Mailbag: Network TV bouts are on the way, according to boxing's top promoters

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

Longtime boxing fans frequently lament the lack of a national television contract as one of the reasons for its struggles.

But don't be surprised if boxing winds up on CBS at some point in 2012. Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer wouldn't identify a network, but said recently, "I am optimistic, very optimistic," when asked if there would be boxing on network TV in the near future.

Top Rank president Todd duBoef expressed similar optimism.

Now, though, the rumblings are coming from someone with the ability to influence that decision. Stephen Espinoza, the newly appointed vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports, said he thought boxing could come to network television this year.

"There's a decent chance of it, maybe even a good chance of it happening, in fact," Espinoza said. "Boxing, for all of its challenges, still has a very loyal fan base, especially in the Latino and African-American demographics. Boxing has shown that, at its highest level, boxing can capture the mainstream sports, and non-sports, population.

"Whenever you have an event like [Floyd] Mayweather-[Manny] Pacquiao, or [Oscar] De La Hoya-Mayweather, capture the imagination of all sports fans and, to a certain degree, non-sports fans, you've got a good recipe for success."

There is no fight lined up, there's no date, and there's not even a deal, but at least for the first time in a long while, there is reason to be optimistic about boxing's return to free, over-the-air television.

Hooks and jabs

• Fortunately, Luis Lazarte is 40 and probably won't be boxing much longer. He is, by far, the sport's dirtiest fighter and was almost single-handedly responsible for a wild brawl in Mar del Plata, Argentina, after he was stopped in the 10th round by Johnriel Casimero.

• Robert Guerrero has called out just about everyone in the 135-, 140- and 147-pound weight classes. It was ludicrous to think he'd ever face Mayweather Jr., and Guerrero took plenty of heat for the flood of emails sent out by his publicist looking for a big bout, but I'd rather see guys seeking out the best rather than running from them.

[ Related: Floyd Mayweather isn't happy about the attention Jeremy Lin is getting ]

• My impression of the HBO reality series, "On Freddie Roach" is that it's been underwhelming so far. There have been some poignant moments in the first four episodes, but it hasn't been can't-miss television.

• When Top Rank picked Shane Mosley to face Manny Pacquiao last year, Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya derided the choice and said on Twitter that Mosley was over the hill. De La Hoya proved to be right, and Pacquiao routed him. But suddenly, De La Hoya has changed his stance and is now tweeting about what a great match Mosley against Canelo Alvarez will be. Not surprisingly, that will be on a Golden Boy card May 5.

Readers Always Write

Tournament in the future?

The recently announced bouts of Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Miguel Cotto, [Saul] Canelo Alvarez-Shane Mosley, Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley Jr. and Amir Khan-Lamont Peterson would be a pretty compelling bracket for an eight-man tournament. Do you think we could see the winners of these bouts face each other in the future?

Tony Blake
Chicago

It's unlikely, Tony, for a few reasons. First, Mayweather and Pacquiao are, essentially, part-time fighters who fight one or two times a year. Second, Mayweather has a jail sentence set to begin June 1. Third, you're talking about fighters in different weight classes. And fourth, Mosley is pushing 40 and is on the downside of his career. We've already seen Khan-Peterson, Pacquiao-Cotto, Pacquiao-Mosley, Mayweather-Mosley and Bradley-Peterson, as well. I'm not sure there would be much more interaction than there's already been.

Calling a Bradley upset

I think we are going to be looking at an upset when Manny Pacquiao meets Timothy Bradley Jr. I'll take Bradley in a late knockout.

Michael Beauchot
Zhuhai, China

I don't expect Bradley to win, though I do give him a shot. He's what I would call a live underdog. Pacquiao is vulnerable to straight right hands and Bradley has a good one. He'd have to fight the perfect fight, and Pacquiao would have to be at less than his best, but an upset wouldn't be impossible.

Khan has a legitimate beef

No doubt, Amir Khan fought a poor fight in his first bout with Lamont Peterson, but the two points deducted were highly questionable and the "Mystery Man," Mustafa Ameen, had no right sitting at the commission table. Nor should he have ever handled the judges' scoring sheets. If you don't find something odd about the whole scenario, I would be surprised. I have watched a lot of fights over the last 50 years and I have never seen a similar situation take place. It would possibly make a bit more sense but would still not be acceptable if the individual in question had some sort of major official role with the boxing board, but he was some sort of boxing groupie with an outsized sense of his own importance.

