Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza came on the PBC podcast but before he came on, the ep got off to a rough start, when co-host Kenneth Bouhairie declared that Paul McCartney's “Wonderful Christmastime” is his favorite holiday song.
“To all of our listeners, if you don't rock to this song, you have no soul,” he declared, I'm hoping tongue lodged in cheek.
Espinoza (below, in Amanda Westcott picture) was just today front and center at the final presser…
..to hype the last Showtime show of the year, which features Gervonta Davis taking on (faded?) vet Yuriorkis Gamboa. They scrap in Atlanta, for the record. And yes, all of us coverage vets know that you can't assume a vet like a Gamboa doesn't have one great fight left in him, so you might want to bet the underdog for the heck of it, a site like 2can steer you right.
The cabler chieftain said that ATL is a “sports town,” and with a heavy African -American populace, and a growing Latino base, so the reaction to the Tank arrival has been buzz-y. “There's no way to find out if it actually works there without diving in with both feet,” he said.
Davis (see below in Amanda Westcott picture) will have sold 30,000 tix across three events this year, he continued, and so the young gunners' appeal is apparent. His style in the ring is, duh, responsible for some of that pop, Espinoza shared. His back story has resonated, and his “realness” also lures some curious people to his story.
He talked about the kid's charisma, which, I will be honest, I'm not picking up on, but maybe others see him with different eyes. I am liking his mellow manner as a celeb, that he isn't a brash trash talker, and the fact that he decided he didn't want or need to follow the Floyd trail, and become a villain to climb a higher ladder.
The hosts, Bouhairie and Michael Rosenthal, touched on the seeming trend that deal-makers and image crafters are looking to place events in less obvious places. We've seen Omaha, and in Baltimore, or Atlanta, or Fresno.
And yes, this year has been a transitional one. No HBO, DAZN exploding, bucks being thrown about willy and nilly, yes, he's had to focus harder to figure out what the market place actually is. Espinoza expects 2020 to be a “stronger year across the sport,” because with some dust settling, execs will be working on surer footing. He said that sports rights are still a hot item, and the CBS bigs are and will be committed, still, to combat sports.
The helmsman spoke more on the new landscape. ESPN+ and DAZN often stream action that features boxers that might be blips on the screen. “Here's a game, watch it, then the teams go their separate ways,” the Showtime pack-leader said, noting that he still believes in the continuity of messaging, when an outlet follows the ascent of a hitter. That helps make people care, gets them invested in the product.
He was asked about 2020, for news on who the cabler will feature in 2020. You will, he said, see guys you have seen on our air/platform before. Fighters “that we ourselves have built,” he said, will be again there for the watching. Danny Garcia, more welters and super welters, and also in the heavyweight space. He cited their “production values” and the staff that is able to describe the action and meaningfulness of their scraps.
Jaron Ennis, he shared, is a “disciplined,smart, grounded kid,” with the speed and the power to make a heavy mark. Now, he gets stepped up foes, and we'll see that in 20202, Espinoza said, after talking to Ennis advisor Cameron Dunkin. Ennis will probably be prepared to fight a title fight, by the end of 2020, but we'll see if the politics of the sport are aligned the same.
Espinoza also shared his entry into boxing. He worked on accounts for about 70 clients, and Oscar De La Hoya‘s load was dumped on his desk. He then switched firms, and a few years out of law school, he's repping Oscar, and also Mike Tyson. Then, Showtime was looking for a person to run the boxing, after Ken Hershman went to HBO. He did a lunch and thought he was being asked to recommend prospects, and midway through realized he was the prospectee. Two weeks later, he was starting a new career path.
The path leads to now…Are there parallels between 2015, say, and now? Espinoza said that back when PBC entered the sphere, he also heard that Showtime was on the last legs. 2015 and 2019 weren't “up” years, he said, but he saw a rebound after the '15 dust billowed. So, he thinks that 2020 could also be an upticked program for his outfit. “There have been business changes before…an smart people figure it out,” they make adjustments, he told the hosts. “I have confidence in myself and the team,” he said, that Sho will flourish moving forward.
No, boxing isn't dying…no, the fan base is elderly, he said. The sport does resonate, can resonate more…but let's be real. This sport features people hitting each other in the face. Yes, that limits appeal. That limits sponsor appeal and some marketing pathways, he stated.