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HBO Sports’ Ken Hershman stepping down at year’s end

HBO Sports President Ken Hershman announced Friday that he is leaving his position at the end of the year.

Hershman, who served in a similar position at Showtime before taking over at HBO in 2012, departs with his network reporting that viewership is up 16% from last year for its “World Championship Boxing” shows, averaging around 1.4 million viewers.

The network did not reveal the status of Hershman’s contract, or when it expired. An official close to the situation but unauthorized to speak publicly on the matter said the years of leadership in the seven-day-a-week job have “drained” Hershman, leaving him to seek another venture.

“HBO Sports is well positioned for the future, especially in the boxing arena, with nine of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the sport today, including the world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev, Miguel Cotto, Andre Ward, Terence Crawford and many others,” Hershman said in a company statement.

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“I cannot wait to watch these great fighters exhibit their skills, but from the vantage point of a passionate boxing fan.”

As powerful boxing manager Al Haymon moved his flock of fighters to Showtime, and ultimately formed his Premier Boxing Champions operation, Hershman aligned with veteran Top Rank Inc. promoter Bob Arum and invested in the Eastern European talent of unbeaten middleweight champion Golovkin and light-heavyweight champion Kovalev.

At Showtime, Hershman created the “Super Six” middleweight tournament won by Ward, who will return to the ring Nov. 21 on the Alvarez-Cotto pay-per-view card at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

HBO, because of its standing as Manny Pacquiao’s broadcast partner, enjoyed the benefit of Pacquiao’s May 2 loss to Showtime’s Floyd Mayweather Jr., a joint pay-per-view that generated a record-shattering 4.6 million buys and $437 million in domestic pay-per-view revenue.

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CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves, Haymon and Arum were the key players in getting the deal done.

Unlike Showtime’s personable Stephen Espinoza, Hershman operated in a reclusive manner toward reporters, usually speaking only at prearranged meetings.

There is no immediate word on his replacement.

HBO’s Peter Nelson, who’s close to the Golovkin camp and respected trainer Freddie Roach, is the top internal candidate, but HBO reportedly considered several outsiders following the departure of Ross Greenburg before hiring Hershman.

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Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire


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