Mancuso: Moving On Without HBO

Dmitry Bivol had an easy WBA light heavyweight title defense Saturday night over Jean Pascal in the ring at the Hard Rock Hotel/Casino in Atlantic City.  It took 12-rounds and Bivol made his cause as one of the premiere champions in the division.

Thus, this was the beginning of more to come for Bivol and he said, “ I am ready to fight anyone and everyone in the division. Whoever they want me to fight I will fight.”

Bivol, with 14 fights as a professional is undefeated after his fourth title defense. He is a technician in the ring and handled Pascal, the former champion and 2004 Olympian with ease. In all probability this was the conclusion of a major fight for Pascal who has never backed down from an opponent in his 13-years as a pro that includes two fights with former champion Bernard Hopkins.  

What comes next for Bivol? It could be a meeting with Eleider Alvarez or Badou Jack, two of the other champions in a division that is also seeking unity of the titles. Sergey Kovalev, the former champion and fellow Russian, could also be an eventual title defense.

Credit: Main Events

We do know the next title defense for Bivol will not be televised on HBO. The champion is a free agent in this changing landscape of boxing and how fights are delivered to fans. Saturday night was the last HBO “World Champion Boxing” telecast and after a 45-year run the network will conclude with a finale “Boxing After Dark” on December 8th.

So, the attention was also about HBO. This was not an exciting main event that has been seen over the years on the network.  Bivol and Pascal had an exciting eighth round that got 3,853 fans standing at the Mark G. Estes Arena. The undercard was difficult to handle on the Main Events promoted card.

This is no knock on the Totowa, New Jersey Main Events promotion that has been a mainstay with the sport over the last 40 years.  The competition has been more difficult with the money and expanded streams of networks that are delivering fights to the fans. There is ESPN and Top Rank, PBC with Showtime, and Fox, and now DAZN.

HBO could not keep up with the competition. You can’t retain that elite roster of fighters when the big money is in the hands of others which prompts Main Events to look for a new TV network. The other option is combine with other promoters to develop their roster that includes a working agreement with Dmitry Bivol.

And for Kathy Duva, who kept Main Events together all these years, she keeps fighting. This is not the end and working with Bivol does not hurt.  But there is that need to find another outlet with HBO, and for the moment out of the picture.

“If you are a contending fighters this helps,” Duva said. “It’s hurting and helping with association with eager fighters but developing talent is virtually impossible unless we develop a lead platform.”

With the light heavyweight division a new platform is possible. The reality is Main Events needs that platform and the reputed promotion does not have the necessary means to form their platform like the others.

“My entire awareness of boxing was always wrapped around HBO,” Duva said. “ For a couple of years the ZONE App, Fox, ESPN are  pouring more money into boxing than HBO. That puts them in position to say you are no longer the first, the best.”

Yes, this is good for boxing because the fights are there. For years the dormant business was dominated by HBO and Showtime, though most of the exposure for fighters is now available with the technical streams of networks that can take a monthly or yearly hit in the pocket for a boxing fan.   

Though this does create a different outlook for a longtime promoter. Kathy Duva showed her cause with Dmitry Bivol, a champion that is not under the Main Events banner.

“It’s a nightmare,” she said. “I could see why HBO  would not be in boxing, the number one. Once this all sorts out, in the end ESPN and  Fox will.”

That also includes DAZN, the newest streaming network that signed middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez to the richest contract on record for an athlete. Five years, 11 fights, $365 Million may never be topped and rivals all the numbers.

DAZN, FOX, ESPN, they have the numbers to pay the fighters.  The answer is as easy as the win for Dmitry Bivol and that is money in boxing is out there. Except HBO did not have it and the boxing leader is no more.

However, Main Events will continue their run as of those legacy promotions. They initiated the non televised and small fight cards for fans at an ice rink in New Jersey in the 1980’s, a time then that  was ahead of the others. They kept it small and used HBO as a partner.

Dmitry Bivol said it did not matter who he fights next. He does have a future and a good one. Perhaps, and in all probable he ends up with one of the major outlets that continues to propel that rise to stardom in the ring.

HBO could make a comeback with boxing but that remains to be seen.

Comment: [email protected]  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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