The industry is still shocked, after HBO announced on Thursday of their company decision to drop live boxing after more than 1,000 fights over four decades of telecasts.
The network will televise the Oct. 27 middleweight title fight between Danny Jacobs and Sergiy Derevyanchenko, then bow out from a sport of which it has long been a leading proponent.
Showtime, HBO's main competitor for cable boxing telecasts, plans to enhances its schedule for 2019.
Since its first fight on Jan. 22, 1973 — a huge one in which George Foreman knocked out Joe Frazier for the heavyweight crown in Jamaica — HBO televised a symmetrical number of 1,111 bouts, some pay-per-view, the rest on the cable channel. That includes a high of 32 appearances by Oscar de la Hoya and Roy Jones Jr.
Other champions with regular appearances on the network have been Floyd Mayweather (27), Manny Pacquiao (24), Bernard Hopkins (23) and Mike Tyson (17).
The decision to leave boxing comes at a time it is thriving on other platforms. Fox Sports recently signed a deal to televise fights, while ESPN is broadcasting prime-time fights on its network and showcasing fights on its streaming app. The streaming app DAZN has ambitious plans for other fights.
Two weeks ago, HBO's two biggest names, Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, became network free agents in the aftermath of their pay-per-view rematch at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Larry Merchant, who commented on boxing at HBO for 35 years, has this to say:
"Once upon a time we were a promising kid. Then a challenger. Then a champion. A great champion. A long-time champion. And then a has-been who finally retired. So long, champ," Merchant stated.
Merchant was eventually replaced on their broadcasts by Max Kellerman.