By Lem Satterfield & Rick Reeno
BoxingScene.com has learned that Ross Greenburg is out as HBO's President of Sports, and that his removal is expected to be announced as early as Monday, according to multiple sources familiar with the network's decision.
Although Greenburg will no longer be on HBO's payroll, he has apparently accepted a role as an independent producer of one or more documentaries that will be financed by HBO as part of his severance package.
Greenburg became the president of HBO Sports in the fall of 2000, replacing Seth Abraham when Abraham left Time Warner Sports to become executive vice president and chief operating officer of New York's Madison Square Garden.
Much of Greenburg's demise can be traced to the loss of boxing's biggest star, eight-division titlist Manny Pacquiao (53-3-2, 38 knockouts), to rival cable giant Showtime in May.
In May, Pacquiao's earned a unanimous decision in defense of his WBO welterweight title over Shane Mosley (46-7-1, 39 KOs), a bout that was televised on and distributed on Showtime Pay-Per-View and promoted heavily on CBS, that network's parent company.
Although it was the first time that either Pacquiao or Mosley had been televised on Showtime, Greenburg, during an interview with BoxingScene.com in January, downplayed the significance of the move by Top Rank Promotions CEO Bob Arum, promoter of the fight.
"You know, it was a business decision that Bob Arum made, and it was a one-fight deal, we'll just take it from there. But that's really all that I can say about it. We're just moving on and doing what we do best, and that's putting big fights together featuring the best fighters in the world," said Greenburg at the time.
"This is a one fight deal, so we will just wait and see what happens after this fight. It's more a matter of having established over 35 years a brand in HBO boxing, and I've been a part of it for 32 of those 35 years."So this is not going upset our positioning as the preiminant boxing network."
But that was not the view of Abraham, who was considered an architect of HBO Boxing’s rise to boxing prominence.
In a May 6 New York Times article written by Greg Bishop, Abraham compared the Pacquiao-Showtime partnership to the end of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.
For years, wrote Greg Bishop, dating at least to when Mike Tyson left HBO in the mid-1990s, the network had staged the bouts of the sport’s best fighters.
"The streak is over," Abraham told The New York Times. "But the impact is not what happens in the ring. It’s what happens afterward. And there, it’s potentially very, very dramatic from a business standpoint."
In January, however, Greenburg insisted that HBO would recover from its failure to land Pacquiao-Mosley.
"That's what we've always prided ourselves on, and we continue to look for the best fighters in the world," said Greenburg. "If they're in the same division, we match them up. That's what the public expects of us, and that's what we'll continue to do."
Arum said that he still is undecided which of the two networks -- HBO or Showtime -- will get the November 12 third bout between Pacquiao and WBO and WBA light weight titlist Juan Manuel Marquez (52-5-1, 38 KOs), and the Dec. 3 rematch between WBA junior middleweight king Miguel Cotto (36-2, 29 KOs) and Antonio Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs).
The two networks still are in a bidding war over two bouts. HBO already has put out a bid to Top Rank, which expects a counter offer from Showtime on Tuesday.
A 1977 Brown University graduate and winner of the Sam Taub Award for excellence in boxing broadcasting, Greenburg was also responsible for HBO series' such as "Sports of the 20th Century," as well as "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," and, "Inside The NFL," the latter featuring Bob Costas, Dan Marino, Cris Carter, and Chris Collinsworth.