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Volume 20 No. 45

In Depth

When Top Rank Boxing President Todd DuBoef answered his cell phone on a recent Thursday afternoon, he was decompressing after a tedious two-hour ride from ESPN’s Bristol headquarters back to his Manhattan hotel.

This, an observer joked, was his penance for landing the seemingly out-of-nowhere rights deal he signed with the network earlier this year, which moved all of Top Rank’s content — every last one of its fights for the next four years, from basic cable-level prelims to pay-per-view features, plus a library that includes many of the great fights of the last 50 years — to ESPN and its soon-to-launch OTT service.

Long a critic of his sport’s self-eating reliance on premium cable and pay-per-view to pay the bills, DuBoef felt liberated by the deal, which this summer delivered two of the seven most-watched fights of the last year, beating all but one of the dozens of cards that aired on premium cable.

“I’d happily drive four hours to have this as opposed to our old business model!” DuBoef shouted into the phone, the pace of his words rushing and his voice rising. “I’d probably drive eight hours! I’d paddle up the Hudson to Bristol if that’s what it took! I’d be out on a boat in the cold, trying to find my way up to ESPN.”

First Look podcast, with boxing discussion beginning at the 9:22 mark:

ESPN’s first fight under the new deal, Manny Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn in Pacquiao’s first time off pay-per-view in 12 years, averaged a staggering 2.8 million viewers.

DuBoef came to the fight game and its penchant for hyperbole honestly. When his mother married the iconic fight promoter Bob Arum, DuBoef went to work for him, learning the business. Arum eventually named him the company’s president, giving him a wide berth on many matters.

The business model he referred to was the one that had been the norm in boxing for decades, fueled largely by premium cable and pay-per-view. At the start it was lucrative, with fighters gaining exposure on broadly distributed networks and then graduating to HBO, Showtime and pay-per-view. But as fewer networks aired fights and the opportunities to expose fighters diminished, the model broke down. Ratings eroded and advertisers’ appetites dried up.

Then, in 2015, fight manager Al Haymon made an audacious play that disrupted that environment mightily. Fueled by more than $400 million in institutional capital, Haymon signed upward of 150 fighters and bought time on NBC, CBS, Fox and ESPN under the brand Premier Boxing Champions, or PBC, offering up fights of a caliber previously reserved for premium cable.

His goal: To prove boxing viable in the now fragmented world of advertiser-supported television, and then convert that proof-of-concept into a rights deal.

The two leading U.S. promoters, Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions, each sued in federal court, charging antitrust. Top Rank settled its case in 2016, with Haymon agreeing to remove exclusivity clauses from his network contracts. Golden Boy’s case was dismissed earlier this year.

It was in the midst of that disruption that DuBoef came to the conclusion that the path he and Arum long had followed was untenable.

Frustrated and demoralized by the shift that left HBO and its sibling, Turner Sports, as the only viable U.S. buyers for his fights, DuBoef phoned the head of HBO Sports, Peter Nelson, with a polite request to change the way they negotiated rights fees.

“I have a menu,” DuBoef told Nelson. “You know what’s on my menu. If you want something, pick up the phone and call me and I’ll be happy to see what I can do. I just can’t keep trying to twist and turn and kill myself to get one night. It’s way too volatile for me as a business with an infrastructure. It can’t continue.”

Top Rank Boxing President Todd DuBoef realized that the sport brings in more younger viewers than it’s given credit.

Last summer, DuBoef found a glimmer of hope while poring over spreadsheets filled with TV ratings. While the three-year trends for boxing on Showtime and HBO showed declining audiences, with HBO dropping to about 600,000 boxing viewers for the first half of 2016 and Showtime at less than half that, ratings for his shows on HBO remained relatively strong — averaging 878,000 viewers from 10 cards across 2 1/2 years.

He then saw that those were comparable to the audiences the UFC got for its far more regular stream of fights that aired on FS1. Knowing that the UFC was in the market shopping its next rights deal, he wondered whether Top Rank might do the same.

DuBoef took the idea to CAA broadcast agent and attorney Nick Khan, who he’d gotten to know through two Kahn clients, boxer Manny Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach.

