When Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, with encouragement from stepson and Top Rank president Todd duBoef, took pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao from HBO to rival Showtime for his May 7 pay-per-view fight against Shane Mosley, it was a shocking development in the business of boxing -- one that eventually led to the ouster of HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg last month.
Three weeks after Greenburg's forced resignation, Arum said Friday he had decided to bring Pacquiao back to HBO after several weeks spent analyzing proposals from HBO and Showtime, who were competing for Pacquiao's next fight.
The deal means HBO PPV, long the industry leader in big boxing events, will produce and distribute Pacquiao's welterweight title defense against fierce rival Juan Manuel Marquez on Nov. 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Pacquiao (53-3-2, 38 KOs), who is 1-0-1 against Marquez (53-5-1, 39 KOs) in a pair of unforgettable fights with controversial decisions, had fought all of his major fights either on HBO or HBO PPV until the Mosley bout.
HBO PPV also has the fall's other major event, the Sept. 17 return of Floyd Mayweather Jr. to face welterweight titlist Victor Ortiz.
"In boxing we talk about great fighters coming back after a loss. Well, HBO came back just like a great fighter," duBoef, a key architect of the deal, told ESPN.com. "They came back from being on the canvas. They made their adjustments and came back and won the fight. You have to give them a lot of credit."
Since Pacquiao's lopsided win against Mosley, HBO and Showtime were both after Pacquiao-Marquez III.
"We're thrilled that Manny Pacquiao's Nov. 12 fight with Juan Manuel Marquez will be presented by HBO Pay-Per-View," HBO spokesman Ray Stallone said in a statement. "We look forward to working with Top Rank on this special event."
Showtime, of course, was disappointed with the decision, but taking it in stride.
"The Pacquiao-Mosley fight re-established Showtime as a major player in the pay-per-view arena and we look forward to future opportunities with Top Rank and the other promoters in boxing," Showtime spokesman Chris DeBlasio told ESPN.com. "Right now we remain focused on a huge slate of sports programming we have lined for the fall."
DuBoef said he personally notified HBO co-presidents Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo by telephone on Friday afternoon to tell them Top Rank was accepting their proposal. He also said he made the call to Showtime Sports chief Ken Hershman to tell him about the decision.
"I'm absolutely sick. This has been a physically and mentally very grueling process," duBoef said. "But it's invigorating to see how two major media companies have used incredible resources and assets to show how much they want to be involved in a boxing match.
"Showtime was disappointed and I'm disappointed. You're disappointed when someone puts in a terrific proposal and then you have to tell them they're not good enough because someone came across with a better one, a more appealing map for this fight. It was a tough call to make, especially when you've built relationships. I felt it was appropriate to be truthful and up front with Ken. I couldn't sleep last night. I'm disappointed I had to leave somebody that I have a lot of respect for. The proposals (both networks) put together were fantastic. They were unprecedented. I've never seen anything like it. When you have that it is very difficult to make your decision. I wish both could have distributed the fight."
Arum took Pacquiao away from HBO in the first place because he was looking for a broader platform on which to promote Pacquiao, the Filipino icon and boxing's biggest global star. Arum had hoped he could convince Greenburg to bring in the numerous other platforms at the disposal of Time Warner, HBO's parent company, to help promote the event and boxing. But Greenburg, who resigned July 17 after more than 30 years at HBO, steadfastly refused to entertain the idea, causing Arum to look elsewhere.
He found a willing partner in Showtime, a sister network of CBS, which put its considerable resources behind marketing Pacquiao-Mosley. CBS aired numerous commercial spots during NCAA basketball tournament games and episodes of Showtime's "Fight Camp 360" reality series following the build up to the fight in primetime.
"One of the things that motivated me personally (to make the HBO deal) is the attitude of Plepler and Lombardo," Arum told ESPN.com. "I think they are extremely bright guys and have the same vision that we have to make boxing big-time again and a desire to elevate it on a world stage. With this deal, they brought to bear all the resources of the Time Warner empire.
"HBO can do only so much because of the limited audience it has. I can tell when people are extremely motivated and will put the time and effort in and to have them behind it and working with us on a day-to-day basis, along with the HBO staff, like (HBO PPV chief) Mark Taffet, it will be a home run."
Arum said the deal was for only one fight.
"We're not tying ourselves to anyone," he said. "Let's see how this goes. But I have very high hopes that it will be a blockbuster."
Arum said the goal is not only to do big pay-per-view numbers, but to bring boxing more into the mainstream. With Showtime and CBS marketing Pacquiao-Mosley, it generated about 1.3 million buys, according to Arum -- the most ever for a Pacquiao fight.
Besides the usual promotional tools HBO would typically use for a fight -- including the "24/7" reality series following the buildup, "Face Off With Max Kellerman" and replays of classic Pacquiao and Marquez fights -- Arum said the fight would be promoted across Time Warner's numerous platforms, which includes television networks (such as HBO, TNT, TBS and CNN), magazines (Sports Illustrated and People) and the websites for those outlets. They will be heavily utilized, Arum said. Among the plans, according to Arum and duBoef:
" CNN will show replays of "24/7" episodes.
" Arum and Pacquiao will appear for a joint interview on Piers Morgan's primetime CNN show as well as be interviewed on CNN international programming.
" The fight will be promoted during TBS' coverage of the Major League Baseball playoffs.
" If the NBA lockout is lifted, the fight would also be promoted during TNT's basketball coverage.
" There will be daily coverage of fight-week activities on HBO, including the final news conference and weigh-in.
"Being on shows on CNN, to me, is elevating the sport to new levels," Arum said. "To have the fight discussed on programs that intellectual elites watch is good for the brand. Time Warner is also going to pull out all the stops on their sports programs on TNT and TBS."
Said duBoef: "The currency of these deals isn't about the dollars. It was the currency of who could get my product out to the most eyeballs. It was an analysis. I didn't just do it on a gut feeling. I went through this very strategically and we had it analyzed. At the end of the day, it was HBO, Time Warner who had a better deal across the board."
Initially, Arum said whichever company got the rights to Pacquiao-Marquez III would also get the Dec. 3 Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito rematch, another major fight. HBO PPV did their initial fight in 2008 while Showtime PPV did Cotto's win against Ricardo Mayorga in March.
Arum said he eventually changed his mind about making the two fights a package deal.
"Showtime still has a position on the Cotto fight because they did the last one, so Monday we'll start talking to them," Arum said. "When Todd and I had further discussions and we realized that it wasn't the most advantageous thing to do, to make a package deal. Showtime did such a great job for us on the last Pacquiao fight and it would be important and good for the sport for Showtime to stay involved in these major pay-per-view fights. So if Showtime meets certain proposals that we're going to make, and we get the support we need from them, then it behooves everybody to go with them. That way we keep more people and entities involved and it's great for the sport.
"I don't want to go back to the situation where there is one entity doing all the major pay-per-views and that entity does the same thing over and over and gets into this narrow box, which I felt the pay-per-views were in because they had been successful and we kept repeating the same thing over and over again. That is not a way to grow a sport. You grow it by being innovative and having competition and new ideas."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.