Last July, I wrote about HBO's plans to launch a prospect-oriented boxing series on its HBO2 platform.
Promoters Lou DiBella, Gary Shaw and Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer, along with then-HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg, signed the paperwork to create a monthly tripleheader (probably a four- or six-rounder followed by 10- or 12-round bouts) for about $150,000 per show.
The show was originally delayed until January and now has been canceled altogether. Obviously, Ken Hershman, the new HBO Sports boss who replaced Greenburg -- who was forced to resign last summer -- didn't want to go forward with the series.
But he still had obligations to the promoters for the money they would have received for a year's worth of cards under the deal. That has now seemingly been worked out, and the promoters will get lower-priced "Boxing After Dark" shows to make up for the license fees they would have gotten for the now-dead (and unnamed) series.
The first of these "makeup" shows looks promising. DiBella will put on a Sept. 29 tripleheader from the Foxwoods resort in Mashantucket, Conn., that will feature some of his most promising fighters: super middleweight Edwin Rodriguez and junior featherweight Luis "Orlandito" Del Valle and probably light heavyweight Isaac Chilemba.
"There's a need to build some new blood," DiBella said. "HBO is doing what they promised they'd do, but in a different way. This is like a rising stars card, where the matches all look good on paper and should have action, and there's a chance for a prospect to make his mark."
Rodriguez (21-0, 14 KOs), 27, who outpointed Donovan George in his HBO debut in March, will fight in the main event, largely because he is from nearby Worcester, Mass., and will bring a crowd. He'll face New Jersey's Jason Escalera (13-0-1, 12 KOs), also 27.
Escalera has never faced anyone close to Rodriguez's caliber, so I'm far more intrigued by the undercard bouts.
DiBella said the deal is done for Puerto Rico's Del Valle (16-0, 11 KOs), 25, to face former junior bantamweight and flyweight champion Vic Darchinyan (37-5-1, 27 KOs). Darchinyan, 36, has lost two in a row at bantamweight and is moving up in weight, but he is very experienced, packs a punch, usually is in entertaining fights and has nothing to lose. He is Del Valle's best opponent -- by far.
"Del Valle-Darchinyan, it's a war," DiBella said. "The thing I love about Edwin and Orlandito is, they're great TV fighters because they can't help themselves to engage even though they don't have to. But it's who they are. They put themselves in danger, and it makes it fun to watch. Orlandito is a little beast. We know Darchinyan is a warrior. He never makes a bad fight.
"If Orlandito passes the test, he emerges as a legitimate challenger for [titleholder] Nonito Donaire. Orlandito against [former titlist] Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., if Vazquez beats Rafael Marquez in August in Puerto Rico, is a big fight. [Top Rank's Bob] Arum and I have already talked about that fight."
DiBella is working to finalize the third fight -- South Africa's 25-year-old Chilemba (19-1-1, 9 KOs) against former light heavyweight and cruiserweight titlist Zsolt Erdei (33-0, 18 KOs), who's a bit older (38) and hasn't fought in a year but is regarded as one of the best at 175 pounds. Chilemba is coming off a career-best win against Edison Miranda, whom he outpointed in February on "Friday Night Fights."
DiBella said he tried to work out a deal with British promoter Frank Maloney to have heavyweight prospect David Price (13-0, 11 KOs), a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist and perhaps England's best heavyweight hope, appear on the show, but it didn't work out.
Shaw is supposed to get his version of a "rising stars" card in October, and could feature welterweight sensation Thomas Dulorme (15-0, 12 KOs) of Puerto Rico.