Fights were announced and messages were sent on Wednesday afternoon in Manhattan, the capital city of the world, as the Showtime boxing brigade laid out their first quarter schedule, and made clearer what their mission is, as an entity.
A heavy hint could be found in the press release which went out around lunch time, before the 4 PM announcement fest kicked off at the high brow Cipriani, on E 42nd, between Madison and Park. I’d bene here before, years before, and memories filtered back to when Tommy Gallagher ran some shows here, to attract Wall St over-spenders to take in some pro pugilism action. Back then, circa the early 2000s, HBO was the undeniable boss of the pay cable bigtime boxing sphere. Gallagher would have liked to make his Tokunbo Olajide a mainstay player on there, or, secondarily, get Olajide as a fixture on Showtime. Neither panned out, but the boxing world kept turning, and spinning, and spluttering, and then roaring to life, and doing a rinse and repeat routine.
And players came and went and the Gallaghers soldier on, and the titans of industry continue to joust and seek market share and visibility and relevance. And revenue; check out the phrasing in the release which announced that boxing boss Stephen Espinoza received a promotion:
“Under Espinoza’s leadership, SHOWTIME has become the world’s leading outlet for live boxing. In 2017, SHOWTIME Sports produced 33 world championship fights and 71 live bouts in all – twice as many as any other outlet. SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® has a television lineup for the first six months of 2018 that will be the largest ever in the sport, with 10 world-class events including 12 world title fights. SHOWTIME can also lay claim to the two most watched pay-per-view events in history with Mayweather-Pacquiao (May 2015) and Mayweather-McGregor (August 2017), as well as the three most lucrative with Mayweather-Canelo (September 2013), each bout produced during Espinoza’s tenure.”
“He also helped orchestrate one of the biggest deals in boxing history when Floyd Mayweather moved to SHOWTIME in 2013 under a landmark six-fight deal. Across seven events with Mayweather, SHOWTIME PPV generated more than 14 million domestic buys (U.S. and Canada) and over $1.2 billion in domestic pay-per-view revenue during a span of just four years.”
$1.2 billion is real money and that figure is what it is because Espinoza rolled the dice and decided that Floyd Mayweather was a different animal, and could keep Father Time at bay while spurring even casual fans to pay handsomely to watch his distinctly defensive style and, most of them, root to see him lose. And this method of announcing a slate of fights, at a fancy joint, sends a few messages. One, that the sport is deserved of such fanfare. And two, that Showtime respects the sweet science enough to spend to help spread the word.
Now, about the bouts…
Here is the release the cabler sent out to tout the tangos. There is a mix of young gun talent, established vets on the cusp of breaking into a new realm of popularity and those in the middle. Multiple divisions are featured, and the thread knitting most of the scraps together is the desire to put on coinflip fights. HBO likes to build boxers as brands, and employ their broadcasts, often, as chapters in a book. They build up to a narrative climax, so you will see a Sergey Kovalev or a Gennady Glolovkin fight showcase bouts, until it is decided that a worthy rival can be introduced into the mix, and that rumble can then be offered on a pay per view basis. Showtime’s methodology is not by and large in the same vein. Now, the release:
NEW YORK – January 24, 2018 – SHOWTIME Sports and Premier Boxing Champions have announced the television lineup for SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® for the first half of the year. Airing 10 live world-class boxing events – featuring 12 world champions and 12 world title fights – PBC and SHOWTIME are establishing an industry standard for a top-flight boxing season and a level of organization never before seen in the sport.
The schedule features more than two dozen elite fighters competing in boxing’s deepest and most talent-laden weight divisions and boasts the largest collection of stars in the sport today. The slate offers seven matchups of top-10 ranked fighters, four matchups of top-five ranked fighters, four top-10 pound-for-pound rated world champions and one world title unification bout.
Led by SHOWTIME and PBC, boxing experienced a renaissance in 2017 with established world champions Mikey Garcia, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Deontay Wilder, Leo Santa Cruz and Anthony Joshua, alongside budding stars Gervonta Davis, Errol Spence Jr., Jermell and Jermall Charlo and David Benavidez. In 2018, all are taking center stage in the wake of the retirement by Floyd Mayweather, Wladimir Klitschko, Miguel Cotto and others.
“The stars have truly aligned, and SHOWTIME and PBC will once again set the pace for a landmark year in boxing,” said Stephen Espinoza, President, Sports & Event Programming, Showtime Networks Inc. “To continue with the positive momentum, our goal is to deliver the very best fights on a consistent basis to the broadest possible audience. This lineup delivers pivotal bouts with frequency and purpose – all free to our subscribers. SHOWTIME is far and away the No. 1 destination for boxing fans nationwide.”
The 27 fighters unveiled in this industry-leading lineup own 731 total wins, 106 world title victories and a staggering win percentage of .957. Fourteen of the fighters are undefeated and all but four have earned at least one world championship. Also included in this lineup are four of the consensus top-10 ranked welterweights, two of the consensus top-five ranked featherweights, and three of the consensus top-five fighters in the 154-pound division.
The full slate of boxing events airs live across all SHOWTIME platforms – television, mobile and the network’s internet streaming service.
In 2017, SHOWTIME Sports delivered the industry’s most significant and consistent schedule –
25 nights of live boxing featuring 33 world championship fights and more than 70 bouts in all. Once again, the brightest stars will face off as the network presents the most comprehensive and compelling schedule in boxing, shown below:
2018 SHOWTIME BOXING SCHEDULE
Presented by Premier Boxing Champions
Jan 20 SPENCE vs. PETERSON Brooklyn
IBF Welterweight World Championship
EASTER JR. vs. FORTUNA
IBF Lightweight World Championship
Feb 17 GARCIA vs. RIOS
WBC Welterweight Title Eliminator
BENAVIDEZ vs. GAVRIL II
WBC Super Middleweight World Championship
Mar 3 WILDER vs. ORTIZ
WBC Heavyweight World Championship
CHARLO vs. CENTENO JR.
WBC Interim Middleweight Championship
Mar 10 GARCIA vs. LIPINETS San Antonio
IBF Junior Welterweight World Championship
BARTHELEMY vs. RELIKH II
WBA Super Lightweight World Championship
April 7 LARA vs. HURD
154-Pound World Championship Unification
April 21 BRONER vs. FIGUEROA
WBC Super Lightweight Title Eliminator
May 19 KEITH THURMAN
WBA/WBC Welterweight World Championship
May 19 STEVENSON vs. JACK Canada
WBC Light Heavyweight World Championship
June 9 SANTA CRUZ vs. MARES II Los Angeles
WBA Featherweight World Championship
WBC Super Welterweight World Championship
June 16 ERROL SPENCE JR. Dallas
IBF Welterweight World Championship