Showtime forced to deftly maneuver around outside forces to build a quality fight schedule

FILE - Gervonta Davis poses for photos after his WBA lightweight title boxing bout against Rolando Romero early Sunday, May 29, 2022, in New York City.  Davis pleaded guilty on Thursday, February 16, 2023 to charges related to a November 2020 hit-and-run that left four people injured, officials said.  His case was scheduled for trial, but Davis pleaded guilty instead.  Sentencing is set for May 5.  (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)
Gervonta Davis was adamant that he was going to fight Ryan Garcia next, despite others pushing him in the other direction. (Frank Franklin II/Associated Press)

Maybe it’s just human nature, or maybe boxing fans are used to behaving like this, but on the day Showtime announced an exciting schedule for next quarter that will only get better as more fights are completed, the first reaction of so many defaults for those fights that are not done.

It’s easy to complain that Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford never got close to the final deal to fight each other not only for the undisputed welterweight title, but potentially for weight class dominance. And it’s hard to listen to executives discuss why the fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk is not over yet, instead of arguing about who will win.

Steven Espinoza, president of Showtime Sports, said that what Ryan Garcia and Gervonta “Tank” Davis did in getting their fight to the finish line last week could be a model for other fighters in the sport. This is nothing new, but in boxing there is no barrier to entry and there are so many nameless, voiceless people unknown to the public who whisper in a fighter’s ear that they will make the fight difficult, if not impossible.

These people do not invest in boxing and do not care about the health of the sport in the long run. They just want to hit the jackpot and win big right here and now.

The Davis-Garcia fight was first announced on November 17, but was not officially announced until February 24. According to Espinoza, one of the things that happened was that both guys had people trying to throw them off the collision course. together.

“There are a lot of people who gave these guys the opportunity to go down the exit path to take another opportunity,” Espinoza told Sportzshala Sports. “Obviously it happened to Spence-Crawford. There were long negotiations, and then one guy decided to go in a different direction.

“Ryan and Tank never let that happen. Even when different people in their respective camps might suggest, “Hey, let’s go the other way,” not one of them thought of anything else for a moment. Even when things looked a little daunting. and when some of the people involved kept saying, “Hey, look, we have a problem,” these fighters never lost focus on what they wanted. I think it’s a model and a way to push your promoter to get the fights you want as a fighter.”

Boxing has seen a large influx of young talent, but for the sport to flourish, these talented young fighters must be willing to take risks and push themselves. Losses shouldn’t matter much as long as fighters take on tough fights, put on a show, and are ready to fight.

The health of the sport will be better when 98% of the money doesn’t go to 2% of the fighters. Davis and Garcia can make a difference in the sport not only by battling each other, but also by not pushing themselves out of the market.

BROOKLYN, NY - NOVEMBER 29: (MANDATORY CREDIT: Bill Tompkins/Getty Images) Showtime CEO Steven Espinoza speaks to the press during a press conference announcing his upcoming welterweight bout with Errol Spence Jr. in January at the Barclays Center on November 29th.  2017 in Brooklyn, New York.  (Photo by Bill Tompkins/Getty Images)
Showtime Sports president Steven Espinoza overcame many hurdles as he put together the network’s schedule for the next three months. (Bill Tompkins/Getty Images)

Showtimes’ ambitious schedule released Tuesday includes David Benavidez vs. Caleb Plant, Brandon Figueroa vs. Mark Magsio, and Tim Tszyu vs. Tony Harrison. There are fights involving Spence, Keith Thurman, Jermell and Jermall Charlo, Jaron Ennis, Isaac Cruz, David Morrell and Danny Garcia nearing completion and will be added to the schedule soon.

Boxing is still struggling because even in these uncertain times, when fewer fans than ever watch the sport and have the opportunity to name outstanding fighters, the cost for a network like Showtime to get the rights to big fights continues to rise. .

DAZN’s entry into the market has significantly increased the cost of the acquisition, Espinoza said. It was also largely disastrous in the US market. DAZN raised prices dramatically and quickly dropped its marketing slogan touting the end of pay-per-view.

Two of the nine cards announced by Showtime are available on pay-per-view – Garcia vs. Davis on April 22 and David Benavidez vs. Caleb Plant on March 25 – but it’s getting harder to avoid PPV.

“Part of the reason [there are so many pay-per-views] “It’s a dynamic that’s not really unique to boxing,” Espinoza said. – You’ve seen it in the media industry and in scripted entertainment, there’s been a massive increase in the value of boxing over the past few years. I’m talking about, from our point of view, and how much it costs to get fights and get fights at a high level. This is because we have a lot of newcomers to the sport.

“Some of these newbies came into the sport spending money like drunken sailors and spending money on some fights that honestly didn’t deserve it, big money. Now I’m a big believer that every fighter gets what they can. get. When there is someone who spends indiscriminately, raising prices for everyone else, it hurts everyone. I don’t want to make it personal and tie it to anyone, but DAZN advertised very aggressively the fact that they were going to spend a ton of money and buy everyone out. They really affected the market and raised prices for everyone else. There are others, but this is perhaps the most obvious example.”

Most of the fights announced by Showtime on Tuesday are convincing and have significant stakes, which is what every boxing fan should expect from one of these announcements. The Davis-Garcia match is as good, if not better, than any fight currently signed on any network.

This is a great start, but Showtime, DAZN, Top Rank, ESPN, Golden Boy and any other organization that hopes to spend a lot of time in boxing needs to do even more.

At best, nothing beats a great fight between two equal and hungry fighters vying for a title that means something.

Too often, however, boxing fails. We hope that Showtime’s good day on Tuesday will lead to similar announcements from all the other big players in the sport. Then we can honestly say that better days are ahead.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 16: Ryan Garcia celebrates with a glass of wine after knocking out Javier Fortuna in a fifth round super lightweight bout at the Arena on July 16, 2022 in Los Angeles, USA.  (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
Ryan Garcia never let outside forces convince him to drop plans to fight Gervonta Davis. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)


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