By Michael Marley
Showtime's reemergence as a powerful force in the biggest boxing matches on prime cable and on pay-per-view is, as I noted Saturday, a plus for the sport/business overall.
Only time will tell how deep Top Rank's allegiance to HBO's archrival will be, but Top Rank President Todd duBoef and company CEO Bob Arum certainly planted their flag deep and strong with the deliverance of boxing's hottest attraction, Manny Pacquiao, and his May 7 bout against longtime HBO regular Sugar Shane Mosley, to Showtime.
The wild card here is the overall role of Showtime's "parent broadcaster," CBS, which is one of the original "big three" along with ABC and NBC.
Will CBS allow itself to shill, to serve as a "barker channel" and carry HBO 24/7 style video commericals for such fights as Mosley-Pacquiao?
Or will the CBS operators want to go further and carry live bouts in the same manner that Showtime was able to showcase with their other sports programming?
Again, this seems to be a positive for the sport, and if it sends some shockwaves through the HBO ranks, it cannot be a bad thing.
But, like a guy who was on the lot a few days ago, bought a car and now has "buyer's remorse" with the new vehicle in the driveway, I'm having second and third thoughts.
Maybe this divergence will keep Pacquiao away from rival Floyd Mayweather Jr. as they both finish out their storied careers.
Maybe Showtime will be content to have Pacquiao fight whoever Arum chooses on pay-per-view rather than subject himself to any quality control objections by the HBO suits.
And maybe Mayweather will take avantage of this development by sticking to HBO pay-per-view and cherrypicking a list of easy foes himself.
Certainly, the walls of the HBO office on Sixth Avenue would quiver and shake if L'il Floyd comes back to the ring and also flies the Showtime banner.
Maybe Manny will be the pound-for-pound king of Showtime and Floyd the pound-for-pound king of HBO.
So far, the only shot fired was from the Showtime bunker.
Now HBO has to strike and strike hard.
It could be a lovely war but it may keep Mayweather and Pacquiao separated as cash cows and champions of rival networks.