Late Monday morning Ken Hershman, executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports was in the Lighhouse Room at Chelsea Piers in lower Manhattan. He greeted welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao and “Sugar” Shane Mosley before the two fighters spoke with media about their May 7th championship bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
It is normal for Pacquiao to be greeted for an elaborate press gathering. The sensation from the Philippines is considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the business. And with no fight on the horizon with Floyd Mayweather Jr, there is no argument as to who is the best.
Pacquiao also draws a large contingent of fans from his island and for his promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, there is no question he is the top promotional fighter when it comes to boxing and the pay-per-view industry. Perhaps that is why Hershman and Arum have aligned their business and why Showtime, a parent company of CBS, is once again a player in the boxing PPV industry.
“We are thrilled to be working with Showtime and with Manny Pacquiao and they are not new to boxing and pay-per-view,” said Arum who also has his other draw, world champion Miguel Cotto also fighting on Showtime pay-per-view against Ricardo Mayorga on March 12th from Vegas for Cotto’s light middleweight title.
No, Showtime is not new to the boxing PPV industry and they had a good marriage with former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. Their last PPV broadcast was the second fight with Diego Corrales against Jose Luis Castillo in 2005. Since that time HBO and Arum had a good working relationship, but like revolutions around the world boxing also sees changes.
Hershman and Top Rank executives got together a few months ago when Arum saw a need for change. His chief rival Golden Boy Promotions, under former champion Oscar De La Hoya and CEO Richard Schaffer were “in bed” with HBO. Booking dates and trying to force Arum out of the MGM Arena, more so Schaffer was undermining Arum as the representative for Floyd Mayweather Jr, in negotiations to get the fight going between Pacquiao and Mayweather.
That stalemate, the insistence from Mayweather that Pacquiao would agree to Olympic drug and blood testing procedures, may have been the end of the line for HBO and Arum opening the door once again for Showtime. Hershman would not go that far on Monday as to say how his aligning with Arum transpired.
“We are not new at this,” he commented, “we are optimistic and will be innovative.” That word innovation is the key because Showtime has the capability to give the struggling sport of boxing exposure on the CBS Television Network and with radio stations the company owns in key markets around the country.
Something HBO could not do was going beyond their network. Pacquiao and Mosley, even Cotto and other Top Rank fighter of Latino descent can be seen on the CBS Early Morning Show, perhaps “60 Minutes” or on “Late Night” with David Letterman.
Arum was gleaming. The promoter who once was at war with rival Don King, a co-promoter for Cotto-Mayorga , knows what is best for boxing. And with Showtime and CBS, he may have had the answer to getting boxing back on national television.
Pacquiao will be fighting under the Showtime PPPV banner for the first time whose fights over the past two years have amounted to nearly 4 million pay-per-view buys and record box office receipts. “These are exciting times and this is the first time I am encountering an opponent that is not trash talking,” said Pacquiao about his opponent Mosley.
Pacquiao, (53-3-2, 38 KO’s) the record setting eight-division champion and Congressman from the Philippines will train there for a few weeks and then take his camp to Los Angeles with trainer Freddie Roach. The veteran Mosley, (46-6-1, 39 KO’s), a three-division champion knows he has his work cut out for him in efforts to stop Pacquiao.
It may not be a fight the boxing world is looking for as questions still arise as to when, or if Pacquiao and Mayweather will ever meet. Still Pacquiao draws interest no matter who he gets in the ring with, and he would not rule out an inevitable meeting with Mayweather.
“It can still happen,” said Pacquiao about a meeting with Mayweather that could determine who is the best. For now, he and Mosley are elated about fighting on Showtime. The “Fight Camp 360; Pacquiao vs. Mosley” four –part documentary series that follows both fighters before the big fight will premiere before CBS airs coverage of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Championship Final Four on Saturday April 2nd.
That means more hype for the PPV date, more importantly needed and great exposure for the sport of boxing. CBS is the top rated television network, and the fight series airs before one of the largest sport events on the calendar.
Arum and Hershman got this one right. They did it for boxing and the loyal fans desperate for some needed exposure. Pacquiao is known world-wide and may have two more fights in his arsenal while Cotto will go long as long as he wants to.
HBO will continue to do what they do. Golden Boy will supply them some of the exciting junior welterweights though very few are marketable commodities for pay-per-view telecasts. HBO is very silent but the prevailing view is they are taking a hit.
The comment from Hershman about how HBO is taking all of this: “You have to ask them,” he said with confidence.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]