I have been hammering this theme of late, maybe because I’ve been caught up in a wave of change that our new President has ushered in. We keyboard tappers are unafraid to be muckrakers, to clamor about fightgame injustices that offend our sense of fairplay and our desire for standards of decency in the red light district of sports. With so much muck to rake, we can get caught up in a swirl of negativity, and forget to be similarly passionate about the positive aspects of the sport, and the professionals who are doing it right. With that in mind, I must offer a tip of the TSS cap to the crew in Showtime’s boxing department. They hosted a media lunch at the Palm in NYC on Friday afternoon, and the gesture spoke volumes. Sure, in this economy, a free lunch is an awesome thing. But I mean the fact that boxing chief Ken Hershman, executive producer Gordon Hall, producer Richard Gaughan, announcers Steve Farhood and Nick Charles, and publicists Chris DeBlasio and Anne Vantornhout all sat down a bunch of keyboard tappers, and engaged in a roundtable bull session. The gesture signified that they want feedback, they want to improve, they want to be communicators, they don’t want to rule from an ivory tower, and act like they are too good for the punters.
We got a few news tidbits, too, along with a kickaxe Caesar salad and solid filet. First, Hershman said he is trying hard to get boxing on CBS. The CBS Corporation owns Showtime, and CBS, so he has an inside track and a hold on the ears of some influencers who could make that happen. It’s not an easy sell, as it is typically more lucrative for a network to put on a repeat of one of their scripted dramas, which are expensive to produce, and which they want to wring every ounce of juice out of. But Hershman seems hellbent on getting the sweet science onto network TV. “It’s a top priority,” he said.
Most all in the room agreed that that pay per view model doesn’t showcase the sport of kings to a new generation of fans, and that the core fanbase of boxing is aging, and in danger of going extinct, because too many of the sport’s drivers have paid too much attention to fattening their bottom line, instead of offering solid product for a fair price.
Promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events was also present. She shed some needed light on the difficulties for promoters, who so often loom as tempting whipping posts for us keyboard tappers. Duva pointed out that many boxers have guaranteed contracts, and so that means promoters have to maximize revenue, to meet those guarantees, so we get some of these less-than-stellar PPVs which force fight fans to hand over too much money to their cable company. One Duva point especially hit home--all of us can agree that we want fighters taking the risk to earn a damn fine living. So that means promoters sometimes have to do a PPV, to get a fight on TV, so they can sell foreign rights, and make a profit, which usually isn’t as much as some of us might think, after deducting production costs, and monies paid out to commissions, and sanctioning bodies and state taxes.
Duva said that she’ll continue to stage shows in Newark. Jersey and Jersey area fight fans will likely turn out in healthy numbers for her April 24 card, which will feature John Duddy against foe TBD (TV will consist of a Duva-sponsored production to be shown on the Bar Network, which is basically a closed circuit feed in US taverns, and a delayed showing on a cable channel, like MSG).
Duva said matchmaker Russell Peltz is narrowing down a list of opponents, and will put Duddy, in line for a title crack real soon if he keeps winning, in tough.
Fight fans should be pumped to see prospects like Ronald Hearns (vs. Harry Joe Yorgey) and Yuri Gamboa (vs TBD in April) get stiffer tests on Showtime as we move deeper into The Year of Boxing 2009.
Another bonus: I do believe I made some headway in eliminating one of my main pet peeves. I’ve long wanted Showtime to use some sort of punchstat system on their shows, and Hershman said that is being considered. “We are working on a system,” Hershman said. I concede that counting punches is no exact science, but this is the age of stats, and fantasy sports, and I like to cite the punches thrown and landed stat for readers, as one element they can use to help them decide who won a tight fight. Like when we saw that John landed 150 more punches than Juarez…
Gaughan’s stock rose in my eyes as he sat down with me after the lunch and picked my brain on why I think a punch-count add would be a net plus for the network. Imagine that--a producer listening to someone with a passion and knowledge for the sport, someone who is tapped in to what the fans want?
I’ve said this before and reiterate, we tappers aren’t afraid to point out the people and organizations that are bumbling, and we can’t be afraid to engage in some back patting, either. I like the job this Showtime crew does; I like their regard for the sport, and the pride they have in their brand. Hauser has done a superlative job shaming HBO into cutting down on their record padding fare, and table setting bouts, with an eye to future pay per views. They’ve responded to the criticism well. Showtime doesn’t need that internet caning. Keep it up guys, and you’ll keep on getting the honey treatment, instead of the vinegar bath.