Three Punch Combo: The Future of Boxing on HBO and More

THREE PUNCH COMBO — Many have been writing HBO’s obituary in terms of its involvement in boxing. However, HBO is not going anywhere anytime soon though its presence in boxing may not be what it was in the past. A couple of announcements made in recent weeks signified not only HBO’s continued involvement in the sport but a possible new direction for the cable company in terms of its boxing coverage.

A few weeks back, HBO announced it would be broadcasting the 118-pound unification fight on tape delay from Belfast between Ryan Burnett (17-0, 9 KO’s) and Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-1, 18 KO’s) as part of the network’s Boxing After Dark telecast on October 21st. It seemed to be a very random fight to pick up for HBO which doesn’t often dabble in smaller international bouts.

More recently HBO announced it had signed 160 pound contender Daniel Jacobs to an exclusive broadcast deal. Jacobs, who also formally announced he was signing with promoter Eddie Hearn, is now potentially in line for big fights with the network. It is also of note that it is Hearn’s company that is putting on the show in Belfast on October 21st.

The dots are starting to connect. I think HBO is lining up with Hearn to begin to showcase more international contests. Often times these bouts, some of which are very significant in the sport, do not find a U.S. television home. HBO sees an opportunity in light of Top Rank leaving the network and is probably looking to get more involved in the international market.

In regards to the Jacobs signing, it is worth noting that Jacobs also confirmed that Al Haymon is still serving as his advisor. As I have written before, both Haymon and HBO need each other. The ban of Haymon appears to have been somewhat loosened and we can expect to see some more Haymon fighters trickle to the network in the coming months.

HBO’s involvement in boxing may be scaled back somewhat from what it was in the past, but down the road the network will still be a major player in the sport.

Could Miguel Cotto Be Planning a Surprise For His Finale?

Miguel Cotto has stated on several occasions that 2017 will be his last year in boxing. He sounds sincere in this desire and the plans are underway for a final fight in December. But who will Cotto fight? The rumors are out there but none of the rumored foes seems to make much sense for him. In the last few years, we have seen a few fights seemingly come out of nowhere to unexpectedly happen. Could Cotto’s final fight follow that pattern?

Cotto was ringside for the bout earlier this month between Gennady Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Cotto’s presence at ringside appeared to be an attempt to entice the winner into a December fight. However, as we all know there was no official winner in that contest. Further, Alvarez does not appear willing to come back in December and instead stick with his timeframe to return in May. As for Golovkin, he will probably opt to abide by Alvarez’s timeframe to secure the rematch and gain the unification of belts he so badly desires at 160, not to mention the substantial payday for the rematch. So neither Alvarez nor Golovkin seem realistic for Cotto in December.

David Lemieux has been prominently mentioned as a future opponent. Lemieux is a name and aligned with Golden Boy who also promotes Cotto so such a fight would be easy to put together. However, in his later years Cotto has been very particular in selecting opponents and Lemieux does not fit the profile. Lemieux is a big 160 pounder who seems soon destined for 168 and Cotto comfortably comes in at 154. Lemieux’s size would undoubtedly be an issue for Cotto. We all know Cotto famously has negotiated catch weights when facing 160 pounders in the past. But Lemieux seems to be pushing to get to 160 and probably could not go any lower. The fight just does not seem plausible.

There are a couple names from 147 who could make sense for Cotto in December. One is Amir Khan. Khan is seemingly only seeking big fights at this point in his career. In 2016, Khan’s team surprisingly worked out a deal with Golden Boy to fight Alvarez. So there is history between Khan and Golden Boy. From Cotto’s perspective, Khan is a small 154 pounder who is coming off a knockout loss but still carries plenty of name value. It would be an easy fight to sell and a much bigger payday than a Lemieux fight. In addition, it is an easier fight on paper for Cotto.

Khan is not the only surprise name I think is in the running to face Cotto in December. The other is Jeff Horn. This one is a little more complicated as Cotto and Horn promoter Top Rank are not necessarily on great terms. But they are familiar with each other and both may need one another which could bring this bout together. Horn of course won a controversial decision against Manny Pacquiao in July and though a rematch with Pacquiao initially seemed likely, Pacquiao for the time being is taking a breather from the sport. Horn has momentum but needs to fight a relevant name to keep that momentum going. Enter Cotto and the December date.

Jeff Horn became an overnight star with his win against Pacquiao and has the name value Cotto is seeking in an opponent. But Horn showed plenty of flaws in that Pacquiao fight. Cotto may see him as ripe for the picking. Plus, beating the man who beat Pacquiao would give Cotto some satisfaction in his career finale. A Cotto-Horn match makes a lot of sense for both men if boxing politics can be overcome.

What’s Next For Oscar Valdez and Gilberto Ramirez?

Oscar Valdez (23-0, 19 KO’s) got off the deck and escaped with a unanimous decision victory against Genesis Servania (29-1, 12 KO’s) this past Friday in a 126-pound title fight. On the same card, Gilberto Ramirez (36-0, 24 KO’s) made a successful defense of his 168-pound belt with a close but unanimous decision over Jesse Hart (22-1, 18 KO’s) in a fan friendly fight. So where do Valdez and Ramirez go from here? The landscape of their respective weight classes, as well as their recent performances, shows a map as to how they will be moved in the near future.

For the second straight fight, Valdez got hit a lot more than was anticipated and was dragged into more of a shootout than his people would have liked to see. The talent is evident for Valdez but he needs to tighten up some aspects of his game. In particular, some serious defensive flaws need to be corrected. As such and also given the recent wars he has been involved in, I expect Valdez’s team to scale back the quality of his opponents in the near future. This will allow the young Valdez to continue to develop and preserve his body after some tougher than expected fights.

The 126-pound weight class is loaded and Valdez will be involved in some major fights down the road, but he is still raw and in need of more ring experience. One such possibility that Top Rank CEO Bob Arum has mentioned is a bout with Carl Frampton. A bout between Valdez and Frampton could conceivably take place in 2018 after each has had a tune-up contest.

Ramirez has a different issue. There are currently several top 168 pound fighters tied into the World Boxing Super Series. Boxing politics may also eliminate several other opponents. With not many options, Ramirez and his team may have to get creative. One possible option could be Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Chavez was recently rumored to be fighting Anthony Dirrell in November but those rumors have been put to rest for the moment. A fight between Ramirez and Chavez would be big for Mexico and no doubt a big ticket seller at any venue with a large Mexican-American base.

Both Ramirez and Chavez are at the point in their respective careers where they need a high stakes crossroads-type fight to propel their future endeavors in the sport. Plus, it would be good money for both and for Ramirez his biggest payday. I expect Top Rank to at the very least explore the possibility. If Ramirez were to win against Chavez, and Ramirez would be favored, he would then be well positioned to face the winner of the World Boxing Super Series 168- pound tournament.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

To comment on this article at The Fight Forum, CLICK HERE.