Sunday, February 8, 2009
HBO bests Showtime in bid for bout
By Dan Rafael
Although there was a month of drama during the topsy-turvy negotiations between junior welterweight champ Ricky Hatton and pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao, eventually both fighters signed in late January for the biggest fight of 2009, which will take place May 2 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Getting the fighters to sign was, of course, the critical element to making the fight. But one significant matter remained, and that was for the promoters to decide which network, HBO or rival Showtime, would gain the rights to produce, distribute and brand the pay-per-view fight.
Now, that matter is also settled. HBO, the industry leader in pay-per-view boxing, will do the fight, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN.com Sunday night.
"That is correct. HBO has the fight. HBO will do the pay-per-view," Arum said.
The deal was closed Friday, Arum said.
Arum, who promotes Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KOs), and Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, who promotes Hatton (45-1, 32 KOs), had also been weighing an offer from Showtime, which brought the considerable muscle of sister network CBS to its proposal.
Arum has been infatuated with the idea of having a broadcast network such as CBS involved in the marketing and promotion of the fight. He said part of the proposed deal with Showtime -- which hasn't been seriously involved in the pay-per-view business for several years -- was that CBS would run weekend preview shows in the weeks leading up the fight.
However, Arum also recognized that HBO has helped him and Golden Boy put on many of the sport's biggest fights. Schaefer also thought HBO's deal was better, Arum said.
"Richard and I are partners on this fight and a partnership is a partnership," Arum said. "One guy [Schaefer] feels strongly one way and the other guy [Arum] feels less strongly the other way, so you compromise. We made our arguments to each other and we decided to go with HBO.
"It's been resolved and I agreed to the deal. Nobody put a gun to my head. I know what HBO can do, but I thought it was a marvelous opportunity to take boxing in a new direction by getting [the fight promoted] on network television."
But with the fighters sharing at least $24 million in purse money, which Arum and Schaefer are responsible for, they decided to go with HBO.
"The fact is, HBO has a tremendous pay-per-view infrastructure. There is no question about it," Schaefer said last week, before the deal was finalized. "No disrespect to Showtime, but HBO is the leading platform when it comes to boxing on pay-per-view. It's as simple as that. When you do a fight the magnitude of Hatton-Pacquiao, it would be ill-advised for the fighters and promoters not to do it on the leading platform."
Arum said part of the deal cut with HBO includes another edition of its hit reality series "24/7," which will follow the build up to the fight and have inside access to the training camps of each fighter.
Pacquiao and Hatton both have made huge scores working with HBO PPV. In Hatton's only pay-per-view fight in the United States, his 2007 welterweight title challenge against Floyd Mayweather Jr. generated 910,000 buys. Pacquiao's Dec. 6 annihilation of Oscar De La Hoya generated 1.25 million buys, making it the eighth biggest-selling pay-per-view in history.
Arum said the media tour promoting the fight will kick off March 1 in Hatton's hometown of Manchester, England, before moving to London. Stops in New York and Los Angeles will follow, Arum said.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.