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HBO lost Floyd Mayweather Jr., generated new crop

Floyd Mayweather, Jr.Manny PacquiaoTimothy Bradley

Floyd Mayweather Jr. left HBO and created the most lucrative pay-per-view fight of all time in September when he defeated Saul “Canelo” Alvarez on Showtime.

That’s a departure that still stings HBO.

Yet, the premium network rallied in the final months of 2013 with new stars like Southland-trained Ruslan Provodnikov, Gennady Golovkin and Mikey Garcia emerging.

And despite an ongoing boycott of the deep Golden Boy Promotions stable of fighters dating to March 18, HBO Sports President Ken Hershman isn’t expecting to be shuttled out of his office anytime during what he assesses will be a big 2014 for his company.

“With the return of Sergio [Martinez], [Andre] Ward, Manny [Pacquiao] resurrected ... and the young guys ... we expect big things out of them and to follow up on fights of the year in 2012 and 2013,” Hershman said Tuesday in a telephone conversation with The Times.

Network publicists released ratings to national boxing writers showing HBO remains the TV home of choice among fight fans, but Showtime enjoyed a remarkable spike in viewership thanks to the Golden Boy link, and Mayweather and Alvarez each is due to fight at least twice more  next year. Showtime on Saturday produced its own fight-of-the-year candidate (to rival Timothy Bradley-Provodnikov in March and Provodnikov-Mike Alvarado in October) with Marcos Maidana delivering Adrien Broner his first loss in San Antonio.

Golden Boy Chief Executive Richard Schaefer said Tuesday that while his commitment remains to create “mouth-watering matchups,” he’s not averse to renewing business with HBO in some capacity.

For instance, it makes sense that Golden Boy’s middleweight champion Peter Quillin fight on HBO against someone like Golovkin later in 2014.

“I have no problem with that idea” of working together again, said Schaefer, whom Hershman has described as a “friend” and “good man.”

“This was not a divorce. It was a separation,” Schaefer said. “We just had the best year we’ve ever had at Golden Boy. Showtime had theirs, too. But that doesn’t mean you don’t take calls if the time is right. I have no hard feelings against HBO.

“To say we wouldn’t do business together forever ... forever is a long time, and in boxing, forever doesn’t take place. A Golden Boy fight could end up on HBO, absolutely.”

An HBO spokesman dismissed chatter that Hershman was in trouble.

“None of that has tracked back to here ... there’s no rumor or gossip to respond to,” spokesman Ray Stallone said. “HBO boxing has been refortified. Look at the stars that still work here.”

Hershman said that after the unbeaten Golovkin fights early in 2014, he’s positioned for “a number of great fights,” and “we want to get him on as much as possible.”

The list of prospective opponents includes James Kirkland, who was savage in his hammering of Glen Tapia early this month.

Following a March rematch between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Bryan Vera, unbeaten super-middleweight champion Ward could be in line for a possible pay-per-view date with Chavez, should clarity emerge from Ward’s lawsuit against his promoter Dan Goossen.

And Pacquiao also has to choose whom he will fight in April: Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez or Provodnikov. The two he doesn’t choose could very well fight each other, promoter Bob Arum said Tuesday.

Yet, the spirit of the season that may help heal HBO-Golden Boy hasn't shifted to Arum and Schaefer, whose feud has colored the repeatedly failed efforts to make a Mayweather-Pacquiao match.

"With Bob, I'm like law enforcement -- three strikes and you're out," Schaefer said. "I've probably given him five strikes. He's just a rotten apple."

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