Not so long ago, Showtime was being hailed as the place where the future of boxing would reside. Great fights were being broadcast. Great names were on the roster. The future looked rosier than Valentines’ Day. Then came 2014. Mismatch after mismatch, disappointment after disappointment. Something had gone wrong – terribly, ominously wrong.
Needless to say, things have gotten worse in 2015. In short, the network simply isn’t lined up to broadcast any fights of note. Not a single one. What’s more, Showtime’s banner carrier for the sport, Floyd Mayweather, is wrapped up in talks with the Manny Pacquiao camp that resemble a First World War-style stalemate.
Network honcho Stephen Espinoza may be a likable guy who’s quick with a Twitter quip, but something is clearly rotten in Denmark. Sure, things may all work out, but as it stands, the year will be a full quarter over before Showtime airs a meaningful fight card – and that’s at the earliest (if at all).
The blame for this seems to lie squarely on the shoulders of one Al Haymon, a man who seems to be an unlikely combination of JD Salinger and Doc Kearns. Mysterious and powerful, Haymon is an adviser with an enormous stable of talented fighters at his disposal.
Haymon’s army used to fight on HBO. His boxers faced less than stellar competition for huge money, however, so HBO showed Haymon the door. Haymon then took his business to Showtime and gave the network some great fights – until 2014, when he gave the network matchups that were insulting to viewers.
Now, in 2015, Haymon has found some new friends. And let me tell you, these friends are impressive. For broadcasting giant NBC and cable staple Spike TV are now going to show Haymon fighters ply their trade…for free. What’s more, the matchups that are being broadcast are impressive. Showtime impressive. Only Showtime won’t be airing these bouts. Showtime will probably by airing second run episodes of Homeland instead.
Why? Because Haymon has taken the good stuff elsewhere.
Of course this may be just a temporary thing. Perhaps a new development will be revealed where everyone will say “Ah, so that’s why Espinoza never betrayed anger towards Haymon on Twitter.” Until that development is revealed, however, Showtime will look like it’s being played more than it has been already.
Which leads one to wonder if this NBC/Spike business is too good to be true. Could it be that Haymon is actually planning on playing NBC and Spike like he played HBO and Showtime? It certainly doesn’t seem like good business sense for him to want to do so – at least not at first blush. After all, Haymon now has to pay for the pleasure of showcasing his fighters. One would think that if Haymon does to the peacock network what he did to HBO and Showtime it will hurt him financially, right?
The truth is, no one knows. Word around the campfire has been that Haymon kept all the good fights off Showtime last year so he could broadcast them this year on NBC and Spike. What of next year, though? Remember, Haymon gave Showtime one hell of a 2013. And where’s Showtime now?
One thing that’s unsettling is the fact that Haymon fighter Leo Santa Cruz has just recently decided to part ways with Golden Boy Promotions, presumably so he won’t have to fight the formidable Guillermo Rigondeaux. Advising a fighter to keep away from real fights so that he can earn a fortune turning palookas into minced meat sounds like the Haymon of lore. It also sounds like a leopard who hasn’t changed his spots.
Sure, Santa Cruz could well end up fighting Abner Mares. Then again, he could well end up avoiding that threat, too. Santa Cruz has reportedly earned a small fortune smoking third-tier competition. Maybe he just won't want to give up such a great gig. Boxing is a business, after all. We're reminded of that over and over again.
Perhaps the people at NBC and Spike TV will eventually have to remind Haymon that boxing is a sport, as well.