What is Next for HBO Boxing's Biggest Stars?

Bobby Burack

Boxing’s once most prominent broadcast partner HBO has made the decision to cut ties with the sport. This now leaves several of boxing’s biggest names in search of a new home.

The news both is big but also does not come as a surprise. Throughout the summer there was a spread of rumors that HBO could be getting out the boxing business with the buzz picking back up earlier this month at the Canelo-GGG fight. It has been no secret boxing has become less of a priority for HBO with the product suffering as a result. The premium service has seen many of its top stars leave for the competition. Most recently, Bob Arum’s Top Rank promotion moved to ESPN taking away the two best fighters in the world in Vasyl Lomachenko and Terence Crawford, along with boxing legend Manny Pacquiao. These moves left HBO with main events in September drawing only 349,000 viewers.

The trickle-down effect of HBO’s decision leaves the two biggest names in the sport, Canelo Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, as broadcast free agents.

Seemingly, HBO’s longtime rival Showtime is where Oscar de la Hoya will look to move Canelo. Canelo is the biggest PPV draw boxing has today and the margin is not even close (after Floyd Mayweather, anyway; Mayweather is currently “retired” but everyone expects a rematch with Pacquaio soon). As things sit now, Showtime is the only network broadcasting fights on PPV. Showtime has recently pulled away as the network with the best roster and is the destination that would provide Canelo/De La Hoya with the greatest fights, opportunities, and promotion. With that said, it is hard to envision ESPN, DAZN, and FOX not also going after him aggressively.

GGG’s landing spot is much harder to predict. Boxing writer Dan Rafael stated before this news that he could see ESPN becoming GGG’s next partner.  It must be noted, GGG is exactly the splashy name DAZN needs to get their business into the mainstream. From a competitive standpoint, if Canelo ends up with Showtime, a trilogy fight with GGG would be big money for all three sides.

On the broadcasting side, Jim Lampley is expected to remain with HBO, but Max Kellerman is not. Before this news came down, it had to be wondered if ESPN would prefer to move Kellerman – when they could – to their Top Rank coverage. ESPN is locked in long-term with Top Rank, and it would only seem logical they would want Kellerman – the best at the position – on their coverage vs. a now competitor. In addition, Top Rank was previously seen on HBO, making Kellerman the foremost authority on their talents. Kellerman is still under contract with HBO.

Overall, this is a sad day for boxing to see the network once synonymous with it now choose to give it up. From a positive spin, the fewer networks competing will increase the likelihood that more marquee matchups are seen and seen faster. At this point, all eyes will be on where HBO’s former biggest stars land.