Hi, my name is Lance Pugmire, and welcome to our second boxing/MMA newsletter. We will usually come to your inbox weekly. Because this is a big fight week, with the Canelo-Golovkin rematch on Saturday, let’s get right to the news.
Saturday’s Gennady Golovkin two-belt middleweight title defense against Canelo Alvarez is not just about the outcome, but the money.
Boxing industry experts are riveted to what will transpire in the aftermath of Saturday’s pay-per-view bout on HBO because representatives for each fighter told the Los Angeles Times this week that this bout is the last one on their current contracts with the premium sports network.
With that television free-agency before them, Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 knockouts) and Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) are poised to cash in during a climate in which the competition for elite boxing talent has never been so intense.
Beyond HBO’s interest in retaining their final two major stars, ESPN and its streaming arm, ESPN+, would crave landing Golovkin with a possible bout in Japan against Ryoto Murata in the offing.
Fox has launched a new deal with Premier Boxing Champions that includes pay-per-view, and PBC head Al Haymon offers unbeaten middleweight Jermall Charlo. PBC also recently extended its deal with Showtime, which previously broadcast Alvarez bouts.
There would also be keen interest from promoter Eddie Hearn and his new streaming service DAZN, which launches with heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua’s title defense against Alexander Povetkin on Sept. 23, then follows with a middleweight title defense by World Boxing Organization champion Billy Joe Saunders.
The wrinkle with Saunders is that his promoter, Frank Warren, has flexibility to take him to ESPN as well.
Alvarez, should he emerge healthy from Saturday’s rematch with Golovkin, plans to fight again Dec. 15, according to his promoter, Golden Boy, with New York’s Madison Square Garden a possible destination. Many expect the opponent to be the winner of Saturday’s pay-per-view undercard bout between former middleweight champion David Lemieux and charismatic Irishman Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan.
The steady decline of HBO as a power boxing network has led to this defining moment, in which even network officials are unsure if Saturday’s event at T-Mobile Arena will be their final major fight after more than 40 years of being invested in the sport and drawing 1.3 million viewers for Golovkin’s May knockout of Vanes Martisrosyan at StubHub Center.
“My gut feel a few years ago is coming to fruition,” said one industry insider who requested anonymity because of business deals with HBO. “I could feel this was going on, that this [HBO] is an entertainment channel, not a sports channel, and they were more interested in competing with NetFlix and Hulu than staging fights.”
As its biggest competitor seems in retreat, Showtime affirmed its interest in the sport, noting its 30 live events this year and access to the PBC stable that includes heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, unbeaten welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr., featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz and unbeaten lightweight champion Mikey Garcia.
“Building off our industry-leading live event schedule, this long-term deal with Premier Boxing Champions ensures that Showtime will remain the No. 1 destination for the world’s greatest fighters and their passionate and diverse fans,” Showtime President for Sports and Event Programming Stephen Espinoza said announcing the PBC extension.
Yet, with the resignation of CBS head and major boxing enthusiast Les Moonves this week, an industry official assessed, “Showtime stayed in because they were pests to HBO – they were beating HBO – but what’s the point of staying now? How many other sports are on premium cable? I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re out of [boxing] in a few more years, too.”
In Saturday’s co-main event, WBO light-middleweight champion Jaime Munguia (30-0, 25 KOs) fights for the fifth time this year while meeting Brandon Cook (20-1) in his second title defense.
“I’m made for this – for fighting often,” Munguia, 21, said. “I’m made for this and more.”
Munguia is being built up by his promoter, Fernando Beltran, for a possible showdown with Alvarez down the road.
“For me, it’s much better if I take that fight in one or two years so I can continue to correct my mistakes, but if they offer me the fight, I’ll take it right away,” Munguia said.
The truth of his words was revealed earlier this year when he agreed to replace Alvarez as Golovkin’s May opponent in Las Vegas, but the Nevada Athletic Commission ruled he was too inexperienced for the assignment. Munguia admits he’s still striving to complement his undeniable power punching with more boxing skill.
“My defense, my legs, my speed – I wasn’t happy with them,” in defeating former 154-pound champion Liam Smith on July 21, Munguia said. “Working in the gym, I corrected those things.”
A taste of the fervent competition for fights was revealed Friday when promoter Kathy Duva took her former light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev’s early 2019 rematch with new champion Elieder Alvarez to ESPN instead of the new streaming service DAZN.
Alvarez knocked out Kovalev in the seventh round on Aug. 4 in Atlantic City, N.J.
Until next time