Posts Tagged ‘Showtime’

Three thoughts on Sergey Kovalev’s dominating knockout win over Cedric Agnew

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Sergey Kovalev

Sergey Kovalev (left) pummeled Cedric Agnew, notching a pulverizing knockout win. (Tim Larsen/AP)

Three thoughts on Sergey Kovalev’s knockout win over Cedric Agnew…

1.) This was a predictable blowout

Kovalev was a huge favorite against the undefeated, but untested, Agnew, a Chicago native who was one of the few HBO-approvable opponents Main Events could dig up to fight the avoided Kovalev. And the fight played out as expected, with Kovalev winning every minute of every round, backing Agnew up with a steady diet of power shots, dropping him in the second and sixth rounds before finishing him off with a straight left hand to the body in the seventh.

Agnew, who described Kovalev as “ordinary” in the weeks before the fight, offered little resistance, occasionally pushing back a Kovalev assault with a combination, opening a decent cut over Kovalev’s right eye with a head butt, but spending the bulk of the rounds covering up. No one expected Agnew to win but it was fair to hope for more than a glorified sparring session. Which  brings us to …

2.) This was a waste of time

I understand why Kovalev-Agnew was made. Originally, HBO was willing to give Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson soft touches, with the understanding that the two top dogs in the light heavyweight division would meet in a title unification fight in the fall. Stevenson scuttled those plans earlier in the week by reneging on the deal and moving over to Showtime. That left Kovalev with an unheralded opponent that served as a tuneup fight for, well, nothing.

You can’t blame Kovalev — since his days fighting on NBC Sports Network, Kovalev has been willing to fight all comers. And it’s clear Kovalev isn’t happy with Stevenson’s antics. When asked about Stevenson after the fight, Kovalev was succinct.

“I don’t want to speak on Adonis Stevenson,” Kovalev said. “Adonis Stevenson is a piece of sh–.”

3.) So, now what?

Good question. If you have an answer, I’m sure Main Events and HBO would love to hear it. With titleholders Stevenson, Bernard Hopkins and Beibut Shumenov fighting on Showtime, the 175-pound division offers few options. Jean Pascal beat Lucian Bute on HBO earlier this year, but Pascal is promoted by Yvon Michel, Stevenson’s promoter, who may have issues cutting a deal with HBO in the future.

Moreover, Pascal publicly has expressed more interest in fighting Stevenson than a showdown with Kovalev. Main Events has rising contender Isaac Chilmeba on the roster, but Chilemba is at least a fight or two away from being a serious challenger. Unless Andre Ward expresses interest — and Ward, who is embroiled in a conflict with promoter Dan Goossen, has yet to indicate he is ready to move up to light heavyweight — or the winner of May’s super middleweight fight between Carl Froch and George Groves is ready, Kovalev is a fighter without an opponent.

 

– Chris Mannix


  • Published On Mar 30, 2014
  • The fight to televise Adonis Stevenson’s light heavyweight title defense, more notes

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    Adonis Stevenson

    Adonis Stevenson is set to defend his light heavyweight title. (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

    • What a mess. What a politically fueled, fan-maddening mess. On May 24th, Adonis Stevenson will defend his light heavyweight title against Andrzej Fonfara. Stevenson’s trainer, Sugar Hill, confirmed the fight to me last week and it was formalized on Monday. HBO–which televised three of Stevenson’s fights last year — planned to televise this one, with an eye towards matching Stevenson in a highly anticipated 175-pound title unification fight against Sergey Kovalev later in the year.

    That was the plan, anyway. Then HBO moved slowly executing the contracts, Stevenson signed with adviser Al Haymon and now we have the mess we’re in now: HBO uncertain if it will televise Stevenson-Fonfara and the growing possibility that Stevenson will head to Showtime and attempt to unify the titles against Bernard Hopkins later this year. This could be a potential nightmare for HBO.

    And while it’s easy to blame Haymon — HBO has no interest in working with him, believing his business model to be toxic for the network — network executives have to shoulder some of the responsibility. Representatives for Stevenson and Kovalev say the key deal points for a two-fight deal that would have ultimately pitted Stevenson against Kovalev in the fall were agreed to well before Haymon got involved. Stevenson was set to receive the larger share of the license fee, Montreal or Las Vegas were being discussed as possible venues.

