By Keith Idec
Executives for HBO and Showtime should learn by the weekend which network will televise the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez pay-per-view fight Nov. 12 in Las Vegas.
“Our goal,” Bob Arum said, “is that we’ll vote on it by the end of the week.”
Arum and his team at Top Rank Inc. are weighing two strong offers for the broadcast rights, which has made the decision difficult.
“The [package] that [HBO has] offered to us is something a year ago that nobody would’ve dreamed of,” Arum said. “If it was still the same [nonsense], we wouldn’t even be debating it. We would’ve already signed a contract with Showtime/CBS.”
HBO executives made a stronger pitch by offering to use more of parent company Time Warner’s vast television, print and Internet assets in the wake of losing Pacquiao’s last fight to rival Showtime. CBS, Showtime’s parent company, promoted the Pacquiao-Shane Mosley fight on CBS and within other advertising space not typically reserved for boxing matches.
That resulted in Pacquiao-Mosley, a one-sided Pacquiao win widely viewed as a mismatch from the time it was made, drawing roughly 1.3 million pay-per-view buys May 7 in Las Vegas. That doesn’t mean, though, that Showtime necessarily has an advantage over HBO this time around, especially since HBO’s head honchos have played a large role in trying to lure the Filipino superstar back to their network.
Arum began dealing with them even before longtime HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg announced his resignation July 18.
“What happened was that the leaders of HBO, not the people in HBO Sports, the guys who really run HBO — Michael Lombardo (programming president) and Richard Plepler (co-president) — really got involved,” Arum said. “They’re very, very bright and they’re first-class guys. The problem heretofore with HBO was that it was like the head of HBO Sports looked upon it as his fiefdom and didn’t want to go outside of the confines of HBO Sports, using the assets available to HBO Sports.
“That never made any sense, because HBO Sports is part of HBO, which has a lot of good assets. And HBO itself is part of Time Warner, which has even better assets. So the fact that those assets wouldn’t be utilized was not giving the best effort in [promoting] pay-per-view [boxing]. The guys who are running HBO now, when they became aware of that situation, they came in and corrected it.”
Whichever network televises the fight, Pacquiao (53-3-2, 38 KOs) and Mexico’s Marquez (53-5-1, 39 KOs) will square off for a third time at MGM Grand. Their 12-round fight for Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight title will be contested at a catch weight of 144 pounds, three pounds beneath the usual welterweight limit.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, NJ., and BoxingScene.com.