By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Bob Arum didn’t mention HBO or Peter Nelson specifically Thursday morning.
Then again, the Hall-of-Fame promoter didn’t need to do that. Virtually everyone knew that he was referring to the HBO boxing tripleheader that’ll air at the same time Saturday night as the ESPN telecast that’ll feature a highly anticipated 130-pound showdown between Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux.
The fighters Arum’s company, Top Rank Inc., promotes, including Lomachenko, regularly boxed in bouts broadcast by HBO before Top Rank reached an exclusive deal with ESPN late in the spring. The card headlined by Ukraine’s Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KOs) and Cuba’s Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs, 1 NC) will be the sixth Top Rank show ESPN will televise in the six months since the agreement was announced.
The basic-cable network has committed to televising 18 Top Rank shows in 2018, though. It is available in nearly three times as many American homes as HBO, with which Arum has had a love-hate relationship over the years.
Arum expressed surprise when HBO announced it would televise boxing the same night as Lomachenko-Rigondeaux, but he doesn’t expect the competing card to make much impact on ratings for a fight that generated considerable buzz among boxing fans.
“What ESPN is doing is great,” Arum said during a Lomachenko-Rigondeaux press conference Thursday at Madison Square Garden. “They are really joined with boxing. They’re behind boxing. It’s an absolutely new era. And any so-called executive who wants to fight it and wants to counter-program it, be my guest.”
The executive to whom Arum referred is Nelson, the HBO Sports executive vice president responsible for approving and purchasing fights for the premium-cable network.
HBO will televise a tripleheader Saturday night from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas that’ll partially air at the same time as the Lomachenko-Rigondeaux fight on ESPN.
The HBO telecast will feature Orlando Salido (44-13-4, 31 KOs, 1 NC) against fellow Mexican Miguel Roman (57-12, 44 KOs) in a 10-round, 130-pound main event. The three-bout broadcast also will include 12-round, 130-pound bouts between Philadelphia’s Tevin Farmer (25-4-1, 5 KOs) and Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa (22-1, 17 KOs), and Mexico’s Francisco Vargas (23-1-2, 17 KOs) and England’s Stephen Smith (25-3, 15 KOs).
ESPN’s four-fight broadcast is set to start at 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PST. HBO’s broadcast is scheduled to begin at 10:20 p.m. EST/7:20 p.m. PST, which means it’ll at least have begun by the time Lomachenko and Rigondeaux enter the ring for their WBO super featherweight title fight.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.