Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza expects the boxing schedule to be a barnburner once the world and sweet science is back to regularly scheduled programming.
Boxing events after mid-March, all the way through April and parts of May, have been snake bitten by the global pandemic that is coronavirus. But once boxing is back up and running, fans should expect to get a jam-packed calendar with a slew of new dates for all of its top combatsmen.
“I’m excited. I think we’re going to see an action-packed, jam-packed schedule whenever we return,” Espinoza said in a recent episode of the Showtime Boxing Podcast. “There’s a lot of fighters that need fights to happen, and I think we could be in for an interesting period of time where there’s a lot of activity in a relatively short window. It’s tough for us competitively to be in that window, tough for anybody in that window to cut through that noise [from other sports].
Espinoza said they may see fighters take a slightly different track in choosing fights, but he remains cautiously optimistic that the boxing public will see some scintillating action in a short amount of time.
“I believe that [there] will be some period of time where we’re doing it in the absence of large crowds,” Espinoza said. “Maybe [not for] a few months or a year … but I do think we will find a solution to have crowdless events before we figure out the solution to have a full crowd.
“So when that is, who knows. But when that starts to happen, there [will be] a tidal wave of sporting events that remains to be rescheduled.”
Showtime staged the last live significant event sans fans in the US when Brandun Lee knocked out Camilo Prieto at the Grand Casino in Hinckley, Minnesota on March 13.
“It’s going to be tough to get a venue if all these sports are going to play catch-up at one time,” Espinoza said. “It’s going to be a little strange. At the same time, having said that, it’s going to be a wild ride. There’s a lot to be made up.”
Espinoza said in the meantime, Showtime will fill the content gap on the screen with its vast library of documentaries.
“We are definitely surfacing much more of the archive on demand, and we’ll look at it on linear more regularly. Whether that means a programming slot or an occasional one,” said Espinoza.
“That’s what we allocate from a scheduling perspective. … That’s a nice opportunity for us. What’s about three hours? Well, we could do Marquez and Vasquez 1, 2, 3. That would fill the hole nicely.
“The boxing audience is definitely still very important to Showtime. We’re going to do everything we can to continue to serve them to the maximum extent that we can.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist and member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011. He has written for the likes of the LA Times, Guardian, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health and NFL.com and currently does TV commentary for combat sports programming that airs on Fox Sports and hosts his own radio show in Los Angeles. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com.