By Keith Idec
Bob Arum was very interested in televising Gennady Golovkin’s May 5 fight on ESPN.
The Hall-of-Fame promoter confirmed to BoxingScene.com that Top Rank president Todd duBoef called Tom Loeffler, Golovkin’s promoter, last week to gauge his interest in moving Golovkin’s fight from HBO Pay-Per-View to ESPN. HBO Sports executive vice president Peter Nelson has since offered to televise Golovkin’s fight live on HBO, which hadn’t been presented as an option when duBoef called Loeffler.
“Part of our job at ESPN is to get the best fights for the network,” Arum told BoxingScene.com. “And since HBO looked like they were reluctant to buy Golovkin’s fight, Todd called up Loeffler and we offered to buy it. [HBO] then stepped up and said that they would buy it, and we backed off. That would’ve been nice, for us to have Golovkin on ESPN. We didn’t want to interfere with anybody’s relationship or anything like that.”
A pay-per-view event featuring Golovkin against an inferior, far less popular opponent than Canelo Alvarez would not have generated a lot of buys, particularly on such short notice. Regardless, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that Golovkin will fight May 5 (https://www.boxingscene.com/golovkin-5-fight-jeopardy-being-canceled-altogether--127066).
Arum added that it hadn’t been determined whether Golovkin’s fight would’ve aired live on ESPN or through the newly launched ESPN+ app. Top Rank announced Monday that it’ll show 18 fight cards this year through that streaming service, which costs $4.99 per month and includes coverage of other sports.
“It probably would’ve been ESPN linear,” Arum said, “but I don’t know because what programming does ESPN have on May 5th? And how determined was [Loeffler] to stay on May 5th? We never got into those details.”
Almost all of the higher-profile fights Arum’s company promoted in recent years aired on HBO before Top Rank made an exclusive deal with ESPN last summer. Arum has been publicly critical of Nelson in the past, but he said attempting to televise Golovkin’s fight May 5 simply made business sense because HBO hadn’t committed to airing it live on that premium cable channel.
“Tom thanked Todd,” Arum said. “He said he was very interested, unless he was able to make a deal with HBO. But he has a contract with HBO, and whether it’s a contract or not, it’s a relationship. We weren’t looking to disturb that relationship.”
All but one of Golovkin’s past 15 fights either have aired live on HBO or were distributed by HBO Pay-Per-View. The unbeaten IBF/IBO/WBA/WBC middleweight champion’s most recent fight, a controversial 12-round draw with Alvarez on September 16 in Las Vegas, reportedly produced approximately 1.3 million pay-per-view buys.
ESPN, a basic cable network, is available in approximately 87 million homes in the United States. HBO has roughly 32 million subscribers.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.