At one point in time HBO was the premiere destination for boxing in the United States. For roughly 25 years, HBO boxing ruled cable television. But on September 27th the network announced that after a 45-year run they would be throwing in the towel and end HBO Boxing. Aside from the live events, HBO also changed the boxing game with its spin-off shows including “24/7”, “The Fight Game” and “Face Off”. All of which helped promote many of the big cards that they presented in the last decade.
While it is a shock -and sadness- to many, there are some who saw this day coming. Within the last few years HBO watched as its biggest draw, Floyd Mayweather Jr., signed with rival network Showtime. Also, not helping matters was its biggest benefactor in Top Rank Promotions signing an exclusive deal with ESPN, the emergence of streaming services, along with network budget cuts and the continued declining numbers in cable and satellite subscribers.
“I wasn’t surprised (by the announcement). HBO’s boxing coverage has clearly diminished over the last couple of years due to budget cuts,” says Frances Cruz who’s the president and editor-in-chief of 4boxingnews.com. “(I’m) sad but not surprised,” says John Siuntres who’s a longtime boxing journalist, historian, and the host of The Big Bout Podcast. “HBO’s management had been inching towards this for the last few years. The cost of putting fights together wasn’t yielding the number of viewers or subscribers like it did in the past. The business model is shifting (again), just like it did from closed circuit theater viewing of big fights to cable and pay-per-view in the 80’s,” he added.
What HBO Meant for Latino Boxers
Aside from the void the HBO will leave for boxing fans in general, this will be an especially tough pill to swallow for Latino boxing fans. For many of those 45 years, HBO has showcased many of Latin America’s greatest fighters. From the late Hector Camacho to Felix Trinidad, from Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. to Juan Manuel Marquez, among countless others, HBO was there for many of their biggest fights. HBO was also the home for the biggest fights of Puerto Rico’s only four-division world champion Miguel Cotto and introduced the world to a fighter from Mexico named Saul Alvarez, the man we know today as “Canelo”.
“(I remember) the featherweight battles between Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales,” said Siuntres. “The Morales/Barrera trilogy really introduced fans to the Mexican style of boxing and showed fans how exciting fights in the lower weight classes could be,” added Cruz.
Another prominent HBO fighter was 1992 Olympic Gold medalist Oscar De La Hoya, who’s Golden Boy Promotions kept the network’s boxing coverage afloat over the last couple of years with cards such Miguel Cotto’s retirement tour, and Canelo Alvarez’s fights with Gennady Golovkin, the aforementioned Cotto, Amir Khan, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. to name a few. During his 16-year career, De La Hoya was prominently featured on HBO. His most memorable matchups included Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley, Fernando Vargas and Bernard Hopkins, as well as Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao at the latter stages of his career. As John Siuntres proudly puts it, “Oscar De La Hoya grew up on HBO.”
Other Latino boxers who have found success on HBO are former middleweight champion Sergio Martinez of Argentina, Cuban pound-for-pound southpaw Guillermo Rigondeaux, four-division world titleholder Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez of Nicaragua, Manny Pacquiao’s rivalries with Mexican legends Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, Floyd Mayweather’s bouts with Miguel Cotto, Victor Oritz, and Juan Manuel Marquez, Cuban Olympic medalist Joel Casamayor.
With HBO Boxing Gone. See what’s next after the jump…