Brian Ivon Jones
Shenzhen, China

Brian, I agree that Ameen should not have been sitting where he was seated. That said, I don't think he had any impact upon the outcome of the fight. There is zero evidence that he tampered with the scorecards or influenced the referee in any way. The commission didn't do its job that night and shoo him, but his presence did nothing but provide Khan with an excuse. I've said this many times, but after the bell rang, I think a lot of people agreed with me and wanted to see Khan fight again. It was a hard-fought, entertaining, gritty match. But as Khan's whining has increased, so has the patience of folks who are plenty sick of it.

New fighters aren't promoted

The problem isn't that boxers are paid too much, it is the ineffective promotion of new names. There are really interesting boxers out there, but they are overshadowed by the sport's big names. A tournament on ESPN or Showtime could make a huge splash. Like the Super Six, they could do something like that for the middleweights and other, lower weight classes, but in that lies the real problem: greedy promoters too frightened to put up boxers who may lose. Can you see Top Rank's Bob Arum putting up Nonito Donaire against a guy like Akifumi Shimoda without having a huge cut of the action? I can't, but that would bring some real focus to the weight class and possibly push the careers of many fighters. Promoters and TV stations need to step out of their offices and go to the gyms to find the talent. It's out there still, and there are exciting fighters, but they need to make the first step.

Donel Parsons
San Diego, Calif.

Donel, if tournaments were so successful and simple to do, there would be a lot more of them. I've given promoters a hard time in the past for pursuing low-risk, high-reward fights, but they're now more amenable to it given the current landscape. Donaire, by the way, would destroy Shimoda. Shimoda was knocked out by Rico Ramos, hardly a fighter anywhere near Donaire's class.

Make suggestions to TV execs

Kevin, I do read most of your articles. Some are good, some are mediocre, and some are pure criticism towards boxing. For instance, your recent article about what the executives at HBO and Showtime should do makes it seem as though you have it all figured out, in terms of how to direct the boxing programming at HBO. I respect your research, but do you think that HBO and Showtime don't know their strengths and weaknesses? Did you ever attempt to apply for a position in that department? Have you ever written to them or proposed a plan on what you preach? Perhaps HBO/Showtime can make attractive offers to land good and great fights, but what about the promoters? Don't they have the final say? I doubt that any smart promoter will put his fighter against a guaranteed battle. Promoters primarily look after their interest/investment. They would rather build a fighter instead of taking a risk on one well-paid night. I long to read an article of yours that will state how you tried to help the sport of boxing by getting together with other sportswriters to advocate innovative ideas to promoters, HBO and Showtime on how to produce more lucrative fights and attract new fight fans.

Francisco Lopez
Houston

Francisco, my job isn't to convene a meeting of sportswriters to try to save boxing. I've written many columns about the sport, proposing different ideas and, certainly, the executives at HBO and Showtime, as well as other networks, see those. In one of those columns, I suggested HBO produce a magazine show similar to "Inside the NFL." Such a show is in the works and should debut later this year.

In their primes, who would have won: Pryor or Leonard?

One of the great fights that should have happened but didn't was Sugar Ray Leonard against Aaron Pryor. If they had fought, who do you think would have won and why?

Keith Bradford
Cincinnati

That would have been such a sensational fight. Leonard would have been able to outbox Leonard, as we saw Arguello do to Pryor. Pryor was able to walk through some hellacious shots from Arguello to stop him. If Leonard had been hitting Pryor with those shots and not Arguello, I don't think Pryor could have kept taking them. If they fought multiple times, Pryor would win some, but I think Leonard had the style to beat him the majority of times.

Quoteworthy

"He can get his hand raised, but you're not going to destroy Manny Pacquiao. You have to try to outsmart him, be clever, land four punches to his two, or three, outland him 18-14 in a round. He could beat him and still not get the decision. We know that. But Timmy has what it takes to win that fight." – boxing manager Cameron Dunkin, talking about Timothy Bradley's chances against Manny Pacquiao when they meet on June 9 in Las Vegas.

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