    From HBO’s perspective, agreeing to deal points and finalizing a deal are two different things, but the delay allowed Haymon to slide in, sign Stevenson and produce more money from Showtime for a Fonfara fight while dangling the carrot of a future Hopkins fight, a fight that was always more appealing to Stevenson. Showtime, which under Executive Vice President Stephen Espinoza has been aggressively pursuing big fights, is now in a strong position to put on one of the biggest light heavyweight fights in recent years.

    Over the last few days, HBO executives have been attempting to convince Stevenson to pass on Showtime’s offer, pushing the idea that a long term association with HBO will ultimately be more lucrative. Stevenson hasn’t budged.

    If Stevenson bolts, Kovalev becomes collateral damage. Kovalev is scheduled to fight Cedric Agnew on Saturday on HBO. Without Stevenson, Kovalev doesn’t have a natural future opponent. Andre Ward is there, but Ward is embroiled in a contract dispute with promoter Dan Goossen and has not indicated he is ready to move up to 175-pounds anyway. Main Events, which promotes Kovalev, has a handful of rising light heavyweights in its stable (Isaac Chilemba, Lonnie Thompson) but none that belong on HBO right now. What once looked like a big year for Kovalev could be flushed down the drain.

    And a fight between Stevenson and Kovalev, the most relevant fight in the light heavyweight division, will be washed away with it.

    • In an effort to lure Floyd Mayweather to Brooklyn, Barclays Center executives put together one of the most lucrative site fees in U.S. boxing history: $17 million, according to multiple industry sources. In addition to the cash, Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark was prepared to roll out one of the most aggressive marketing plans in boxing history. From New York-based talk shows to promoting the fight in the financial community and on Madison Avenue, Yormark said the event would have given Mayweather “a platform like he had never had before. We would have made his brand dominant for the six weeks leading up to the fight. It was going to be our Super Bowl.”

    Ultimately, Mayweather chose to stay in tax friendly confines of Las Vegas and at the MGM Grand, where he has fought his last eight fights. However Yormark told SI.com he hopes to lure Mayweather to Brooklyn before his career is over.

    “At the end, Floyd probably decided the comforts of where he has been were better for him,” Yormark said. “Maybe one day it happens. We feel we gave them a lot to think about.

    • Great to see ESPN get more involved in boxing, as they’re set to televise the heavyweight title fight between Chris Arreola and Bermane Stiverne on May 10th from the Galen Center on the campus of USC. The success of ESPN, NBC Sports Network and Fox Sports 1 as boxing friendly outlets is critical to the growth of the sport.

    • That Vivian Harris beat Jorge Paez Jr. last week is irrelevant; Harris, 35, shouldn’t be fighting. Harris has been knocked out five times in the last four years, some in absolutely brutal fashion, and recently he was denied a license by the British boxing commission for medical reasons. No respectable commission should ever license him again.

    • Amir Khan says he plans to challenge Floyd Mayweather in the ring if Mayweather beats Marcos Maidana next month. Khan’s obsession with Mayweather is just weird. Khan should be focused on his opponent that night, Luis Collazo, a veteran welterweight who is coming off a career defining win over Victor Ortiz. If Khan looks like he did in his last few fights, Collazo will walk all over him.

    • Tony Thompson keeps his career going … again. A win over Odlanier Solis last weekend will position Thompson, the heavyweight division’s gatekeeper, for another notable fight. Amazing.

    – By Chris Mannix


  • Published On Mar 24, 2014
  • Amir Khan goes on Twitter rant after believing he lost potential Floyd Mayweather fight

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    Amir Kahn

    Amir Kahn hasn’t helped his case for a Mayweather fight, dropping two of his last four bouts. ( Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

    If anyone is looking for Floyd Mayweather, you can find him inside Amir Khan’s head.

    For nearly two decades Mayweather has been the master of the mental game, poking, prodding, doing everything he can to make an opponent uncomfortable outside the ring as he makes them look in it. Khan, the former unified junior welterweight titleholder long rumored to be a frontrunner to fight Mayweather in May, is the latest potential foe to understand this.

    To recap: Last December, Khan believed he had a deal to fight Mayweather sewn up. In an interview at Showtime’s Manhattan offices, Khan was practically giddy. While acknowledging that he couldn’t confirm anything, Khan consistently referred to a fight with Mayweather in the present tense. Privately, members of his team said that virtually all the deal points were agreed to.

    Things changed quickly on December 14th, when Argentinean slugger Marcos Maidana upset Adrien Broner. Suddenly Maidana—who Khan defeated back in 2010—was a player in the Mayweather sweepstakes. And Mayweather, never one to miss a chance to self promote, took advantage, publicly saying Maidana was a candidate, even putting a poll featuring the two fighters up on his website to give fans an opportunity to vote for their choice.

