which isn’t but a short drive from his hometown of Omaha.

Although the Lomachenko fight will be viewed as a one-sided mismatch, Hi Tech’s ability will be on full display and will surely win over anybody who has yet to see him fight. As for Crawford, he’s also the favorite but Indongo is a fellow titleholder who will do everything in his power to not have to hand his titles over to the Nebraskan. A pair of fun fights featuring two big names in August? Sounds good, right?

Everybody wins, well, except for HBO Boxing, which lost both fighters after letting their deals with the network expire and failing to match ESPN’s offer. It’s been a rough month for the premium cable network considering how Ward-Kovalev 2 was a commercial failure and now two of its brightest stars will take their talents to ESPN.

It’s a big moment for boxing as one of the biggest stars the sport has ever seen (Pacquiao) and two of the fastest rising stars in boxing (Lomachenko and Crawford) will compete on ESPN. It’s more significant considering that boxing will get a bit of a boost overall as we inch toward Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor on August 29th. Both Crawford and Lomachenko will preceded the huge crossover event and perhaps get some additional indirect exposure along the way.

Although it’s not known if any other Top Rank fighters will appear on ESPN this year, it’s safe to say that this is a home run for the sport. In a year that has been full of great moments, seeing boxing’s top names on ESPN only adds more to the sport’s excellent 2017.

User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by Mrsantiago on 07-17-2017

[QUOTE=TonyGe;17840579]Don't worry if the ESPN cards are mismatches they will be critisized also.[/QUOTE] The first card (pac vs horn) was a mismatch and so is lomos card.

Comment by Mrsantiago on 07-17-2017

The first card was a mismatch as well as lomos card

Comment by killakali on 07-12-2017

[QUOTE=Scipio2009;17850447]If the fights are good, than the fights are good. If the setup ends up feeding the showcase fights to ESPN, while keeping all of the pay fights with HBO, to hell with Arum. Fox/FS1, BounceTV, and Showtime/CBS are delivering…

Comment by Scipio2009 on 07-12-2017

[QUOTE=killakali;17850336]That's for Pacquiao. Top rank has a 4 year deal with espn. I'm sure u are glad to be getting all this free boxing since all pbc ha left are low level fs1 and bounce shows and 2-3 Fox cards…

Comment by Mike D on 07-12-2017

[QUOTE=Face Of Boxing;17845097]So when you pay your cable bill, its not really free is it?[/QUOTE] It ain't technically free but the vast majority of homes already have those channels. Obviously you know this already but HBO & Showtime are premium…

Post a Comment - View More User Comments (100)
Top Headlines Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Plans October Return, Eyes Martin Murray Cortez: McGregor a Very Powerful Puncher, Has Great Potential Amanda Serrano is Latest To Consider a Jump To MMA McGregor: Conditioning is Not an Issue Against Mayweather Jessie Magdaleno vs. Cesar Juarez Clash is Close For October Holyfield: Joshua Must Think About His Image, Forget Tyson Fury Kyoguchi Wins IBF World Title: Ryoichi Taguchi, Kono Get KO Wins Eubank Sr: James DeGale is "Suspect" For Not Entering WBSS Omar Figueroa: Mayweather-McGregor a Joke, Slap in The Face Garcia Open to Staying at 140, Moving Up to 147 After Broner Charlo: Jacobs Exploited Golovkin's Flaws, Better Than Canelo Daily Bread Mailbag: Mayweather-McGregor, Ward-Stevenson Frank Warren on Haye-Ringstar TV Deal, Signings in The UK Aloyan Gets WBC Belt in Second Pro Fight, Fedor Chudinov Wins Wilder's Manager Concerned That Stiverne Missed His Drug Test Mayweather: I Can't Move Like I Did Before, I'm Going Toe To Toe! Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson: Roots of a Success Story Jhonny Gonzalez Blasts Rosales in Two, Wants Miguel Berchelt Deontay Wilder's Manager: It Makes Sense To Fight Luis Ortiz! Miguel Berchelt Wants To Fight Again in 2017, Not Rushing Return Jose Pedraza vs. Mickey Bey in Talks For August 22, Las Vegas Gilberto Ramirez: I Won't Let Jesse Hart Run, I Want Him To Fight Malignaggi: McGregor Can Exploit Things, Have His Moments David Allen Drops, Stops Tom Dallas in Three Rounds Gassiev Sees No Reason For Lebedev Rematch After WBSS Refusal Joe Cortez Helping Conor McGregor Prepare For Floyd Mayweather Mayweather: Believe I Can't Read and Spell? I Made $800 Million! Frank Warren: Mayweather, McGregor - Big Talk, Will They Deliver? Garcia: Non-Title Fight Vs. Broner Still Biggest of Our Careers Mairis Briedis vs. Mike Perez on September 30 in Latvia Top Rank VP: Pacquiao-Horn Was Close, 117-111 Created Issue Lomachenko: I'm Ready To Fight Guillermo Rigondeaux Next! Garcia Expects Broner to Be Biggest Puncher He Has Faced Yarde Would Love To Emulate Roy Jones, Win Title at Heavyweight Amanda Serrano-Edina Kiss: Still Worth a Look on Delay Nikki Adler Confident She'll Hand Claressa Shields Her First Loss Erol Ceylan Discusses The Past, Present and Future of EC Boxing Hatton: Pacquiao Got Old Overnight, When Horn Beats You... Malignaggi: McGregor Has Game Plan, It's Not What People Think Robert Guerrero and Knowing When To Say When

Latest Active Forum Threads