- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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There have been some updates to the upcoming HBO calendar, including a surprise.
HBO, which has ignored heavyweight champion brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko in recent years other than their most marquee fights -- Wladimir’s lopsided win against David Haye last summer and Vitali’s dominant knockout of Tomasz Adamek last fall -– has bought the American television rights to Vitali’s next fight.
That comes as a surprise, considering the network’s general disinterest in the Klitschkos. But when Vitali Klitschko (44-2, 40 KOs) defends his title against little-known and untested Manuel Charr (21-0, 11 KOs) on Sept. 8 in Moscow, HBO will run the fight on same-day tape delay as the opening bout to what is now a “World Championship Boxing” tripleheader.
The main event, of course, is one of the most notable fights in boxing, super middleweight champion Andre Ward defending the title in his hometown of Oakland, Calif., against light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson, who is dropping down in weight. The co-feature pits lightweight titlist Antonio DeMarco against hard-punching contender John Molina Jr.
The addition of the heavyweight title fight, according to the network, simply makes for a big night of boxing. That’s hard to argue with, although if that’s the case, it makes you wonder why other, more interesting Klitschko fights were ignored. But HBO will probably draw a bigger audience with the addition of a heavyweight title fight, and it is doing everything it can to draw attention to the Ward-Dawson main event that it is so heavily invested in.
The other changes:
• HBO said on Monday that the “Boxing After Dark” doubleheader headlined by middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin has been moved from Aug. 25 to Sept. 1. Golovkin is still in need of an opponent following the withdrawal last week of Dmitry Pirog, who ruptured a disc in his back during training.
With the date switching, so too could the site, which was supposed to be the Edgewater Casino Resort in Laughlin, Nev. Among the names being discussed as a possible opponent for Golovkin (23-0, 20 KOs) are European middleweight titlist Grzegorz Proksa (28-1, 21 KOs) and junior middleweight contender Vanes Martirosyan (32-0, 20 KOs).
Former junior middleweight titlist Sergiy Dzinziruk (37-1, 23 KOs) fights prospect Jonathan Gonzalez (15-0, 13 KOs) in the co-feature.
• After Marcos Maidana declined to face Keith Thurman in a welterweight bout scheduled to open the “Boxing After Dark” card headlined by junior lightweight titlist Adrien Broner (23-0, 19 KOs) against Vicente Escobedo (26-3, 15 KOs) in Cincinnati on Saturday night, HBO and Golden Boy were left with only a couple of weeks to find a replacement to face Thurman (17-0, 16 KOs). In my view, Thurman, an untested prospect, should never have been put in an HBO fight yet in the first place. That’s no knock on Thurman, it’s just that he hadn’t come close to earning that lofty position yet because, despite his impressive-looking record, he has fought absolutely nobody of remote consequence.
In any event, the best HBO and Golden Boy could do was come up with Orlando Lora (29-2-2, 19 KOs), who is 1-1-1 in his last three, including a one-sided loss to Paulie Malignaggi in October. Thurman-Lora simply doesn’t come close to the quality subscribers expect from an HBO fight. But it just further illustrates the immense power that Al Haymon, who manages Thurman (and Broner), wields at HBO. I dare say that nobody else in the business could have gotten the network to buy Thurman in the first place, much less keep him on for this sort of throw away fight when the A-side (Maidana) fell out.