    As the weeks have gone by, Khan has begun to come unraveled. After urging his Twitter followers to vote for him in the poll, Khan tweeted after winning that he was just waiting for Mayweather’s call. There was a measurable desperation in his words. And then, on Wednesday, Khan tweeted this:

    Somewhere, Mayweather has to be laughing.

    Despite Khan’s surrender, it’s entirely possible he could still be Mayweather’s next opponent. Mayweather is about one thing: Money. Though Maidana offers the more crowd-pleasing style — and is coming off his biggest win — he brings little to a promotion. He speaks minimal English which diminishes his value on a U.S. press tour —  To those that say Saul Alvarez didn’t speak much English either, Alvarez is exponentially more popular than Maidana. Khan, on the other hand, is well known in the U.S., popular in his home country of the U.K. and has 1.38 million Twitter followers to sell the fight to. Showtime has been one of the biggest proponents for Khan, as network executives wanted to cash in on Khan’s popularity while he was still a viable opponent.

    Moreover, Khan may be a more dangerous opponent. Maidana’s brawling style is a hit with audiences, but it’s a solvable attack. Khan beat him in ’10. Devon Alexander virtually shut him out in ’12. Beating Broner was a nice feather in Maidana’s cap, and he has undoubtedly improved as he has grown more comfortable at 147-pounds. But a wild free swinger would seem to be a tailor made opponent for one of the best ring tacticians in boxing. Khan, on the other hand, brings a different level of hand speed and footwork, albeit with a weak chin.

    Whatever happens, Khan has no one to blame for this mess but himself. His sense of entitlement towards a Mayweather fight is mind boggling when you considering he has lost two of his last four fights—a decision defeat to Lamont Peterson and a knockout loss to Danny Garcia—and his two-fight winning streak has come against low level opponents. Khan has yet to fight as a full 147-pounder, yet he believes he has earned a shot at the best fighter in boxing?

    Khan put himself in this position, and now he has to live with the consequences. What he should have done was gone forward with a planned welterweight title fight against Alexander last December. Had Khan beaten Alexander, he would have been a strong candidate to face Mayweather. Instead Khan passed on the offer to wait on a phone call that has never come.

    – Chris Mannix


  • Published On Feb 21, 2014
  • Showtime announces changes to schedule, including addition of Adrien Broner title defense

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    Adrien Broner

    Adrien Broner (right) lands a punch on Paulie Malignaggi during their WBA Welterweight Title bout in June. ( Al Bello/Getty Images)

    ATLANTIC CITY — Hours before Showtime was set to televise Bernard Hopkins light heavyweight title defense against Karo Murat, Showtime Sports Executive Vice President and General Manager Stephen Espinoza announced significant changes to its end of the year schedule.

    On December 7, Showtime will televise a quadruple header from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn headlined by a welterweight fight between Paulie Malignaggi and Zab Judah. Headlining the undercard will be Devon Alexander’s welterweight title defense against Shawn Porter. Also on the card will be Austin Trout, fighting for the first time since dropping a decision to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez last April. He’ll face  Erislandy Lara for a vacant title and super middleweight titleholder Sakio Bika will defend his belt against Anthony Dirrell.

    On December 14, Showtime will televise Adrien Broner’s welterweight title defense against Marcos Maidana from the Alamodome in San Antonio. Broner-Maidana was originally scheduled for pay-per-view, but executives from Golden Boy and the network decided to move it to Showtime. The card will include Keith Thurman defending an interim title against Jesus Soto-Karass, bantamweight titleholder Leo Santa Cruz against Cesar Seda, light heavyweight champion Beibut Shumenov against Tamas Kovacs and former welterweight champion Victor Ortiz against Alfonso Gomez.

    Either Shumenov-Kovacs or Ortiz-Gomez will be broadcast on Showtime Extreme, Espinoza said.

    There was speculation that after the success of the Floyd Mayweather-Saul “Canelo” Alvarez pay-per-view — which Espinoza says is still right around 2.2 million buys — that Showtime would consider moving Broner-Maidana to the main network. However, Espinoza insists that one has nothing to do with the other.

    It was unrelated,” Espinoza said, while pointing out that Showtime’s ratings were up 60 percent this year. “None of us were thrilled with putting that fight on pay-per-view. We thought Broner, while he is a star, could benefit from the widest possible exposure. We will see Broner on pay-per-view in the future but we combined enough quarters in the couches to put this on the Showtime network.”

