“Broadway Boxing” Gets a TV Home of Its Own

BY Eddie Goldman ON April 18, 2006
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The local New York boxing scene took a major leap forward Tuesday with the announcement that its largest show will finally have a local televised home of its own.

“Broadway Boxing”, the series promoted by DiBella Entertainment, will now be televised in the New York metropolitan area on SportsNet New York (SNY), a new network begun just in March of this year which primarily features New York Mets’ games. Previously “Broadway Boxing” had been seen locally on the Madison Square Garden Network. The change takes effect immediately, as the April 20 “Broadway Boxing” show at the Manhattan Center will be shown on tape delay on SNY on Sunday night, April 30.

The switch to SNY was made, according to Lou DiBella, president of DiBella Entertainment, because of what he felt was an overall superior package offered by the new network.

“I think that we’re going to be very, very important to SportsNet New York,” said DiBella following a media conference Tuesday at Gallagher’s Steak House in Manhattan. “They’ve already talked to us about how they’re going to promote us: Putting us on a regular night. Giving us commercial time to promote ticket sales for our fights. Frankly, they offered me a better deal and made us feel like we were more important to them. And I think they’re going to be a great partner.”

“Broadway Boxing” never had a regular timeslot on the MSG Network, and for most fans finding when it was on was quite difficult. Now, according to DiBella, it will be on SNY the second Sunday after the live shows in a two-hour block. “Broadway Boxing” will remain on HDNet in high-definition television, as well as Fox Sports Net New England and Comcast Sportsnet Chicago.

“That was a big issue to me,” DiBella stated. “The fact that I’m going to have a regular home, a regular night, is a big deal for me. And I think that’s going to be much better for our viewers, much better for boxing fans, because you can’t watch it if you can’t find it.”

He also expects good ratings in this new television home. “We were doing terrific ratings when we were all over the place. I think we’re going to do even better ratings now that we have a home,” said DiBella.

Jon Litner, the president of SportsNet New York, whom DiBella said “is an old friend of mine,” agreed that a regular timeslot was essential to this show’s television success

“One of the things we’re going to do is try very hard to program a consistent window on Sunday nights so that fans know where they can find ‘Broadway Boxing’ on SportsNet New York,” said Litner right before the formal media conference began.

Litner explained that the new network had what he called four pillars of programming. The first three include televising as many as 125 Mets games; 230 hours of NFL programming centering around the New York Jets; and three nightly “SportsNite” shows focusing on New York sports news.

“The fourth pillar that we’re focused on is what we call special local New York sports. And ‘Broadway Boxing’ really fits that to a T,” said Litner.

The April 20 show is headlined by a fight between two top international fighters, bantamweight contenders Silence Mabuza (18-1, 15 KOs) of South Africa against Ricardo Vargas (39-11-3, 13 KOs) of Tijuana, Mexico. The co-feature will be an eight-rounder between Brooklyn’s Curtis Stevens (11-0, 10 KOs), a super middleweight, against his most experienced opponent yet, former WBA junior middleweight champ Carl Daniels (49-7-1, 31 KOs). But DiBella stressed that the emphasis on “Broadway Boxing” will remain local.

“Honestly, SportsNet New York wants to provide New York talent, New York sports,” said DiBella. “So for the most part you’ll see Curtis Stevens, Kid Chocolate [Pete Quillin], the New York prospects, Gary ‘Kid’ Stark, Jerson Ravelo. These are the kind of kids that will continue to really dominate the shows. But now and then I want to, for good measure, I want to throw in something special. And that’s what we’re doing Thursday night, and we’ll continue to do more of that.”

He added, “Look, I’ve been losing money on the show. The show’s an investment in New York boxing. The show’s an investment in these fighters, to get them to the level of HBO and Showtime. So I think you’re already seeing high quality stuff. I think you’re going to see more of the same.”

Litner needed little convincing about the appeal of televised boxing.

“I fell in love with boxing during my ABC Sports days when I was helping to program ‘Wide World of Sports’,” he said. “We had a real strong commitment, a great history of doing some great fights.”

Then, as is all too well known, televised boxing was de-emphasized by the networks. “The fact is, the marketplace has sort of taken boxing off of some of the free television and even some of the basic cable, and put it onto pay-per-view. And that’s hurt, I think, the industry, because these fighters need to be exposed,” he stated.

That is where SNY comes in. “So what this is about is really exposing some real, great, young fighters in a town that has a rich, deep history of great fights,” he continued. “So we really are looking forward to working with Lou and really getting into the boxing world in a big way, putting some resources behind it, and bring it to what we think is a very loyal fan base of boxing fans, a really terrific marquee card on Sunday nights where they can enjoy some great fights and really get excited about boxing again.”

