By Rick Reeno
The proposed middleweight unification bout between [WBC/WBO] Kelly Pavlik and [WBA] Felix Sturm is in serious doubt. And not because of some political wrangling from the fighters or the promoters. BoxingScene.com was advised by more than one source that HBO is only offering $2 million dollars for the fight. The same network that paid $3.5 million for the rematch between Chad Dawson and Antonio Tarver.
I hear Showtime is interested in Pavlik-Sturm but there are obvious concerns over the network's ability to offer enough money to make the fight happen. Obviously the economy is hurting everyone. But, when HBO has their eye on a certain fighter, like a Chad Dawson, and he happens to fight for a network rival, like a Showtime - HBO will do whatever is financially necessary to get their man. In those kind of situations, HBO is fully capable of adding a few zeros at the end.
This situation is the shadow of a much bigger problem in the sport. Too many promoters are completely dependent on the television networks. Top Rank is one of the few promotional companies who don't fully depend on the networks. When a network like HBO shows no interest, Top Rank does not change their plan of action. Instead they create their own pay-per-view events like Latin Fury or their new series, Pinoy Power. Warriors Boxing, Square Ring and other promotional outfits have also put together their own pay-per-views when the major networks showed no interest.
Just think about this, the two best heavyweights in the world have not fought on HBO in 2009. The Klitschko brothers are so big overseas and make so much money from their German television deals that HBO is not a necessity to either of them. As boxing becomes more of a global playing ground, expect more fighters to move forward with major events without the involvement of HBO or other American-based television networks.
The promoters have given networks like HBO too much power. And because of this power, HBO has basically become more of a promoter than a network. In many cases HBO will present a selective list of opponents they [HBO] are willing to approve. And the promoter has no choice but to pick from that list or take a walk. Most promoters give in and very few actually walk. In some cases the opponents on that list are not in the best interest of the promoter, the fighter or the viewing public. One example was HBO's recent desire to see a fight between Andre Berto and Zab Judah. At the same time the network passed on Tomasz Adamek vs. Glen Johnson, Wladimir Klitschko vs. Ruslan Chagaev and Jermain Taylor vs. Carl Froch.
HBO has certainly improved their quality of televised fights but there continues to be some very peculiar decisions being made at the network. Certain people can present complete mismatches on paper and have them approved. Certain people will receive television dates for a fighter without an opponent being set. These problems will not evaporate overnight but very few people are willing to talk about these problems in the open and even fewer are willing to take a stand against the system.