    Espinoza also defused speculation that the increased spending by Showtime this year had left the network struggling for cash in the fourth quarter.

    “I’m certainly aware of the rumors that Showtime was out of money, or that we put all our best talent on the [Mayweather] pay-per-view and we didn’t have anyone to fight the rest of the year. We have a patient scheduling approach. Our talent pool is very deep. There is more than enough.”

    – By Chris Mannix


  • Published On Oct 26, 2013
  • Showtime rejects worrying rumors, calls Mayweather vs. Guerrero a ‘major win’

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    Floyd Mayweather (left) defeated Robert Guerrero via unanimous decision on Showtime PPV. (Robert Beck/SI)

    Floyd Mayweather (left) defeated Robert Guerrero via unanimous decision on Showtime PPV. (Robert Beck/SI)

    NEW YORK — The Showtime boxing pay-per-view show headlined by Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Robert Guerrero last Saturday will surpass 1 million buys, Showtime Executive Vice President of Sports and Event Programming Stephen Espinoza told SI.com. Espinoza declined to give an exact figure but said “we’re very comfortable saying that the pay-per-view buys for Mayweather-Guerrero will definitely exceed 1 million.”

    Twitter was abuzz this week with rumors that early Mayweather-Guerrero numbers indicated the show would finish under a million. Considering the investment Showtime made in Mayweather — signing him to a six-fight deal that could be worth in excess of $200 million — such a number would be disastrous. Espinoza declined to say how many buys over a million the event did, but declared it “a major win.”

    “What this does is [it] reconfirms Floyd’s status as the top pay-per-view draw in boxing,” Espinoza said. “Really in all of sports. To do this kind of number without the benefit of a well-known opponent speaks very strongly for his continued drawing power. We look at Robert, and he was very game, he has proven he was among the top of the division. But he is not well known to the general public. His awareness as far as the pay per view goes is still low. To do this number without a well-known opponent established is great.”

    One rumor circulating was that Showtime, because of the $32 million Mayweather was guaranteed, needed a big number just to break even, reportedly between 1.1 and 1.3 million. Espinoza called the reports “absolutely untrue.”

    “It’s inaccurate,” Espinoza said. “We have talked about it before internally and we agreed that we are not going to go into details of the deal. I can say generally though that there are a lot of mischaracterizations going around. Rumors of financial demise are greatly exaggerated.”

    Still, the success of Mayweather-Guerrero may not be a sign of things to come. It’s likely a large number of people bought the pay-per-view to see if Mayweather, at 36 and coming off a one-year layoff that included a two month stint in prison, had lost a step. Mayweather is among the most polarizing athletes in sports, with as many pay-per-view buyers watching to see him lose as there are to see him win. The ease with which Mayweather defeated Guerrero could turn many of those buyers away in the future.

    “It is a challenge,” Espinoza admitted. “There is a challenge here when you have someone as skilled as Floyd is, someone who is able to neutralize an opponent as much as he often does, it can become monotonous. There has always been a significant portion of the audience that wants to see him lose. More people will appreciate his skill level when he retires. I wish there was more appreciation for his skill level now while we have him.”

    Of course, the buy rate for Mayweather-Guerrero would be boosted by more cooperative fighters. There was no press conference to announce the fight, a shock when you consider that virtually all fights on that level would include a multi-city press tour. Guerrero was largely useless, effectively shutting down after being arrested for gun possession in March. Mayweather, uninterested in delving too deep into his time in jail and problems with the law, repeatedly declined extended interviews before the fight. And viewership for Showtime’s All-Access show struggled compared to HBO’s 24/7 series (box), which has the benefit of a larger subscriber base (29 million to 22 million for Showtime).

    HBO vs. Showtime

    24/7 MAYWEATHER/COTTO (HBO) ALL ACCESS: MAYWEATHER/GUERRERO (Showtime)
    April 2012 April 2013
    #1 473,000 viewers #1 105,000 viewers
    #2 493,000 viewers #2 64,000 viewers
    #3 505,000 viewers #3 93,000 viewers
    #4 310,000 viewers #4 58,000 viewers

    “The argument made was because there was a large guarantee, Floyd wasn’t as motivated [to promote the fight] and that assumed something that wasn’t established,” Espinoza said. “That was attributing motives to Floyd that may or may not be there. I think Floyd put forth a tremendous effort, particularly in social media and other non-traditional stuff that we did. He flew across country to do a couple of days of publicity at the Final Four. Some writers out there were upset at not getting the access that they desired. Floyd took this camp very seriously. His priority was being in camp. Some of the media access might have been sacrificed.”