Over dinner in Los Angeles, DuBoef asked Khan whether he thought Top Rank could land a deal that was similar to the seven-year contract that the UFC secured with Fox in 2011. He wondered what his rights would be worth if similarly structured. But what he most wanted was a single home for all his fights on a network that then would be motivated to develop shoulder programming, lending continuity and structure to a sport that came and went around the intermittent cycle of big fights.

Khan told him he wasn’t sure, but he knew someone who would be. He took the question to Alan Gold, who heads CAA’s sports media advisory practice.

“Alan came into the room skeptically,” said Khan, whose clients include Mike Greenberg, Kirk Herbstreit, Stephen A. Smith and Colin Cowherd, along with boxing fixtures Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman. “When he saw that Top Rank on HBO with 33 million subs was doing better than UFC on FS1, that’s when he and his group became really interested in it.”

CAA presented the package to all the prospects you’d expect: ESPN, NBC, Fox and several OTT players, including Amazon. Because OTT was a significant component of the deal, the ESPN conversations quickly required a loop-in of Disney and its then-partner BAMTech. In June, ESPN President John Skipper and Burke Magnus, executive vice president of programming, discussed the deal with former ABC President Alex Wallau, a one-time boxing commentator who is a close friend and counselor to Disney CEO Bob Iger. After that meeting went well, the CAA side sensed a gain of momentum.

On a Wednesday in early August, on a teleconference that included DuBoef from Las Vegas, Khan from Los Angeles, Gold from the Dominican Republic, and Burke and Skipper from New York, DuBoef got the news for which he’d long hoped.

“We’re all in on you guys,” Skipper said.

It was the day after Disney announced it had accelerated its purchase of BAMTech. A week later, they closed a four-year rights deal that a source familiar with the negotiations valued at eight figures annually. ESPN will be responsible for selling media on the shows, while CAA will handle sponsorships. But they also will work together on integrated packages in the manner that CAA worked with Turner and the NCAA on March Madness.

Magnus, who said the minimal investment ESPN put into boxing in recent years “almost felt like we were fulfilling some kind of unspoken obligation,” pointed to three factors behind the network’s 180-degree pivot back to the sport. One is the opportunity to capture all of the promoter’s fighters and fights, without the concern that the stars they develop will then move to premium cable. Another is the soon-to-be launched OTT service, which will rely on deeply engaged fans who will pay for content like Top Rank’s fight library, and also brings the distribution of pay-per-view into play. The third is the data narrative that DuBoef and CAA brought to the initial conversation.

“What we saw was a lot more compelling than the old refrain that boxing is old, the demo isn’t great and you can’t sell advertising,” Magnus said. “There was a little bit of that, but it was as much a result of it being in a non-commercial environment on premium cable as anything. We found the demos to be a lot more compelling than what had become an assumption — but a false assumption.”

DuBoef’s recent three-hour meeting in Bristol was reflective of the depth of the new deal. It was an “all-hands” session that brought together executives and staff from across ESPN, including both programming head Magnus and Connor Schell, executive vice president of content, who rose through the company as head of ESPN Films and now also oversees studio programming. While they did discuss potential dates on the 2018 calendar, the majority was spent on what Magnus described as “creative vision and business execution.”

The first year of the deal includes 18 events, plus about 50 hours of shoulder programming. The latter was something DuBoef viewed as essential, the “keeping on the lights” that he long has complained the sport lacked.

An early look at the calendar has the two examining fights on big sporting weekends, and particularly those that match to boxing’s multicultural demo. They’ve discussed NBA All-Star weekend, as well as the Super Bowl.

On Dec. 9, after the Heisman Trophy presentation, ESPN will air Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux, a fight it can sell to the sports masses as the first time in history that a pair of two-time Olympic gold medalists have met as pros. Held in the Theater at Madison Square Garden, the fight offers an interesting production opportunity.

“It’s not just rolling out of the Heisman presentation,” Schell said. “It’s rolling out of the Heisman, but still being in New York City. Joe Tessitore will be part of both broadcasts. He’ll be at the top of the Heisman show as he is every year, but then he’ll head over to Madison Square Garden and call the fights. I think there’s a lot we can do back and forth between the two venues. And that’s one of the showcase time slots on our air every year. It’s coming out of a highly rated program and I think it’s a real opportunity for us to drive [viewership].”

■ ■ ■ ■

It’s impossible to assess the importance of this deal without also considering the broader landscape, and the way the world changed as a result of Haymon and the PBC.

