Top Rank-ESPN Deal On Series Of Fights Could See Promoter Part Ways With HBO
Top Rank Boxing and ESPN have been "engaged in talks for months on a new deal that will see Top Rank's best and brightest stars" featured on the net, according to sources cited by Mike Coppinger of RING TV. It is unclear whether some fights "will be telecast on ABC," but sources "suggested it's a possibility." The first fight as part of the deal would be the Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn bout on July 1 in Brisbane, Australia, which ESPN has announced will air on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. The "second show is slated for Aug. 5 and could feature" the Vasyl Lomachenko-Orlando Salido rematch. Sources said that HBO "offered an undisclosed license fee for the rights to televise" Pacquiao-Horn but was "turned down" by Top Rank. ESPN is "expected to have approval over matchups, much the way HBO and Showtime retains quality control." The series is expected to bring around "seven shows to ESPN/ABC this year, with a minimum of 18 more coming" in '18. It is unknown whether Top Rank is "permanently severing ties" with HBO after more than 35 years. Top Rank Chair Bob Arum "has bristled at HBO's lack of dates for years." Also as part of the ESPN deal, Top Rank is expected to "roll out an over-the-top network ... where fans will have digital access to the company's massive fights library." ESPN would "kick in its massive library of classic fights" for the unnamed OTT network (RINGTV.com, 6/17). CBSSPORTS.com's Brian Campbell noted unlike ESPN's current deal with Golden Boy Promotions, which "largely broadcasts young prospects in showcase bouts, the Top Rank deal would feature highly competitive title fights typically seen" on HBO (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/18).
BACK TO BASICS: ESPN.com's Dan Rafael notes Pacquiao's fight against Horn will be the first time he will compete "live on basic cable and is his first non pay-per-view fight since he knocked out Hector Velazquez on HBO" in '05. Joe Tessitore, Teddy Atlas and Timothy Bradley Jr. "will call the fight from ringside." ESPN's coverage of the fight "will begin June 30" with the weigh-in presented during the 7:00pm ET "SportsCenter." Beginning next week, there will be "several classic Pacquiao fights ... available on demand and streaming via the ESPN App" (ESPN.com, 6/19).