    Of course, one way to guarantee financial success in the future is the opponent. Junior middleweight titleholder Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is considered one of the biggest stars in boxing after Mayweather, and certainly one of its most popular. His last fight, against Austin Trout in San Antonio, drew 40,000 fans. Mayweather has yet to say who he will face in September but it’s clear Canelo would generate the most revenue.

    “We are actively involved in those discussions,” Espinoza said. “It’s my understanding that everybody involved from Mayweather, to Canelo, to Golden Boy, to Showtime, wants that fight to happen. It’s still a deal that has to get done. The talks are underway and the most positive thing I can say about the prospects of that happening is that everybody wants that fight. It’s not about convincing one side to take the fight. We are past that point. I am cautiously optimistic that it will happen.”

    – Chris Mannix


  • Published On May 10, 2013
  • Ex-HBO exec. Ross Greenburg following Floyd Mayweather to Showtime

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    Ross Greenburg speaks with Bill Russell at SI's 2010 Sportsman of the Year party. (Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

    Ross Greenburg speaks with Bill Russell at SI’s 2010 Sportsman of the Year party. (Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

    If you are familiar with the boxing industry, the following sentence will sound strange: Ross Greenburg is working for Showtime.

    Greenburg, of course, was the President of HBO Sports from 2000 to 2011 — and an executive producer at the network for nearly two decades before that — before being forced out in the summer of 2011. With Showtime, Greenburg will produce a one-hour documentary that will air on CBS chronicling the last year in the life of Floyd Mayweather, including his time in prison. In addition, Greenburg will work on Showtime’s All Access reality show, a carbon copy of the the 24/7 series Greenburg created at HBO in 2007, that will air in the weeks leading up to Mayweather’s fight against Robert Guerrero on May 4th.

    “This has always been in my blood,” Greenburg told SI.com. “I have always been a producer at heart. I love telling stories. It’s refreshing. There are not a lot of headaches. I didn’t have to put out too many fires. I really enjoyed the people I work with.”

    Since leaving HBO, Greenburg has worked closely with NBC, producing documentaries on Earl Campbell (which was nominated for a Sports Emmy), the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union, the 1952 U.S. Open and the 1991 Ryder Cup. Greenburg also worked on Costas Tonight on NBC Sports Network — including Mayweather’s appearance on the show last year — and consulted for the NHL, Discovery Channel and Under Armour.

    Now, Greenburg is back in boxing, working with the archrival of the network that he had a big hand in turning into a powerhouse.

    “I guess I feel like [Kevin] Youkilis and [Johnny] Damon going into the [Yankees] locker room,” Greenburg said. “I’m just interested in helping [Showtime Executive Vice President] Stephen [Espinoza] as much as I can. It’s been very easy for me. They have welcomed me like family. It’s like Jeter putting arm around Youkilis. I’m back doing what I want to do. I have to take care of my family. I’ll always remember and cherish the glorious past. I had a wonderful 33 years [at HBO].”

    It’s been comfortable for Greenburg to work with Mayweather, who he maintained a close relationship with during his time with HBO. And despite the fact that since Mayweather became a star on 24/7 in 2007 his story has been told repeatedly, Greenburg believes the events of the last year have left a rich tale to tell.

    “There is the evolving relationship between Floyd, Roger [Mayweather] and Floyd Sr.,” Greenburg said. “Floyd himself spent 62 days in solitary. It changed his whole point of view on life. We spent the last three or four days with Floyd in the gym. Floyd and Roger are both there. Floyd Sr. is very involved. It’s an interesting evolution of that relationship. Floyd and his father are very close. The time he spent in prison did change him.”

    Greenburg wouldn’t say if his relationship with Showtime could last beyond this fight (“We’ll see,” Greenburg said) but said he had no regrets about his time at HBO.

    “No, not at all,” Greenburg said. “I did my job. The HBO sports department is something I will always remember. I think we built a hell of a franchise and a brand. The boxing program when I left it was as strong as it ever was. I have no regrets whatsoever. I took a lot of criticism, most of it unwarranted, but that is OK. I’m a big boy. I’ll pick myself back up. I have so many great memories. All fond memories.”

    Well, almost all. Greenburg admits he still wishes he could have made the mega fight between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.

