Fight fans might be a little surprised to see someone other than Jim Lampley and the rest of the HBO crew on the call for Manny Pacquiao versus Shane Mosley this Saturday night. Strained relations with the boxing pay-per-view giant and interest from network television convinced Bob Arum and Todd DuBoef to take Pacquiao, their No. 1 product elsewhere.
"The currency was the audience, not the dollars," DuBoef, the president of Top Rank, told Sports Business Journal. "How do I make my product more available? You layer in things and then you see: This is what we have; this is what we could have."
Top Rank pitched Pacquaio to ESPN and HBO, then Showtime came calling.
DuBoef said he heard nothing of note from ESPN and little from HBO that he hadn't heard before. But from Showtime, often seen as the underdog tugging at HBO's hem, came word that CBS was willing to talk. The deal that emerged is unlike anything boxing has seen.
Boxing has been crushed by the lack of network TV exposure over the last 30 years. Top Rank jumped at the chance to be on local CBS TV affiliates and hundreds of local CBS radio stations around the country.
For the Showtime-produced "Fight Camp 360" show that profiles both fighters, CBS offered a slot as a prime-time special, which aired this past Saturday night, along with a half hour on the afternoon of the Final Four and an hour this Saturday afternoon, ahead of fight night. It offered promotion on other weekend sports programming. It offered exposure well beyond the bounds of sports: Segments on "Entertainment Tonight," which CBS distributes, and on "The Early Show" and others. It pledged to push out features to both owned and operated stations and affiliates. It tapped into CBS Radio and CBS Outdoor.
"I think this is the most important fight, out of the ring, in 20 years," said Abraham, who served as president of HBO Sports until 2000, then worked as chief operating officer and president of Madison Square Garden through 2003. "There could be enormous consequences.
"If the pay-per-view rate is meteorically higher, you have to assume it had a lot to do with the promotion on CBS. So if CBS really impacts the buy rate for Top Rank, if the delayed broadcast on Showtime is a big success, I think what you're going to see is that NBC/Versus will pay more attention, ABC/ESPN will pay more attention, and Fox and FX and their regional networks will pay more attention. If CBS and Showtime are successful for Top Rank, then I see a completely different boxing landscape that HBO will be facing. It'll be a real slugfest for every important fight."
That's great news for fight fans. The sport deserves more exposure and more good scraps. If multiple networks are clamoring for boxing, then we'll get a premium put on matchmaking and let's get crazy, maybe we'll even get some high level boxing where we don't have to shell out $12-65.
You can watch the Pacquiao-Mosley pay-per-view right here on Yahoo! Sports.