By Mitch Abramson
Kery Davis, the longtime HBO Sports executive who played a key role to bringing some of the biggest fights of the past decade to the airwaves but also fairly or unfairly came to represent the network’s fixation with certain fighters and difficulty in always putting on competitive fights, disputed the idea that he was pushed out at HBO when he announced his decision to resign from his position as senior vice president last Thursday. Whatever the reason behind his departure- and Davis claims he wanted to pursue other opportunities outside of boxing- Davis’ exit represents the first public shake-up of the Ken Hershman era in his time as president of HBO Sports.
“When I first took the job, I knew jobs like these have a certain shelf life,” Davis said in a phone interview with BoxingScene.com. “And being here for 16 years was more than I ever expected and I just thought now was a great opportunity for me- I was going to do one more important professional opportunity in my life and now was convenient [to leave]. I appreciated the opportunity that HBO provided,” Davis went on.
“As a kid from the Bronx I had the opportunity to travel all over the world and meet many of my favorite idols like Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali. I mean having an opportunity to talk boxing with Nelson Mandela was, you know, terrific. So there were really some incredible and extraordinary moments and the last 16 years have been amazing and now it’s time to do something else.”
For the past 16 years, Davis was one of the highest ranking African-Americans at HBO, a mover and shaker who played a central role in making significant fights involving Floyd Mayweather Jr., Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones and Manny Pacquiao, among others. But Davis, along with former president of HBO Sports, Ross Greenburg, was also blamed for the network’s inability to make the super-fight between Mayweather Jr. and Pacquiao and for allowing a number of fights to reach the airwaves that weren’t always competitive. Davis, 54, declined to comment on this viewpoint, saying his record of putting on big fights spoke for itself.
“You know the person who sits in that chair- it’s a difficult job,” said Davis, who will likely remain at the network through the end of the month. “It’s a lot of juggling of personalities and opportunities and sometimes it can be frustrating,” he went on. “But like I said, I did this job for 16 years for one reason and one reason only - because of the incredible, exhilarating moments out-weighed all the frustrations.”
When Greenburg decided to leave HBO Sports under pressure in 2011, citing a frustration with the boxing business, it seemed that Davis might soon follow. But Davis argued against the notion that he was pushed out at HBO after working 16 months for Hershman, the current president of HBO Sports, describing his decision to step down as his own.
“I don’t have anything to say in regard to that,” Davis said. “I’m moving on to my next opportunity and I’ll let it speak for itself.”
Davis also declined to talk about HBO’s failure to keep Mayweather Jr. under contract. In February, Mayweather Jr. signed a long-term, very well-paid deal with Showtime in a bold move that seemed to announce Showtime as the new preeminent boxing network.
“I think you should talk to the people who are still at HBO about that,” Davis said. “That’s not- I really wanted to keep this quiet and I understand that I did hold an important position there but in terms of what’s going on there - I think Ken [Hershman] and Mark [Taffet] and Peter [Nelson] are the best people at talking about the effect of Floyd not being there at this point. My opinion now- [I have a] fan’s opinion just like everyone else.”
Hershman was not available for comment but he did say in a statement: "For more than 15 years, Kery Davis was a major contributor to the HBO Boxing franchise, focused on delivering the finest in boxing programming to our subscribers. We wish him success with all of his new endeavors."
There are no plans to replace Davis at HBO. His responsibilities will be absorbed among the current programming team, according to a source at the network.
As for his future, Davis said he’s in discussions with “another group in the entertainment world” about a job that’s not boxing related. But Davis didn’t rule out working in boxing again at some point if the right venture comes along.
“I could,” he said. “I love boxing and love the sport. There’s nothing more exhilarating than being at a big boxing match. I call myself a sports fanatic and I’ve been to many events- to the Super Bowls, the NBA finals. I’ve been to the World Series. And I don’t think for the sheer electricity there’s nothing that [compares] to a big boxing match. So I’m absolutely open to working in boxing again if it was the right opportunity.”
Mitch Abramson covers boxing for the New York Daily News and BoxingScene.com.