The fact that ESPN would suddenly show an interest in a sport that it fled a few years ago emanates directly from the ratings that it, Fox, CBS and NBC did from their PBC time-buy shows. When Haymon gave ESPN some of his top names in his first year out of the gate, the shows garnered audiences of more than 1 million. When the talent fell off in year two, the ratings were cut in half.

“I think the PBC experiment taught us one thing: That like so many other sports, it’s about quality,” Magnus said. “Get good fights, get good games and people watch. It’s no different than college football or ‘Monday Night Football’ or the NBA. People will watch good games and good teams, and you’ll have a harder time when the quality is not there.

“I don’t have a bad word to say about [the PBC]. They rekindled our interest in the category because we saw what was possible when you had really good fights on broader platforms.”

It’s tough to miss the irony of Top Rank landing a rights deal based in part on the proof-of-concept provided by a bitter rival that it sued, while that rival still hasn’t managed to do the same. But that’s where it stands.

Based on the business plan that Haymon and PBC chief of staff Mike Ring laid out in their initial conversations with network executives, this could be a crucial year for the PBC. In depositions taken last year as part of Golden Boy’s lawsuit, Ring said that 2018 was the year by which they hoped to flip the model from time buys into rights deals, and that they couldn’t expect that to happen if it didn’t happen by then.

Of course, strategies and tactics can change along with the environment. One of the networks with which the PBC is most engaged, Fox, likely will make its decisions on boxing only after it knows where it lands with the UFC. Haymon has more heft than could fit on any one network, so there could be a larger deal coming once the clouds part at Fox.

Or there may not.

“We can’t say if PBC is going to get a big rights deal or what kind of rights deal it will get, but one thing PBC definitely accomplished was to demonstrate the viability of boxing as a TV property,” said Stephen Espinoza, who runs Showtime Sports, which has been all-in with the PBC since its inception. “That is not a little thing. It has been largely absent from network TV and all but a few sports outlets, even on cable. The plan hasn’t been perfect. But it has demonstrated that there is a thriving audience and there is a way boxing can be programmed and arranged that makes sense for broadcasters.

“What’s left to do now is to connect the dots between the opportunity and the deal, which is where transactions always live or die. But in order to even have something to pitch you need that proof of viability and proof of consumer interest.”

Espinoza often has said he was perplexed by the vitriol with which Haymon’s competitors went after his venture, arguing that if the PBC could put up solid ratings it would benefit them all. He sees the re-entry of ESPN into boxing similarly.

“More boxing on television is good for the sport and good for Showtime boxing,” Espinoza said. “We’re very committed to the sport. But it isn’t going to survive if there aren’t other outlets supporting it, too. So to have ESPN back in the sport actively, regardless of the promoters, is a good thing. It is the home base for sports fans. If they are committed to the sport, it can only help the sport as a whole.

“Now, are they also a competitor for us? At some point, yes. But there is no content market that is desirable to be in where there are no competitors. I’d rather have the competitors than have no one helping to raise the profile to the masses.”

At HBO, the head of the sports division viewed ESPN’s energized re-entry similarly.

“We’ve been a consistent provider of premium boxing for over 40 years, so our place in the sport has been fortified over decades,” said Peter Nelson, executive vice president of HBO Sports. “We’re not engaging in any kind of experiment here. You adjust strategically over time based on what the landscape is evolving to look like. But I think, as we’ve seen again and again, the success of others has been good for us.”

■ ■ ■ ■

DuBoef knew they’d hit a home run with his first fight on ESPN as soon as the overnights came out, when friends in the TV world started emailing him congratulations. The show, which featured Pacquiao from Australia in his first time off pay-per-view in a dozen years, averaged 2.8 million viewers, making it the second-most-watched boxing telecast of the year. But as he dug deeper into the numbers, the news got even better.

Not only was the fight the most-watched show on cable among 18- to 49-year-olds that night, but it delivered enough of them to ESPN’s late-night “SportsCenter” to make it the second-most-watched cable show of the day. Further, it vastly outperformed the network’s expectations among 18- to 34-year-olds.

ESPN will showcase Top Rank star Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux in a bout following the Heisman Trophy ceremony on Dec. 9.