    “It’s funny, there weren’t that many times that I couldn’t make a fight,” Greenburg said. “I tried twice and got very close. To this day, I’m not going to put the blame on anyone because I couldn’t figure out why it didn’t happen. But I think boxing can recover. It didn’t happen, and it was not meant to be. It’s unfortunate because it probably would have been an epic buildup, even though I’m not sure it would have been a good fight. I know Floyd has moved on. He continues to be asked about Pacquiao and his attitude is much like mine, that if it was meant to be, fine. He believes his third act, over the next couple of years, is going to be special.”

    – Chris Mannix


  • Published On Mar 22, 2013
  • HBO announces it won’t televise Golden Boy Promotions’ fights

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    Rising star Adrien Broner, right, will no longer be featured on HBO after Monday's announcement.

    Rising star Adrien Broner, right, will no longer be featured on HBO after Monday’s announcement. [Richard Vogel/AP]

    For the last year, HBO has watched as Golden Boy Promotions has moved many of its top fighters from HBO to Showtime. On Monday, HBO struck back: The network announced that it would no longer buy any fights from Golden Boy Promotions.

    “In order to achieve our goal of the best fighters in the most compelling matchups we’ve decided to focus our efforts and resources on those strategic relationships where we better share common goals and business philosophies,” HBO Sports President Ken Hershman said in a statement.

    The decision is a decisive move from HBO to strike back at Golden Boy. Since Stephen Espinoza — a former Golden Boy attorney — took over as the head of the sports department at Showtime, Golden Boy has pulled several of its top fighters including Danny Garcia, Amir Khan, Canelo Alavarez and Andre Berto off of HBO and onto Showtime. Last month, Floyd Mayweather — who works closely with Golden Boy —announced he was leaving HBO, his broadcast partner for virtually his entire career, to sign a lucrative deal with Showtime.

    Among the casualties of HBO’s decision is Adrien Broner, a rising star who has been a staple on HBO. HBO sources made it clear that it was nothing against Broner, but they will not put him on the network as long as Golden Boy represents him. Likewise for Bernard Hopkins, a longtime HBO fighter who last week became the oldest man to win a major title when he defeated Tavoris Cloud on HBO.

    The decision to stop doing business with Golden Boy is being called indefinite.

    Golden Boy CEO called the decision “retaliation” and “ill advised.”

    I’m not really surprised,” Schaefer told SI.com. “I have not had a conversation with Ken Hershman since last November or December. They are upset at me, I’m sure they are upset at Al Haymon. But the ones getting hurt are the subscribers. Whether you like Golden Boy or you don’t, our stable is second to none. I wished them well. (HBO Vice President) Kery Davis, (VP) Mart Taffet, (CEO) Richard Plepler, I consider them friends. But there are people making decisions in the HBO sports department that don’t know the difference between Floyd Mayweather and Jessie Vargas.”

    — Chris Mannix


  • Published On Mar 18, 2013
  • Experts’ predictions for Austin Trout-Miguel Cotto

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    Austin Trout (right) defends his super welterweight title belt Saturday against the favored Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden. (AP)

    The undefeated but unknown Austin Trout (right) defends his super welterweight title belt Saturday against the favored Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden. (AP)

    SI.com’s boxing experts predict Saturday’s super welterweight title fight between Austin Trout and Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden (9 p.m. ET/PT, Showtime). Share your prediction in the comments below.

    CHRIS MANNIX

    When Ricky Hatton chose Vyacheslav Senchenko — a former welterweight champion with one loss on his resume — for a supposed tune-up fight last week, I was surprised. I’m equally surprised Cotto, with a multi-million dollar fight against Saul Alvarez waiting in the spring, elected to fight Trout, a slick, undefeated champion with a size advantage (5-foot-10) and a strong amateur background.

    Trout has not fought the level of competition Cotto has, not even close. But he is young (27) and hungry, and while his win over Delvin Rodriguez last June was a snoozer, Trout did wipe the floor with Rodriguez, a tough customer. Sure, I’m worried that Trout will be overwhelmed by the moment; until you step into the ring surrounded by thousands of fans that are against you, you can’t know how you will respond. But if Trout keeps his cool — and I’m betting he will — he has the skills to beat Cotto, who has admittedly lost a little off his fastball. And, like it was with Hatton, it will be just enough to make him stumble. Trout by split decision.

