From HBO

HBO quits boxing

From Creative Commons

Home Box Office is leaving the pugilism, the shock is still rippling through the boxing world.

Budget constraints, less televised fights, and a smaller group of fighters had the industry concerned, but the news today caught everyone off guard.

PBC, ESPN’s output deal, there seem to be a host of contributing factors at play here.

After 40 years as the primary broadcast carrier for the entire sport, the cable giant will no longer present the sweet science on it’s family of networks.

The development is sobering news for the boxing community, and the beginning of a new era for the fighters, the fans, and the pundits.

HBO has always been the standard, the network fighters wanted to perform on, the highest quality presentation the industry had to offer.

All the storylines, the great calls, HBO boxing became an institution in the sport, and a powerful entity in regards to the business that accompanied the combat.

For about a 20 year stretch, HBO ran boxing in the view of many, landing the biggest stars, and the largest promotions on a consistent basis.

Assisting the effort, was some of the greatest broadcast teams to ever sit in a booth.

Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant, Barry Tompkins, Gil Clancy, Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman, the wonderful moments HBO produced over the years were defined by the voices that made the calls.

As a youngster, HBO boxing was my WWE, my superhero universe, the biggest sporting events of my childhood were HBO televised world championship fights.

As a young man, I covered HBO promotions as a beat reporter, in Madison Square Garden, Atlantic City, and other smaller venues.

I spent time with Larry Merchant, Jim Lampley, even Lennox Lewis, who was a voice on the network for a short time.

From HBO

Over time, the men (and executives) at the network became my friends.

A conversation that sticks out in my mind was my session with Ross Greenburg, we had played phone tag for a couple weeks before I was able to reach him.

Greenburg was the president of HBO sports for a years, a legend in the sport of boxing.

With his blessing, I was able to secure incredible sources for my impending Riddick Bowe book, Bowe was a fighter on the network in the earlier 90’s.

Talking shop with Ross Greenburg over a 45 minute conversation gave me an inside look into how much the network valued the sport, the fighters, and the fans, it was the Willy Wonka chocolate factory of boxing, and I was Charlie.

My book went on to be published, and featured HBO employees on it’s cover, I event sent a copy to Greenburg although I am unsure if he got it.

From that moment on, I was personally invested in the network, and cared about it’s development.

Sometimes I cared to much, demanding the network makes fights, or be more supportive of certain fighters, but that was just the fight freak in me.

HBO Boxing launched my career as a boxing journalist, gave me access to incredible events, allowed me to rub elbows with some of the most influential boxing figures of the 21st century, I feel like I owe everything to them.

Today is a very sad day for me personally, I spoke to a close friend who works at HBO this afternoon, the person  was devastated by the news.

We all are.

Inevitably rival networks and promoters will use this development to their advantage, signing the remaining fighters in HBO’s stable, and opportunistically taking credit for the demise of the HBO brand.

That will be more difficult to stomach than today is, because it will confirm the conclusion of an important resource to so many people.

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Christian James

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