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What Does Stephen Espinoza Say When “They” Say Showtime Will Ditch Boxing?

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Stephen Espinoza visited Everlast on April 23, 2019 and talked about the state of boxing now.

I know, a wee bit, how he feels.

Journalism is doing a slow bleed out, portions of it, while some of us lifers (lifers?) scramble to shift and fold in new technology and thought processing of customers.

So I can sympathize a bit with Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza, who has steered that ship since 2011, but today, not infrequently, gets asked about his program going away.

The question comes up now more often, no surprise, because rival HBO left the building, deciding to pursue other means of attracting subscribers, after five decades of having boxing being one of their pillars.

Espinoza came on the Everlast “Talkbox” podcast, and we asked him about that, about being asked-told that what you are doing with your life isn’t long for this world.

“Look, we all know where that comes from,” the former Golden Boy attorney told us, “it comes from a couple of guys who have virtually no business with us, or no business with us, and it’s pure speculation. It’s wishful thinking. Among other things, if you recall, last fall we announced a three year deal with PBC. So that’s an intention, at that point to clearly be in business several years, and nothing has changed since then. Since then we’ve seen the emergence of Deontay Wilder as a bonafide star….we’re continuing to invest in developmental properties like ShoBox. We’ve been here for 35 years, the sport does well. The sport changes, the business changes, the media landcsape changes, the technology changes…if we don’t change with it, then we will be obsolete, but we certainly have no intention of going that way. Our old CEO, Leslie Moonves, was a big boxing fan, and was very supportive and enjoyed the sport personally, but that wasn’t the reason we were in the sport. Our new CEO Joe Ianniello…

Joe Ianniello is the CEO of CBS, after Les Moonves was dumped. Boxing fans hope Ianniello likes boxing.

Joe Ianniello is the CEO of CBS, after Les Moonves was dumped. Boxing fans hope Ianniello likes boxing.

 

…who was prior CFO, is also a boxing fan…He’s been very supportive. (But) the reality is it takes more than support to make it work, I can be the smartest guy in the world, the nicest guy in the world, if boxing isn’t driving business then my job is short-lived…”

We delved in more…We discussed that rules of capitalism and where the sport stands now. Does if feel to him like there are like 300-400,000 hardcore fans in America…and isn’t that number stagnating?

“I think that number is fairly accurate for a core-hardcore,” he said, and mentioned that those folks will watch ShoBox and some ESPN shows. “I think right now what the audience is adjusting to, is the saturation….The casual fan doesn’t know what to watch.” He went in deeper, on who that “casual fan” is, and what sort of person might watch boxing. This new reality sees a “watered down” product, the executive noted.

To hear more of the conversation, click here. Espinoza was sharp and candid in his visit to Everlast.

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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