Boxing: TV networks have the ring boxed in

In modern boxing, television rules by

usurping traditional promoters to fulfil

the matchmaking role.

EVENTS OF last week serve to illustrate a shift in the balance of power at the business end of boxing. Last Wednesday's New York Daily News revealed that Naseem Hamed's next defence of the World Boxing Organisation featherweight championship would be against Wayne McCullough, the Las Vegas-based Ulsterman and former bantamweight champion, in Las Vegas, on 31 October. As of last Friday, spokespersons for Hamed's promoter, Frank Warren, were denying that this was the case.

The "leak" was attributed to the American subscription TV company Home Box Office, with whom Hamed signed a six-fight deal late last year. The announcement having emanated from the Avenue of the Americas, Manhattan, rather than Warren's Hertfordshire HQ is further cause for consternation among boxing's traditional business community.

The transatlantic discrepancy underlines the fact that in modern boxing, the TV network increasingly attempts to assume the role of matchmaker, usurping promoters such as Warren, whose legal war with his former partner Don King erupted as a result of Warren taking Hamed away from King's exclusive American subscription TV outlet, Showtime, and signing with their bitter rivals in the ratings war.

Beyond dispute, HBO, which provides the bulk of the financial backing for both Hamed and Lennox Lewis, the World Boxing Council heavyweight champion, is the most powerful force in contemporary boxing.

The network's parent company, Time Warner Sports, spent about $60m on boxing last year, with the bulk of that budget going on HBO's two boxing shows, Championship Boxing and Boxing After Dark, plus the network's pay- per-view presentations, transmitted under the "TVKO" banner.

Boxing serves the network well. Some 6.5 to 10 per cent of HBO's 25 million subscribers regularly tune in to the network's boxing programming. The TV executives appear to have decided that the future of the sport can no longer be entrusted to its traditional guardians.

In charge of the day-to-day running of HBO boxing is Lou DiBella, a 38- year-old Brooklynite who graduated from Harvard Law School but decided that a career with Sullivan & Cromwell, a prominent Wall Street law firm, was not for him. His stance is unequivocal.

"Promoters are generally the biggest obstacle to big fights occurring, and the only way to overcome that obstacle is to throw money at them," said DiBella. "Frankly, we do that for the good of the sport - we throw money at it. Promoters don't often want to make the big fight. They're concerned about options: `I have x-amount of dollars sunk into this guy, I want to make x-amount out of him. Why should I fight another promoter's fighter'?''

DiBella also has harsh words for the proliferation of self-appointed sanctioning bodies in boxing, describing them as "horrendous jokes that are cancers on the sport".

"But right now, the reason Evander Holyfield-Lennox Lewis isn't happening is because the promoter of Holyfield [King] is not going to risk his last major asset when he doesn't have Lennox Lewis," DiBella claims. "The public doesn't give a rat's ass about Holyfield-Vaughn Bean or Lennox v Zeljko Mavrovic [September's mandatory defences by the respective heavyweight champions] either. But we're forced to take these mandatory fights and they're terrible."

HBO's tradition of helping facilitate the fights that matter dates back to the mid-1980s and the heavyweight tournament that saw Mike Tyson emerge as unified heavyweight champion and the sport's biggest and, despite numerous misdemeanours, most enduring star.

"That Mike Tyson remains a bigger draw and moneymaker than Evander Holyfield bothers me," said DiBella.

"I look up to and admire Evander Holyfield; I consider him to be the epitome of a champion, and he should be on a pedestal, not Mike Tyson.

"It's unfortunate that our society is what it is, but it's not boxing, it's not sports, it's our society. Bad boys make better print."

But DiBella has faith in the ability of Hamed and Oscar De La Hoya, the World Boxing Council welterweight champion and boxing's current biggest draw, to "transcend the boxing fan to the general sports fan", as only Tyson has appeared capable of doing over the past decade.

"De La Hoya has tremendous crossover appeal and he's a real good kid as well as a tremendous fighter," he said. "We love Oscar. He's our shining star.

"Naseem? Generation X. MTV. Tremendous talent, tremendous firepower, tremendous flair. Real nice kid if you get to know him, too. Arrogant, cocky, but not mean- spirited."

DiBella terms Hamed the "first fighter of the 21st century", a century in which the television executive per se will doubtless exert yet further control over boxing, which might be no bad thing. As DiBella says: "Our interest is aligned with the boxing fan. We're in the business of television. We couldn't possibly have a motive other than making the biggest fights with the greatest public interest."

And that's what boxing desperately needs.

News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art

The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Middleware Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Java Developer/Designer

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...

Domino Developer and Administrator

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Domino ...

General Cover Teacher

£26000 - £27000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: NQT's and experienced Cov...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?