Coming out of a U.S. Men’s National Team/MLS soccer doubleheader that had 86,000 18-34s watching during its final quarter hour, Top Rank’s show started with 119,000 of them. By the time Pacquiao was in the ring, that number had risen to 863,000.

“The 18-34 is a category that has no relevance to boxing in the public narrative,” DuBoef said. “That’s what we’ve been told. Young men don’t care about boxing. They love UFC. They love the NBA. Boxing isn’t resonating for them. It’s an old man’s sport. That has been the narrative, but it’s just not true.

“To see those numbers: It was empowering.”

In two of its ESPN appearances, Top Rank got to see how it fared against the UFC, the property that has been taking boxing’s lunch money for the last decade, at least in the realm of sports television perception.

The first came on Aug. 5, when its show featuring Lomachenko was pushed back almost 90 minutes because the NFL Hall of Fame induction ran long. Though it wasn’t a big hit — with an average audience of 728,000, compared to 859,000 for “UFC Fight Night” on FS1 — boxing actually beat MMA 317,000 to 271,000 among males 18-49 and 137,000 to 109,000 among males 18-34.

Then, on a Friday night in September, Top Rank had lesser-known Oscar Valdez headlining an ESPN2 show opposite a “UFC Fight Night” card from Japan that aired on FXX. It wasn’t the ideal scenario for the UFC card, but Top Rank also took a hit because its telecast was pushed back to 11:45 ET by an extra-inning baseball game. Again, we’re talking about audiences of fewer than a million. But, considering the graybeard boxing vs. bro-centric MMA narrative, the results are worth pondering.

Boxing beat the UFC 706,000 viewers to 502,000 viewers. And, again, it won among male 18-34s.

DuBoef said he’s buoyed even more by a few broader comparisons. Top Rank’s overall numbers on ESPN have been in line with a regular-season NBA game, with main event windows on par with ratings for “Sunday Night Baseball” when the Yankees play the Red Sox.

About 60 percent of the audience for Top Rank shows on ESPN has been multicultural, delivering about 1.6 times the multicultural audience that ESPN typically attracts. The shows also attracted an audience that was 20 percent Hispanic, which was about 2.6 times the network’s average.

On the strength of numbers like those, Top Rank and CAA plan to reposition boxing as a unique way to find common ground with two hard-to-reach demos.

“The UFC did a phenomenal job in building out an obscure and mocked sport and taking it into the mainstream and making it advertiser friendly,” said Khan, the CAA agent whose client list also includes MMA star Georges St-Pierre. “There’s a model in front off you. If you can take the good qualities of that and follow it in the model of boxing, maybe you’ll have success.”

Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.

When the UFC decided to split with longtime global sponsor Anheuser-Busch earlier this year, it found its U.S. replacement through parent company WME-IMG, which had brokered a University of Texas sponsorship with beer, wine and spirits distributor Constellation Brands.

While that deal was with Corona, Constellation’s beer portfolio also includes Modelo, a brand that positions itself as the beer with the “fighting spirit.”

It didn’t take long for both Constellation and WME-IMG — which recently rebranded itself under the single name Endeavor — to recognize the potential of the combination.

All that was required to put the brand and property together was a quick conversation between Andrew Judelson, who runs national sales for Endeavor’s college division, and Lou Koskovolis, senior vice president of partnerships for Endeavor’s global marketing group.

“We sit right next to each other,” said Koskovolis, who previously held senior sponsorship roles at MLB, ESPN and Six Flags Entertainment. “And we’re in the market every single day.”

This is one of the benefits that UFC executives anticipated from the moment that the MMA promotion was acquired by the company now known as Endeavor. Between an event business that bridges sports, entertainment and fashion, its college division and its corporate consulting division, Endeavor pitches and services a broad array of brands, both established and emerging.

The UFC hopes that will open doors to companies that weren’t considering it before.

“What we get now with Endeavor is just resources, resources and more resources,” said Lawrence Epstein, UFC chief operating officer. “What that means is that we have a global network of people selling all around the world. And a plethora of new relationships. IMG is working with Rolex on one end and with beers and automotives on the other. It’s a complete portfolio of consumer products and other businesses.”

In its role, Endeavor operates much as an agency would for a team or property that needed more expertise than it had on staff, studying demos and consumption patterns to match properties with sponsors in each category.

