Showtime wins live U.S. broadcast rights for Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko bout

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Showtime beat out HBO for the live U.S. broadcast rights to the massive Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko two-belt heavyweight title fight scheduled for Wembley Stadium in London on April 29.

With 90,000 tickets sold at the legendary venue, Joshua-Klitschko is seen as a possible changing-of-the-guard event that could propel the heavyweight division back to the type of prominence it last enjoyed during Mike Tyson’s reign.

The Showtime broadcast is expected to begin at 1:15 p.m. PDT.

England’s 27-year-old Joshua (18-0, 18 knockouts) is the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and International Boxing Federation heavyweight champion seeking to formally close the title door on Klitschko, the dignified 40-year-old former champion from Ukraine whose 15-year reign was marked by diminished interest in the division.


The World Boxing Assn. belt that Klitschko (64-4, 53 knockouts) lost in November 2015 to England’s Tyson Fury, who vacated the belt due to drug issues, is also on the line.

The charismatic, powerful Joshua won the IBF belt on Showtime against Los Angeles-trained Charles Martin in an impressive second-round knockout that was followed two months later by a seventh-round stoppage of another Southland product, former Olympian Dominic Breazeale.

Joshua fought for a third time last year, knocking out Eric Molina in the third round in December.

His rise coincides with the unbeaten, knockout-heavy run of World Boxing Council champion Deontay Wilder of Alabama, a Showtime fighter who has said he’d like to fight Joshua later this year.

Talented Cuban heavyweight Luis Ortiz is also in the mix, and he recently signed with Wilder’s powerful manager, Al Haymon.

Showtime’s exclusive U.S. television agreement with Joshua and his English promoter, Eddie Hearn, gave Stephen Espinoza, the network’s executive vice president, a leg up on HBO, which is operating under a restricted budget this year.


HBO, which has televised Klitschko bouts for several years, is producing its own broadcast with its talent that is set to air on a delayed basis around 7:45 p.m. PDT on April 29.

While HBO has limited its coverage this year to a pair of “Boxing After Dark” cards and a March 18 pay-per-view event headlined by Gennady Golovkin-Daniel Jacobs, Showtime has presented 15 world-championship fights without going to pay-per-view by the end of May.

In addition to the March 4 welterweight title unification bout on parent network CBS that drew 5.1 million viewers, Showtime has a scheduled April 22 card at Barclays Center in New York that should generate a title shot for the winner of Shawn Porter and Andre Berto.

On May 20, the youngest U.S. world champion, IBF super-featherweight belt-holder Gervonta Davis of Baltimore, is to venture to London for a defense against Liam Walsh in a doubleheader broadcast that will close with featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. defending his belt against mandatory challenger Oscar Escandon at the new MGM resort in Maryland.

And on May 27, Showtime is set to broadcast the IBF welterweight title defense by England’s Kell Brook in his home country against Texas’ gifted Errol Spence Jr.

HBO’s first “World Championship Boxing” card was on April 8 when Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko defended his World Boxing Organization super-featherweight belt against Jason Sosa.


Twitter: @latimespugmire