Said DiBella, “I just feel like I’m doing what’s best for my fighters and I’m doing what’s best for my company, and I’m really confident that they’re the right partner.” And, he added, “Not to mention the fact, I’m a lifelong Met fan.”

The first telecast will feature behind the microphones two veteran boxing announcers, Bob Papa and Steve Farhood, along with former lightweight contender Brian Adams.

Plus, SNY has a website with more information on it, at http://sny.tv

Also of note is that SNY was set up by some major players in the sports and television worlds. Its founders are Sterling Entertainment Enterprises, a media company formed by the owners of the New York Mets, along with cable and media giants Time Warner and Comcast. That guaranteed it good placement on their cable systems.

On Time Warner Cable in New York City, SNY was assigned channel 26, the first of a five-channel all-sports block including MSG, ESPN and ESPN2, and YES, the Yankees’ network. It bumped Fox Sports New York, owned by Time Warner’s media rivals at Fox, down to channel 79. SNY is also available in upstate New York and Bergen County, NJ, on Time Warner systems, in the New York metropolitan area on Cablevision channel 60, and on Comcast channel 77 in New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as nationally on DirecTV and the Dish Network.

While this is mainly good news so far for boxing fans, some recent actions by some other members of the Time Warner media monster were not.

HB-NO

Saturday’s replay of the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Zab Judah on the Time Warner-owned HBO took place a full week after the original April 8 live pay-per-view showing. That bout’s tenth-round brawl was the subject of a hearing this past Thursday by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which resulted in trainer Roger Mayweather being fined and having his license revoked for at least a year.

The HBO replay, however, devoted less than one minute of coverage to this hearing, and added nothing new to what had been widely reported elsewhere. You would think that with this company’s huge 10-figure profits and media resources that they could provide more than this cheap, skimpy coverage.

For instance, they could have started to analyze exactly who was responsible for the brawl by showing it in slow-motion and still frames. So far most of the blame has been pinned on Roger Mayweather, who did instigate it by entering the ring after Judah’s blatant low blow and rabbit punch against his nephew Floyd Jr. But the tape seemed to show that referee Richard Steele was restraining Roger when Zab’s father and trainer Yoel Judah also charged into the ring and came at him from behind Steele. After this, mayhem ensued. During the brawl, it also appeared that Zab Judah hit Mayweather’s conditioning coach and adviser Leonard Ellerbe from behind.

This brawl has now been shown both live and on tape, and is still being widely discussed in the boxing world. Those with VCR’s or TiVo’s have replayed it themselves. But in the intervening week between the live fight and the replay, HBO offered no new insight into what had transpired.

Also not discussed with the wisdom of hindsight was referee Richard Steele’s missing of a second-round knockdown when, after a punch by Judah, the glove of the off-balance Mayweather touched the canvas (though it is doubtful this would have changed the scoring of round to 10-8 for Judah). Steele also said he missed the rabbit punch thrown by Judah after the low blow. A second look would have also been illuminating.

None of this was reviewed by HBO, so do it yourself it you still have the recording.

By the way, besides the usual nonsense for which HBO deserves all the criticism they get, they are doing at least one thing admirably. In the U.S., Saturday’s Byrd-Klitschko IBF heavyweight title fight from Germany will be shown live on HBO beginning at 5 PM EDT, and replayed later that evening.

SI NYET

Here is what the April 17, 2006, edition of Sports Illustrated wrote about the current heavyweight title picture: “After Sergei Liakhovich took Lamon Brewster's WBO heavyweight title two weeks ago, there are two Russian champions in the division. (Nikolay Valuev owns the WBA belt.) Two more Russians will fight for the WBC and IBF titles later this year.”

Here this Time Warner-owned periodical managed to get the names of the discredited alphabet soup sanctioning bodies handing out their various belts right, while getting the names of the countries from which Liakhovich and the unnamed Wladimir Klitschko and Oleg Maskaev come from wrong.

While Valuev is indeed from Russia, Liakhovich is from the former Soviet republic of Belarus while Klitschko calls Ukraine home and Maskaev was born in Kazakhstan. Identifying them all as Russians not only shows sloppy reporting, poor fact-checking, and unfamiliarity with these fighters, but also ignorance of the history and geography of that region. It is like saying that Ireland is part of England.

How can story lines on these fighters be constructed if those at this supposed leader in sports print journalism don’t even know this? They could, of course, easily check any number of Internet sources to find out the homelands of these fighters, as well as general information on these countries and their histories.

Oh, I forgot. The print guys look down on us Internet shlubs because they are so superior.

Which is why we look down on print – every time we wipe our shoes on their rags, which is the best remaining use for these obsolete forms of media.

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