Modelo’s UFC deal fits in with the brand’s positioning as the beer with the “fighting spirit.”

“To me, this all starts with the research,” Koskovolis said. “So when we’re analyzing categories and properties, to me, we have the best research team in the business. We’ll sit down and say, ‘Which of the categories and brands are UFC consumers consuming most?’ And then we’ll go crazy on that particular category.”

Rolling most of the responsibility for sponsorship sales over to Endeavor meant deep cuts in UFC’s partnership marketing division, which came as part of a staff reduction of about 15 percent implemented in October 2016, three months after the acquisition closed.

Among those who departed was Mike Mossholder, who served as executive vice president of global marketing partnerships. Hired in 2011 after stints with Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Churchill Downs and the Miami Dolphins, Mossholder professionalized the UFC’s sponsorship operation.

While cuts came in Las Vegas, the UFC recently made a significant addition in New York, where it long had lacked a presence. Last month, it hired the vice president of venue business development for Fanatics, Paul Asencio, as senior vice president of global partnerships. A former head of sponsorships with the New York Mets, Asencio will split his time between New York and Las Vegas.

It’s reminiscent of a move that NASCAR made 20 years ago, when it pushed toward the sports mainstream by opening a Park Avenue office, placing it in the company of the leagues then commonly known as the “Big Four,” as well as the advertising community and TV networks.

“When I looked at the UFC as a competitor, whether it was when I was at [MLB] or ESPN, I loved that they were out in the Vegas desert and they didn’t have a presence in any of the major markets,” Koskovolis said. “I thought it was a disadvantage for them.”

Along with the connections that Endeavor brings, Epstein said the UFC has benefited from the company’s content-oriented approach to sponsorships.

“We were very good at selling spots and dots and integrating sponsors into the production of our events,” Epstein said. “[Endeavor] has opened our eyes to the opportunity to infuse and integrate sponsors into our actual content. It’s not just a mark or a spot. It’s integration into our content.

“It’s a different skill set, a different mindset. I don’t think we were as effective as you would like to be before the acquisition. We’re able to learn from the experiences they’ve had with so many other brands around the world.”

Both of the larger deals that the UFC has signed in the last few months came with content plays that will boost exposure for the sport. While details are still in the works, expect to see UFC fighters featured in Modelo’s “Fighting for” series of commercials. The UFC’s deal with 7-Eleven includes placement of UFC fighters on the convenience store’s Big Gulp cups, tied to a national peel-and-win promotion.

“Yeah, we’re making money [on the convenience store deal],” Epstein said. “But having our athletes on hundreds of thousands of cups is pretty important, too. You hop into your buddy’s car and you see that 7-Eleven cup. Whether they’re spitting tobacco into it or whatever, those things hang around for a while.”

Even before the acquisition, the UFC had begun to make strides to upgrade its sponsor roster. Current sponsor Monster is the No. 2 energy drink, while predecessor Xyience had only a sliver of the market. Reebok was a step up from MMA-centric Tapout.

But the UFC still is lacking in some key categories. Insurers Geico and Progressive have advertised on FS1 telecasts, but neither has taken official status. The fast-food category remains vacant, though Epstein said he is confident it soon will be filled. He said he views the many brands that regularly buy spots on UFC shows on FS1 as a segment of the sport’s “ecosystem” that ultimately will convert to deeper relationships.

One area that has outperformed expectations is the performance center that the UFC opened this year as the cornerstone of its new Las Vegas headquarters, which allowed it to land Hospital for Special Surgery for a category it had not previously sold. Barely six months after opening the facility, UFC has tripled the sponsorship revenue that it expected to bring in based on pro formas, landing brands such as sports drink Body Armor and nutritional supplement Performance Inspired. It didn’t hurt that WME clients Kobe Bryant and Mark Wahlberg are investors in those two respective companies.

“This [performance institute] is turning into a new door into the UFC ecosystem,” Epstein said. “There are a lot of brands that get our demo, that understand it, but that still say ‘combat sports are not for me.’ Now there’s an opportunity to be part of a performance institute that’s not focused on guys and girls fighting, but training and recovery and injury prevention.”

