Boxing returns to CBS

February 17, 2015

In order for boxing regain its past glory and expand its fan base, a return to free network television must be made in some capacity.  Fortunately, for aficianados of the sweet science, it appears that such an undertaking will be happening this year, as CBS Sports and Showtime Sports have announced a multi-year joint venture to present live boxing on the CBS Television Network.

The first of up to eight live events in 2015 will premiere on Saturday, April 4, at 3 p.m. ET on CBS.  Premier Boxing Champions on CBS will air in conjunction with marquee Showtime Championship Boxing events as part of a partnership that will cross-promote the live programs across multiple platforms.

The venture will feature two of the biggest names in the sport—Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and Adonis Stevenson—and will bookend this year’s most anticipated boxing event, the Showtime PPV fight featuring pound-for-pound champion Floyd Mayweather.

“The Premier Boxing Champions series on CBS will help usher in a new era in the storied history of boxing,” said Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President & General Manager, Showtime Sports.  “With the support of our parent company, we are uniquely positioned for a three-tiered approach that includes live boxing broadcasts on America’s No. 1 network, the cable reach of CBS Sports Network and, of course, the premium television leader in boxing, Showtime.  The benefit of elevating the sport across these platforms for all involved, including Showtime, is immeasurable.”

A significant marketing budget will be dedicated to promoting each of the live CBS broadcasts and each major Showtime telecast with targeted advertising campaigns.

The venture is the first consistent series presentation of live boxing on CBS in 15 years.  The network aired a one-off live event featuring current WBC Super Bantamweight Champion Leo Santa Cruz in 2012.  Prior to that, the last live boxing on the network was in 1997 when then-middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins knocked out Glen Johnson.

Live boxing was a staple on the network in the 1980s, consistently featuring future Hall of Famers Sugar Ray Leonard, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and others.

The elephant in the room, of course, is behind-the-scenes boxing manager Al Haymon, as the Premier Boxing Champions series was created for television by Haymon Sports.

Haymon manages some of the biggest names in boxing, and has created his own mini-fiefdom of elite fighters.  Some would claim to the detriment of the sport.

Although his fighters seem to appreciate the shrewd matchmaking and income that Haymon generates, many fans have criticized him for avoiding tough, competitive matchups for his boxers, and instead providing them with safer paydays.

If that is the formula Haymon expects to apply for this venture, then it might struggle.

Nevertheless, the overall idea appears to be a step in the right direction -- broadcast to a wider audience, showcase recognizable name fighters, and provide a consistent number of dates to keep fans engaged.

The schedule of upcoming live boxing events on CBS and Showtime is as follows:

On Saturday, March 28, SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING will present a doubleheader featuring a featherweight showdown between WBC champion Jhonny Gonzalez and top contender Gary Russell Jr., and a matchup of 154-pound contenders Jermell Charlo and Vanes Martirosyan.  The live SHOWTIME telecast will preview the following week’s April 4 CBS debut of Premier Boxing Champions.

The CBS premiere on Saturday, April 4 (3 p.m. ET/Noon PT) will feature light heavyweight world champion Adonis Stevenson defending his WBC title against former super middleweight champ Sakio Bika.  In the co-feature, undefeated light heavyweight contender Artur Beterbiev will face veteran former world champ Gabriel Campillo.  The CBS broadcast, with its national reach of more than 110 million households, will offer a broad platform to promote a major SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING event just two weeks later.

On Saturday, April 18, SHOWTIME presents the network debut of former world champion and Mexican superstar Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., as he takes on light heavyweight contender Andrzej Fonfara.

On Saturday, May 9 Premier Boxing Champions returns to CBS for the second installment (4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT).  This broadcast will pit undefeated Omar Figueroa, who recently vacated his Lightweight World Championship to move up in weight to 140 pounds, against former champion Ricky Burns.

The April 18 SHOWTIME telecast and the May 9 CBS broadcast will support—and be supported by—the May 2 SHOWTIME PPV event featuring the undefeated, world’s No. 1 ranked fighter, Floyd Mayweather.

Additional confirmed dates for Premier Boxing Champions on CBS include live broadcasts in June, July and September, with up to three remaining events on the 2015 calendar yet to be announced. The live boxing broadcasts on CBS, other than the aforementioned premiere, will be broadcast live at 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT.

By Staff of and news services

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