As it stands, HBO is on the verge of a new beginning as Ross Greenburg stepped down as President of HBO Sports, leaving many to speculate what will come to the networks fabled boxing platform. Though Greenburg performed his job well, for the most part, in 33 years, the mistakes he made, along with neophyte Vice President Kerry Davis, left no doubt that a change was coming and Greenburg wouldn't be able to see it through. Many people would cite that losing Manny Pacquiao's last fight to rival network Showtime was the main culprit, but if you take the time to push the easy work aside and actually dig deeper into the story, it's a more vivid tale than it seems. So what exactly brought down the house that Greenburg built?
An Unwise Investment In The Heavyweight Division
HBO, for reasons beyond me, kept thinking that there would be hope in the wasteland that once was boxing's glamour division. After the retirement of Lennox Lewis in 2003, and Vitali Klitschko's initial retirement in 2004, the network sought high and low to find a champion that they could stand by in the division that had produced the networks most memorable moments. That meant we had to shell out pay-per-view dollars for fights like Hasim Rahman versus Oleg Maskaev and Nikolai Valuev vs Monte Barrett.
When Wladmir Klitschko began his reign of terror on the division, HBO still aired him every chance they could get, even as the opposition got worse and the fights far more boring. Though they came out in 2010 and said that the network would no longer air Heavyweight fights because of the lack of public interest, the damage was long done years back.
Always Chasing the Next Big Thing
Greenburg saw the rise of moneymakers in guys like Oscar De La Hoya, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Floyd Mayweather Jr., but he didn't play a part in any of that besides showing their fights. HBO decided to create its own stars and basically told us who to watch, which more often than not led to boring fights or tremendous disappointments. Jermain Taylor was a fighter that HBO tried shoving down our throats after he "defeated" Bernard Hopkins, but when the public didn't take to him and Kelly Pavlik knocked him out, the network invested their resources in Pavlik until Hopkins exposed him too.
Instead of showing potentially good fights, like Showtime seems to always try to do, HBO wanted us to get a glimpse of the fighters of the future and if we didn't like what we saw the first time around, they'd keep trying until they lost. Adrian Broner and Rico Ramos have shown that they are more suited for the ESPN circuit than big time fights, and Saul Alvarez is fighting laughable opposition in the sport's best weight class. Boxing isn't about the fighters, it's about the fights, and Greenburg obviously forgot about that one.
HBO: Haymon's Boxing Office
Al Haymon owns HBO. If Golden Boy Promotions doesn't get the majority of the dates, then the influential Haymon gets the rest for his stable. Cris Arreola, Paul Williams, Jermain Taylor, Vernon Forrest and of course Andre Berto have taken up so many dates in the past decade and for the most part have not lived up to their potential. Outside of Floyd Mayweather Jr., none of the fighters above have ever shown the capability to draw or command ratings, but for some reason or another, we had to keep watching them week after week. Because of HBO's preference to Haymon, who also had poweful connections in the music industry and the ability to make shows on the network, other promoters didn't have a chance.
Their support for Berto was the networks biggest offense. Berto couldn't draw, wasn't catching on, and nobody seemed to care when he was making his million dollar paydays against entry-level opposition. When Berto finally did fight somebody with a pulse in Victor Ortiz, he was beaten up and off the pedestal for all intents and purposes, and like a former champion, would have to work his way back up to the top. At least that's what you might think, but not so, because this fall, Berto is returning in a title match against Jan Zaveck on HBO. Let's hope that Greenburg's replacement will clear the air of Haymon and his stable.
Pissing Off Bob Arum
Arum was extremely frustrated that the network gave away all their dates to Golden Boy Promotions and their favoritism to Haymon, so Arum made independent shows until he threatened to make the move to Showtime, not only with Manny Pacquiao, but with Top Rank's other proven money-makers. Arum made good on his threat when he took Manny Pacquiao's fight with Shane Mosley to Showtime, also taking with him Miguel Cotto and Kelly Pavlik. That seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for Greenburg that ultimately lead to his "resignation", which probably was more like a "leave at your own will or we call security" deal.
This year, HBO likely won't be getting any Pacquiao or Cotto fights and will have to rely on Mayweather-Ortiz and Dawson-Hopkins to drive it's pay-per-view dollars, whereas Showtime will presumably land Marquez-Pacquiao III and Cotto-Margarito II, both more lucrative fights. Arum coming to Showtime may have very well shifted the balance of power to them, who have had much better fights over the years for a fraction of the price of HBO fights. It's not looking any better for the boxing giant.
Greenburg is gone, HBO boxing hasn't been worse, in my opinion, and there are big shoes to fill and a very long road ahead. Let's just hope we get somebody with fortitude and a genuine love of the sport to make the best decisions and, most importantly, the best fights.
Zab Judah vs. Amir Khan
Khan looked awful against southpaw Paul McCloskey in the Spring and isn't the most defensive fighter in the world, but he is tall and long. Judah is going to have to put on a performance we haven't seen from him in years, though he has the speed and the power to pull off the upset. I expect Judah to fade as always and Khan wins a close decision.
Potshot Picks is 18-4 year to date.
(Danny Howard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @DBHoward126, and Facebook.)