Talk boxing with anyone in the sports business who has looked beyond the glare of a few record-setting pay-per-views and you will hear one word that they find particularly troubling: fragmented. Promoters and fighters typically align with networks, which can make it difficult to put together matches between top contenders. In order to make the business work, networks and promoters have gotten the hang of stacking their chips in certain weight classes, where they know they’re most likely to get the logical progression of fights that lead to the rare collisions that resonate beyond the most avid of fans.

“We all understand now that it’s absolutely critical to focus not just on stars or potential stars, but on divisions,” said Showtime Sports Executive Vice President Stephen Espinoza. “The biggest obstacle to mainstream success is a lack of good opponents. You have to have those in order to get those tentpole, crossroads, career-defining fights that are big enough to attract casual attention.”

Here’s a division-by-division look at how that map shapes up heading into the homestretch of 2017.

Compiled by Senior Writer Bill King; rankings by Dan Rafael of ESPN, through Oct. 26.


■ Scorecard: Ownership of the long dormant division was one of the big bets Al Haymon placed before launching the PBC and it appears to be paying off, with Deontay Wilder on the brink of emerging as the first bankable American heavyweight star since Mike Tyson. When Showtime signed British Olympic gold medalist and unified champ Anthony Joshua to a U.S. TV deal, it paved the way for the matchup that could get Wilder over the final hump. With four of the current top 10 in the PBC and both Joshua and a second British contender, Dillian Whyte, promoted by Eddie Hearn of U.K.-based Matchroom, the PBC and Showtime should be able to keep their hold on the division for the foreseeable future — although if HBO continues to work with Hearn in other weight classes you can expect it will make a run at Joshua, too.
■ Bell cow: Anthony Joshua
■ PBC: Deontay Wilder (2), Luis Ortiz (3), Dominic Breazeale (7), Adam Kownacki (10)
■ Matchroom: Joshua (1), Dillian Whyte (6)
■ Top Rank: Joseph Parker (4), Andy Ruiz Jr. (8)

American heavyweight Deontay Wilder floors Bermane Stiverne.


■ Scorecard: With no significant U.S. presence in the division there isn’t much percolating on TV. Earlier this year, action kicked off in the World Boxing Super Series, a tournament meant to unify the belts from four sanctioning bodies. Six entrants are from Europe; two from Cuba. Even with quarterfinals held at the Prudential Center and the Alamodome, the fights ended up on DirecTV’s Audience network.
■ Bell cow: To be determined, based on how the Super Series plays out.
■ K2: Oleksandr Usyk (1)
■ PBC: Murat Gassiev (2), Krzysztof Glowacki (4)


Adonis Stevenson
■ Scorecard: With longtime star Andre Ward and rival Sergey Kovalev at the top of the division, HBO controlled much of what mattered. But now that Ward has retired, the PBC has the new No. 1, Adonis Stevenson, along with three contenders in the top 10 if you count Mayweather Promotions’ Badou Jack and Yvon Michel’s Eleider Alvarez, the latter of whom likely is Stevenson’s next opponent. Main Events has the division’s biggest name, Kovalev, along with No. 5 Sullivan Barrera, both of whom have fought on HBO. Top Rank has two Europeans who already have been on ESPN. It’s a jumble, with little likelihood of sorting it out any time soon.
■ Bell cow: Adonis Stevenson
■ PBC: Stevenson (1), Marcus Browne (10); via Mayweather Promotions, Badou Jack (6)
■ Main Events: Sergey Kovalev (2), Sullivan Barrera (5)
■ Top Rank: Oleksandr Gvozdyk (4), Artur Beterbiev (7)


■ Scorecard: A PBC staple for Showtime, which has aired the last three bouts of No. 1 James DeGale, who won Olympic gold for Britain in 2008. The PBC also has three others in the top 10. Top Rank has No. 2 Gilberto Ramirez.
■ Bell cow: James DeGale
■ PBC: DeGale (1), Anthony Dirrell (4), Andre Dirrell (7), David Benavidez (10)
■ Top Rank: Gilberto Ramirez (2)