    RICHARD O’BRIEN

    This is a fight that sort of snuck up on everybody. Trout himself has said he was shocked to learn that Cotto had agreed to fight him, given his relatively nonexistent Q rating, as well as his difficult defensive style, southpaw stance, relative youth and size. But despite his surprise, Trout is unlikely to be caught unprepared for the occasion. He knows he’ll be in hostile territory, facing Cotto in Madison Square Garden, where the Puerto Rican hero is 7-0 in his career and always at his best. But Trout has proved he can thrive in such situations: In 2009 he outpointed Nilson Julio Tapia in Tapia’s home country of Panama and last year he beat Rigoberto Alvarez in Guadalajara, Mexico, for the vacant WBA 154-pound title, then went back to Mexico to make his first defense, against Nogales’s David Lopez.

    To win against Cotto in the Garden, Trout will have to take more chances than he is used to — and that may make him a better fighter. Or it may make him more vulnerable. Trout — along with a lot of observers — believes he’s catching Cotto at just the right time. But Cotto has the kind of toughness and ring smarts that only come from a long career against first-rate opposition. Trout, as quick and slick as he is, may give Cotto fits for several rounds, but he’s unlikely to hurt him and that will allow Cotto to keep the pressure on and slow the younger fighter down just enough to score big down the stretch. Trout has a bright future, but it won’t be as an undefeated champ. Cotto by unanimous decision.

    BRYAN ARMEN GRAHAM

    The oddsmakers list Trout as a 2-to-1 underdog, yet the buzz among insiders suggests a 50/50 fight — an all too rare context for a big-ticket promotion. There will be no confusing the house fighter on Saturday night — the electrified atmosphere the Puerto Rican icon engenders makes Cotto’s fights at the Garden bucket-list-worthy — but Trout is younger, taller, probably slicker and unburdened by expectation. He may be hungrier, too: Trout came up the hard way, without the aegis of a major promoter, and is determined to make the most of an opportunity he feels may only come once; by contrast, Cotto mentioned thoughts of retirement during Showtime’s All-Access docuseries.

    Fact is, Cotto is a fighter with more ring wear than an ennobling defeat to Mayweather revealed, and Trout is the biggest opponent of the Puerto Rican’s career at 154 pounds. The Las Cruces, N.M., native is a tricky southpaw with an excellent jab who can succeed by keeping Cotto on the outside and boxing. Still, it’s a major step up for Trout, who’s never faced a boxer-puncher of Cotto’s caliber. Expect a horse race of a match through the opening two acts, with Cotto’s compact punching and big-fight experience making the razor-thin difference in the championship rounds. Cotto by split decision.


  • Published On Nov 30, 2012
  • Vyacheslav Senchenko says 18,000 Ricky Hatton fans won’t matter

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    Vyacheslav Senchenko (right) looks to spoil Ricky Hatton’s first fight in three years Saturday when the two meet at Manchester’s MEN Arena. (AP)

    Senchenko faces Ricky Hatton on Saturday at Manchester’s MEN Arena (5 p.m. ET/PT, Showtime).

    Hatton is coming off a three-and-a-half year layoff. Do you think you’re catching him at the right time?

    “When I made the decision to fight Ricky I did it expecting the best Ricky Hatton. We know Ricky wouldn’t have come back if he wasn’t at his best — that’s just how boxing is. Ricky wouldn’t have taken the risk if he didn’t think he was 100 percent. So we’re expecting a very hard fight. We’re expecting the best Ricky Hatton, a prime Ricky Hatton.

    This is just your third fight outside your native Ukraine. How do you prepare for a fight in front of 18,000 hostile fans?

    “I’m very excited that I’m going to Manchester to fight in front of a huge crowd. I had a great camp and prepared the way I always do. It’s an opportunity to shine and show the British my skills. Sure, there will 18,000 Ricky Hatton fans, but once I’m in the ring it’s just me and Ricky. The fans aren’t in there with him.”

    Hatton beat Malignaggi, and Malignaggi defeated you. Why will you upset Hatton?

    “When I fought Paulie everything went well in the beginning and then I got injured and I couldn’t apply the plan we had scheduled in training. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. It was a one-time thing because of the injury. I had a good training camp and was able to prepare well, but I got injured. Those things happen in boxing. I thought I fought well but I just couldn’t see anything because the eye was completely closed. Of course, Paul was an odd boxer to fight. Ricky’s fighting style suits me better. I believe it will be a better fight for me. I’ve had a great camp and I’m ready to get back into the limelight with a win.”

    What were the main reasons you accepted the fight against Hatton in England?

