By Jake Donovan
In a year that marked a golden era for boxing content as well as the highest grossing event in the sport’s history, Showtime is prepared to end its year the same way it began – with a bang.
There may have been some frustrating moments in between Deontay Wilder’s heavyweight title winning effort – which played to well over 1 million home viewers – to this point, but the American cable giant prepares for a strong close to the 2015 boxing season.
Following the October 3 presentation of Showtime Championship Boxing, the network will come back strong with a stretch of seven shows in a span of eight weeks from late October through mid-December.
“It’s been a memorable year in many aspects,” Showtime EVP and General Manager Stephen Espinoza told BoxingScene.com. “Now our focus shifts to having a huge 4th quarter with our schedule including a little bit of everything.”
While some may question the year that was for Showtime, there’s no denying the network’s impact on the sport’s biggest moments of the year. Its coverage of Wilder’s title win marked the first American to claim heavyweight hardware in more than seven years, and paved the way for Showtime to once again march into the record books.
The network agreed to co-exist with HBO for the sake of piecing together the most lucrative event in boxing history, a superfight five years in the making when Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao agreed to terms for their May 2 clash.
Mayweather came out victorious in an event that destroyed box-office records, setting marks that will likely never be broken. The astronomic numbers surpassed the previous mark held by Mayweather, with his 12-round win over Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in Sept. ’13.
Both fights were part of a lucrative six-fight deal Mayweather inked with Showtime, with record-breaking purses justified by the box-office benchmarks established during their time spent together.
With Mayweather having announced his retirement following his win over Andre Berto in September, the sport is left to search for someone to assume the throne. It’s never an overnight process, but Showtime has already taken steps to usher in the next era with seven telecasts to close out the year.
“This run begins tonight with a rededicated Adrien Broner,” notes Espiznoza. “From there, we have the reemergence of Kell Brook to Gary Russell’s first title defense title fight.”
The blitz of boxing coverage begins and ends with ShoBox telecasts. Kicking off the run is a ShoBox quadrupleheader on October 23, live from Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona.
Headlining the show, Rob Brant (17-0, 11KOs) puts his unbeaten record on the line versus Louis Rose in a scheduled 10-round middleweight bout. Also on the telecast:
• Harmonito de la Torre (16-0, 11KOs) faces Wanzell Ellison in an eight-round super featherweight bout;
• Unbeaten heavyweight Jarrell Miller (14-0-1) steps up in class versus Akhror Muralimov (16-1, 13KOs), also scheduled for eight rounds;
• Light heavyweight prospects Lavarn Harvell and Samuel Clarkson collide over eight rounds
One night later marks the return of Showtime Boxing International, a special Saturday afternoon matinee edition of live boxing from overseas. Topping the October 24 bill, unbeaten welterweight Kell Brook puts his perfect record and world title on the line versus Top 10 contender Diego Chaves live from Motorpoint Arena in his hometown of Sheffield, England. The bout will air live during the afternoon, with an exclusive rebroadcast later in the evening.
The evening edition of the October 24 show was originally slated to include featherweight titlist Gary Russell, Jr. The Washington D.C. native will instead top the November 14 edition of Showtime Championship Boxing, as he faces Oscar Escandon (24-2, 16KOs). The bout will mark the first defense of the title Russell (26-1, 15KOs) won in a career-best knockout win over Jhonny Gonzalez in March.
Prior to Russell’s ring return, ShoBox comes back with its second quadrupleheader in a span of 14 days. A November 6 show from D Hotel in Las Vegas features series favorite Antoine Douglas (18-0-1, 12KOs) versus Les Sherrington (35-7, 20KOs) in middleweight action. A trio of unbeaten prospects grace the undercard:
• Welterweight Taras Shelestyuk (12-0, 8 KOs) versus a yet-to-be-determined opponent;
• Philly southpaw Keenan Smith (7-0, 2 KOs) versus San Antonio’s Benjamin Whitaker (10-1, 2 KOs) in an eight-round super lightweight scrap;
• Houston lightweight O’Shanique Foster (8-0, 5 KOs) meets Philly’s Samuel Teah (7-1, 5 KOs);
Five weeks later marks the 2015 season finale of ShoBox, with the fighters and venue for the December 11 show to be announced in the near future.
The December 11 card will serve as the last of three consecutive weekends of live boxing action. The preceding two shows feature back-to-back editions of Showtime Championship Boxing.
On November 28, England’s James DeGale makes the first defense of his super middleweight crown, traveling to hostile territory as he faces former champ Lucian Bute in Quebec City, Canada.
DeGale (21-1, 14KOs) earned the proud distinction of becoming the first-ever Olympic Gold medalist from Great Britain to go on to win a world title. That watershed moment came in May, traveling to Boston to claim the vacant belt in a 12-round win over 2004 Olympic Bronze medalist Andre Dirrell.
Bute (32-2, 25KOs) is coming off of a 4th round knockout of Andrea DiLuisa in August. The win marked his first fight back since a decision loss to adopted countryman Jean Pascal last January. In facing DeGale, Bute fights in his first title bout since a 5th round knockout loss to Carl Froch, which ended a 4½ year stay as champ.
The November 28 show also includes the continued rise of light heavyweight contender Artur Beterbiev. His opponent is expected to be assigned shortly, as the unbeaten boxer from Canada by way of Russia is the leading contender for the light heavyweight title and will fight in a final eliminator.
One week later, Showtime travels across the border back to the United States.
“We’re proud to end our Showtime Championship Boxing series for 2015 with the most highly anticipated middleweight matchup we can make,” Espinoza points out.
An all-Brooklyn middleweight matchup between Daniel Jacobs and Peter Quillin serves as the centerpiece attraction of a solid 4th quarter run, airing live from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
“There’s a lot in next three months, capping a year bookended by two huge events in premier boxing venues,” said Espinoza. “As we put together the 4th quarter schedule, we’re already working on an exciting slate of fights for the first quarter of 2016.”
There are no guarantees for what’s in store for next year, but with any luck it begins similar to 2015.
“We expect to have Deontay Wilder back on Showtime, defending his heavyweight championship,” Espinoza informed BoxingScene.com.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com.
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