James DeGale (right) and Badou Jack


■ Scorecard: The most bankable division in boxing lives on HBO, which has featured the top-five fighters in the division: Gennady Golovkin, Canelo Alvarez, Daniel Jacobs, David Lemieux and Billy Joe Saunders. Golden Boy has Alvarez and Lemieux. Golovkin is with promoter Tom Loeffler of K2. U.K. promoter Hearn recently signed Jacobs as part of a U.S. expansion, hoping to help fill HBO dates vacated when Top Rank signed with ESPN. PBC has a few contenders in the bottom half, but there’s not much room here for anyone who doesn’t want to play in the HBO universe to gain a foothold.
■ Bell cow: Canelo Alvarez over Gennady Golovkin, in a decision not nearly as close as their controversial recent draw. Golovkin is ranked higher, but Alvarez is the far better pay-per-view attraction.
■ Golden Boy: Alvarez (2), David Lemieux (4)
■ K2: Golovkin (1)
■ Matchroom: Daniel Jacobs (3)
■ PBC: Sergiy Derevyanchenko (6), Jermall Charlo (8)

Gennady Golovkin (left) and Canelo Alvarez


■ Scorecard: Another of the divisions that the PBC has locked up, thanks in part to the development of some of its top prospects, led by top-ranked Jermell Charlo, whose twin brother Jermall is a rising contender at middleweight. The PBC also has Erislandy Lara (2), Jarrett Hurd (3), Austin Trout (5) and Julian “J-Rock” Williams (7) — all of whom, like the Charlos, have been regulars on Showtime.
■ Bell cow: Jermell Charlo
■ PBC: Charlo (1), Erislandy Lara (2), Jarrett Hurd (3), Austin Trout (5), Julian “J-Rock” Williams (7)
■ Golden Boy: Miguel Cotto (4)


■ Scorecard: From the beginning, this was where the PBC planted its flag, banking on several of the bigger names in Haymon’s stable to meet each other in a succession of fights that would draw ratings for NBC, CBS, Fox and ESPN. Keith Thurman (1), Errol Spence Jr. (2), Danny Garcia (4), Shawn Porter (5) and Lamont Peterson (8) all were featured on those networks and delivered solid numbers. Top Rank’s Manny Pacquiao also is here, and now the top American fighter in the Top Rank stable, Terence Crawford, has vacated all four of his junior welterweight belts to move into the division, presumably to find the sort of dance partners he’d need to break in to pay-per-view.
■ Bell cow: Keith Thurman
■ PBC: Thurman (1), Errol Spence Jr. (2), Danny Garcia (4), Shawn Porter (5), Jessie Vargas (7), Lamont Peterson (8)
■ Top Rank: Manny Pacquiao (3), Jeff Horn (9), Terence Crawford

Keith Thurman


■ Scorecard: An interesting division to watch in the coming year, blown open by the departure of Terence Crawford. The top three contenders come from three different promoters: Julius Indongo (Matchroom), Antonio Orozco (Golden Boy) and Eduard Troyanovsky (Russia-based World of Boxing). After that, the PBC runs deep, with ties to the next five names in the rankings, along with two others through promoters with which it is closely affiliated.
■ Bell cow: To be determined, based on who emerges behind Crawford.
■ Matchroom: Julius Indongo (2), Ricky Burns (10)
■ Golden Boy: Antonio Orozco (3)
■ World of Boxing: Eduard Troyanovsky (4)
■ PBC: Felix Diaz (5), Sergey Lipinets (7), Rances Barthelemy (9), plus Adrian Granados through Tom Brown and Regis Prograis through Lou DiBella


■ Scorecard: There’s what looks to be an exciting fight to be made at the top of this division, where Jorge Linares and Mikey Garcia are on a collision course. The rub: Linares is promoted by Golden Boy, while Garcia is on PBC.
Golden Boy head Eric Gomez said they met recently and the tone was promising. PBC also has Robert Easter Jr. (3) in the mix, so Garcia has other options. Top Rank has 2012 Olympian Felix Verdejo of Puerto Rico, who was scheduled to make an ESPN appearance in September but scratched due to injury.
■ Bell cow: Jorge Linares
■ Golden Boy: Linares (1)
■ PBC: Mikey Garcia (2), Robert Easter Jr. (3)
■ Matchroom: Anthony Crolla (5), Luke Campbell (10)
■ Top Rank: Raymundo Beltran (7), Felix Verdejo (NR)