    “This is the way to come back in the limelight — to beat one of the most popular boxers in the world. It would bring me back in the top position, worldwide. If I beat Ricky then I can get another shot at a title. Once you’re in the ring it’s just you and the opponent. The challenge is to show the 18,000 that I’m the best boxer in the ring. And the fact that the fight is televised in the U.S. on Showtime makes it even better. The stakes are higher now.”

    Can you tell us the keys to victory?

    “We need a good jab, a good jab when the opponent comes in — and good legs and sharp punching. I’m an old-school, classical boxer so I need to be able to control the fight. I like boxers that come in rather than run away. If I can dictate the pace and not allow Ricky to get into a rhythm, I should be able to execute my strategy and do what I prepared for in camp.”

    Do you think you’ll need to knock him out to win a decision in England?

    “I’ve got to fight my own game plan. I’m not looking for a knockout; I’m looking for a good, technical fight. A good, distance fight. If I can stop the fight early on that would be good, but I’ll take the points. As long as I don’t get injured I should be fine. There’s no problem with the eye, it was a one-time thing with Paulie. I’ve never had another problem since.”

    – Courtesy of Showtime


  • Published On Nov 21, 2012
  • Quick Jabs: Gennady Golovkin’s next move, Seth Mitchell experiment probably over and more

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    Gennady Golovkin (above) will defend his middleweight title against an opponent to be determined on Jan. 19 in New York at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. (AP)

    Some quick jabs …

    • I’m told HBO is now considering two possible opponents for Gennady Golovkin’s Jan. 19 middleweight title defense: Fernando Guerrero, a one-time prospect who is represented by Al Haymon, and Gabriel Rosado, a rising junior middleweight who is currently the IBF’s mandatory challenger for Cornelius “K9″ Bundrage’s title. To me, the decision is an easy one: Guerrero — who beat Rosado in a controversial eight-round middleweight fight in 2009 — has done nothing recently to warrant this kind of opportunity. Rosado, meanwhile, beat three quality opponents in 2012, all on NBC Sports Network, all by knockout. Rosado is the definition of a television-friendly fighter. A matchup with Golovkin would be a war.

    • Super featherweight Teon Kennedy’s injury forced Main Events to find a new opponent for undefeated prospect Jerry Belmontes in the co-feature of the Dec. 8 card on NBC Sports Network. On Monday they announced that Eric Hunter (16-2) would step in. Hunter has been on the shelf for most of the last two years, fighting once (last July) since December of 2010.

    • Kudos to Seth Mitchell for accomplishing a lot in boxing despite not picking up the gloves until he was 24. But this experiment is probably over. You can’t teach a chin and in his last two fights Mitchell has been buzzed by Chazz Witherspoon and knocked out in two rounds by Johnathan Banks. There are things Mitchell can do to improve — he still has no idea how to hold when he gets hurt — but if light hitters like Witherspoon and Banks can wobble him, he’s a sitting duck for one of the Klitschko brothers.

    • Speaking of Banks: I’d like to see him face one more quality opponent before looking for a fight with Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko. A matchup with Tyson Fury, David Price or his preferred choice, Alexander Povetkin, next year could make Banks some money and, if he wins, give him some momentum heading into a major title fight.

    • I’m looking forward to Miguel Cotto-Austin Trout on Dec. 1 at Madison Square Garden, but that undercard is horrendous. Jayson Velez and Danny Jacobs — questionable choices for a televised undercard to begin with — will fight separately on Showtime’s broadcast in fights that do nothing for me. Velez (19-0) will face Salvador Sanchez II (30-4-3), nephew of Mexican legend Salvador Sanchez, while Jacobs (23-1), the former prospect and cancer survivor who will fight for the second time in three months, gets Chris Fitzpatrick (15-2).

    • I don’t know what has gotten into Carl Froch, but after another impressive knockout — this one over handpicked challenger Yusaf Mack — I just don’t know how Lucian Bute can beat him. Froch is just too strong.

    • Bring on Adrien Broner-Ricky Burns.

    • Thank you, Fred Sternburg, for sending out 400 emails letting everyone know that Manny Pacquiao gave away free turkeys last week. My overflowing inbox extends its regards.

    • Hey British promoter Frank Maloney: Your comment that Wladimir Klitschko would be happy not to have to pay Emanuel Steward his 10 percent after a one-sided win over Mariusz Wach last week was disgusting and classless. Steward, a longtime mentor and trainer for Klitschko, lost a battle with cancer last month. Maloney should be ashamed.

    – Chris Mannix


  • Published On Nov 20, 2012


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