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HBO's new boxing leader Peter Nelson ambitious about '16

HBO's new boxing leader Peter Nelson ambitious about '16
A man walks past the HBO Boxing Worldwide booth at The World Sports Content Media Convention on Oct. 12 in Monaco. (Valery Hache / AFP/Getty Images)

The new head of HBO's boxing division is a 34-year-old Harvard product.

Peter Nelson, a former boxing writer who replaces the reclusive Ken Herschman, brings dogged energy, hope and enthusiasm to a position that has broken others.

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"I look at it in the broader sense in terms of the type of competition our fans want to see – top-flight talent in positions where that virtuosity is challenged," Nelson told The Times in a conversation following this week's announcement of his promotion.

"That's what brings out greatness in competition. Greatness is about more than talent. It's about moments of crisis or adversity you see athletes put in. How they respond is what teaches us about our own humanity."

That's an Ivy League guy's way of saying he wants as many wars as possible.

HBO viewership increased 10% in 2015 from the year before, banking on champions like middleweight champions Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev, junior-welterweight champion Terence Crawford and flyweight champion Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez.

Nelson said he wants to maximize the "storytelling" potential of fighters his established network has shown it's capable of producing.

Part of his mission will be to seek out the best fights, whether they be in Gonzalez's division or featuring the Eastern Europeans.

"Boxing fans are sophisticated and don't make distinctions on a fighter being built at a certain size," Nelson said. "We've seen the sport evolve … we try to lean in and listen to what's out there and what we see talent-wise, what's capturing the imagination of [boxing writers], those who watch the sport from the ground up.

"Those who want to fight anyone, anywhere, any time – those are the fighters that fans graviate to."

Among his challenges will be helping to coordinate a good Manny Pacquiao fight in the spring, the possibility of a Golovkin-Alvarez battle and Kovalev dates with Adonis Stevenson and Andre Ward.

"What I'm excited to see is how those narratives play out in 2016, to try and architect the best fights we can see," Nelson said. "We'll see how it all unfolds. We're in this [HBO] building as fans of the sport. We want to see the best, most competitive events. It's best for the sport and now a privilege to be a part of."

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