Vasyl Lomachenko
■ Scorecard: ESPN is about to shine a bright light on this division, as it features Vasyl Lomachenko — perhaps the best pure boxer on the planet — against fellow Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux, who is moving up two divisions to get a fight that will air from the Theater at Madison Square Garden following the Heisman Trophy presentation. Top Rank and ESPN have lots of room to maneuver here, in a weight class that the PBC has left alone. Two of the top three challengers to Lomachenko are promoted by Fernando Beltran, who operates out of Tijuana under the Zanfer brand and has worked closely with Top Rank for years. Four more are with Golden Boy, which has its own ESPN deal that it uses largely to expose up-and-comers, but they’ve all been fighting on HBO, which invested heavily in the division when Lomachenko fought on the network. The way traffic flows at that intersection between Top Rank, Golden Boy, ESPN and HBO bears watching.
■ Bell cow: Vasyl Lomachenko
■ Top Rank: Lomachenko (1)
■ Zanfer: Miguel Berchelt (2), Orlando Salido (4)
■ Golden Boy: Alberto Machado (5), Jezreel Corrales (6), Francisco Vargas (7), Robinson Castellanos (8)
■ PBC: Gervonta “Tank” Davis (3)


■ Scorecard: Top-ranked Leo Santa Cruz was an anchor of the Showtime boxing franchise before the launch of the PBC, even headlining a rare CBS Saturday afternoon show. He fought on the undercard of the record-shattering Mayweather-Pacquiao fight and has been a PBC cornerstone, headlining on ESPN, where he drew what then was the network’s largest boxing audience since 1998, and on Fox, which aired his fight last month. With Santa Cruz at the top, rival Abner Mares set for an upcoming rematch, and a deep set of contenders, the PBC controls the division. Top Rank has two-time Mexican Olympian Oscar Valdez (4). Golden Boy has Jesus Rojas (10) and U.S. Olympian Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. (unranked).
■ Bell cow: Leo Santa Cruz
■ PBC: Santa Cruz (1), Abner Mares (3), Gary Russell Jr. (5), Lee Selby (6), Jesus Cuellar (7)
■ Queensberry: Carl Frampton (2)
■ Top Rank: Oscar Valdez (4)
■ Golden Boy: Jesus Rojas (10), Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. (NR)


■ Scorecard: Brought to the states by Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez was in the conversation as the pound-for-pound king after a spectacular series of performances as the lead-in to Golovkin. In a clever stroke of marketing spawned by what then appeared to be a generational talent in one of the lighter weight classes, HBO went big in the division that it refers to as “SuperFly.” Of course, in boxing, as in most sports, there’s only so much you can plan. Fighting on a Golovkin PPV, Gonzalez was upset by Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. In the rematch on HBO, Sor Rungvisai won again. But worry not, diminutive ones. HBO sports head Peter Nelson says he plans to continue airing fights in the division whether “Chocolatito” rebounds or not.
■ Bell cow: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
■ Zanfer: Sor Rungvisai (1), Juan Francisco Estrada (3)
■ K2: Carlos Cuadras (4), Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (5)
■ PBC: Rau’shee Warren (NR)

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai



■ Scorecard: Save for HBO’s recent dive into what it calls the SuperFly division, there’s rarely much U.S. TV when you get beneath featherweight. That remains the case. At junior feather, where Guillermo Rigondeaux built his résumé, Golden Boy has Rey Vargas (3) and Diego De La Hoya, both of whom have been on HBO, and Top Rank has Jessie Magdaleno, who has gotten TV slots here and there. At bantamweight, No. 1 Luis Nery is a 22-year-old Mexican promoted by Top Rank collaborator Beltran. And the PBC had U.S. Olympian Rau’shee Warren and Dominican Juan Carlos Payano, who fought each other twice on U.S. TV. The top flyweights are scattered across Asia and Europe, with nothing of note percolating in the Western hemisphere.
■ Bell cow: Rigondeaux, at junior feather, is the closest thing, although it remains to be seen whether he remains there after the Vasyl Lomachenko fight.
■ Zanfer: Luis Nery (1) at bantam
■ Golden Boy: Rey Vargas (3) and Diego De La Hoya (NR) at junior feather
■ Top Rank: Jessie Magdaleno (2) at junior feather; Rex Tso (NR) at bantam; Daigo Higa (3) at fly
■ PBC: Moises Flores (4) at junior feather; Juan Carlos Payano (NR) at bantam