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HBO, Golden Boy and Boxing’s Cold War in 2013

Ken Hershman - Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Earlier this year, HBO Boxing president Ken Hershman announced that the leader in boxing on cable television was severing ties with Golden Boy Promotions and would no longer air any fights involving the popular company.

Responding to this news back in March—in an article I wrote for Bleacher Report—I stated that the landmark decision by HBO would have a negative effect on boxing.

Even though boxing doesn’t live and die with Top Rank or Golden Boy, the fact that Golden Boy promotes some of the best talent in the world meant to me that the sport of boxing would surely suffer due to the divide created by Hershman and HBO’s decision.

Top Rank and Golden Boy already had enough animosity between them before HBO made their announcement in March. And for a network to turn their back on such a large piece of the pie seemed illogical to me.

Suddenly, boxing was becoming a turf war. Golden Boy, Showtime and even Corona vs. Top Rank, HBO and Tecate.

Obviously, this would prove to be disastrous and both sides would realize they needed each other, right?

Not so much.

Fast forward to December and I must admit that I was wrong—in a pretty major way.

Now don’t get it twisted, I don’t agree with the way things are between HBO and Golden Boy–and by association Top Rank as well.

There are still a number of matchups on my wish list that just can’t happen because of this cold war nonsense between Top Rank and Golden Boy, but the fights we did witness in 2013 were pretty remarkable and oddly enough we may have the cold war to thank.

HBO and Top Rank treated us to such memorable bouts as Timothy Bradley vs. Ruslan Provodnikov, Mike Alvarado vs. Brandon Rios—for a second time—as well as Rocky Martinez vs. Diego Magdaleno.

Meanwhile, Showtime and Golden Boy countered with Danny Garcia vs. Lucas Matthysse, Marcos Maidana vs. Josesito Lopez and Omar Figueroa vs. Nihito Arakawa—to name a few.

Some of these bouts were expected to be great fights and they delivered, but others were pleasant surprises that may not have even happened if the cold war didn’t exist.

By deciding to primarily deal with Top Rank–and other smaller promotional companies–HBO ended up giving fans a chance to watch a host of lesser known fighters.

And a lot of times, it’s the up-and-coming fighters looking to make a name for themselves that put on the best performances.

Many of these fighters–including Mikey Garcia and Ruslan Provodnikov–took advantage of their moment on HBO and now seemed poised for an even bigger 2014.

Showtime cashed in on the fact that Golden Boy was shut out by Hershman and HBO and according to ESPN‘s Dan Rafael, in 2013, Showtime Championship Boxing’s average viewership went up 59 percent–since 2011.

On Showtime’s final telecast of the year, veteran analyst Al Bernstein stated that he thought that 2013 was one of the best years for boxing in the last 25 years.

It can be argued that this great year came to fruition because of the feuds involving Top Rank, Golden Boy and HBO.

The cold war seems to have turned boxing into a battle of who can put on the best shows each and every time and in all honestly, that’s the way it should be.

Old Feuds Die Hard

ArumDeLaHoya - AP Photo
Photo by the AP

According to Hershman, a main reason that HBO discontinued relations with Golden Boy is because they grew tired of Golden Boy’s take-it-or-leave-it attitude and the continuous bidding wars with Showtime.

Perhaps Hershman wasn’t willing to continue to play Al Haymon‘s game like HBO did in the past when Ross Greenburg was in charge.

One has to think that if things stay the same between Top Rank and Golden Boy, HBO won’t be budging either.

As recently stated by ESPN’s Dan Rafael, HBO took the time to develop fighters outside of Top Rank and Golden Boy’s stables in 2013 and that has Hershman feeling positive about the future.

With heavy hitters such as Gennady Golovkin, Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev destined for big fights in 2014, HBO could be thinking they made the right decision.

So if network battles, cold wars and promotional feuds are the new way of the boxing world, let’s make the most of it.

To Golden Boy, Showtime, HBO and Top Rank I say if you can’t play nice, at least give us another year like 2013.

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