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Sunday, July 17, 2011
Updated: July 20, 8:47 PM ET
Ross Greenburg resigns from HBO

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Ross Greenburg, who as president of HBO Sports was regarded as the most powerful person in the boxing business, resigned from the network under pressure Sunday despite having several months remaining on his multi-million dollar contract.

"We believe that Ross' track record speaks for itself," HBO co-presidents Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo said in a joint statement given to ESPN.com, confirming his departure, which has been in the works for months. "He has helped redefine the sports programming genre and set an extraordinary standard of excellence in the industry. We will miss his leadership, vision, creativity and passion for sports television."

No replacement was announced, although Lombardo, who has been directly involved in some of the network's recent boxing decisions, is likely to oversee the department temporarily until a permanent replacement is hired.

In his role, Greenburg presided over the largest budget in televised boxing -- around $35 million a year to buy fights. That made him a kingmaker as he could decide which fighters and promoters would get the network's powerful backing.

Greenburg's downfall can be traced in large part to HBO losing Manny Pacquiao, boxing's biggest star, when Top Rank promoter Bob Arum made a deal to take him to rival Showtime for his May 7 fight with Shane Mosley. All of Pacquiao's previous major fights had taken place on HBO or HBO PPV.

One of the reasons Arum said he made the deal with Showtime and its sister network, CBS, was because his relationship with Greenburg had badly deteriorated over the past few years. Greenburg had not informed Plepler or Lombardo that there was a strong possibility that the network could lose Pacquiao until it was too late.

In January, after Arum completed the Pacquiao-Mosley deal with Showtime, Greenburg downplayed its significance, saying, "I'm over it" and that Pacquiao going to Showtime wouldn't "upset HBO's positioning as the premier boxing network. That's what we pride ourselves on, and we'll continue to look for the best fighters in the world. If they're in the same division, then we'll match them up. That's what the public expects us to do, and that's what we'll continue to do. ... It's a one-fight deal. We'll see what happens after the fight."

It may very well be a one-fight deal because Arum is weighing proposals from HBO and Showtime for Pacquiao's Nov. 12 pay-per-view fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, but it will be too late for Greenburg if Arum brings him back to HBO.

Greenburg did not respond to a voicemail or email message seeking comment. He did, however, speak to the New York Times. He denied that he was forced out and again downplayed the impact of losing Pacquiao.

"That's a silly rationale. That added to my angst, but one fight doesn't determine whether I stayed or didn't stay," he told the paper.

Greenburg, 56, was with HBO for 33 years, beginning as a production assistant in 1978 and working his way up to executive producer before being named president of HBO Sports -- whose flagship franchise is boxing -- in September 2000 to replace Seth Abraham. Greenburg also oversaw HBO PPV, which produces and distributes most of boxing's biggest pay-per-view fights.

Greenburg, who has won dozens of Sports Emmy awards, also helped create several successful HBO Sports series, including "24/7," which follows the build-up to major fights; "Hard Knocks," the football training camp reality series; sports news magazine series "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" and countless sports-related documentaries. It was also on Greenburg's watch that HBO PPV oversaw the biggest pay-per-view in history, Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s win against Oscar De La Hoya, which generated nearly 2.5 million buys in May 2007.

The last project that Greenburg worked on was an upcoming documentary on New York Yankees star Derek Jeter's chase of 3,000 hits.

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.