It appears that ESPN and ABC will be the home of Top Rank Boxing beginning with next month’s Manny Pacquiao fight against Jeff Horn in Australia. Top Rank has had most of its fights on HBO in a relationship that dates back 35 years and also a series on UniMás/Univision Deportes that was recently canceled. But with HBO cutting back on its boxing dates, Top Rank needs a place for its fights. RingTV.com reports that ESPN/ABC will get seven fights this year and at least 18 more next more.
ESPN and Top Rank are expected to make an announcement this week. It’s not known if Top Rank and HBO are totally cutting ties, but this now opens up fights to a wider basic cable audience rather than pay cable.
And the attractive fights for ESPN aren’t just limited to Pacquiao-Horn as CBSSports.com’s Brian Campbell writes:
In addition to Pacquiao-Horn, ESPN is expected to broadcast a highly anticipated junior lightweight title rematch between pound-for-pound star Vasyl Lomachenko and veteran brawler Orlando Salido, who handed the two-time Olympic gold medalist his lone pro defeat. A third show in August is expected to feature unbeaten Terence Crawford in a junior welterweight title unification bout against Julius Indongo.
Top Rank and its ornery promoter, Bob Arum, has been looking for a TV home as HBO has been reducing its boxing inventory. In addition, RingTV.com says Top Rank is expected to launch an over-the-top network that would not only have some live fights, but also be the home to is voluminous fight library that includes many Muhammad Ali bouts. And ESPN is expected to partner on that digital network and provide its library of fights as well.
Boxing and cable television have a long history together, but after Premier Boxing Champions’ experiment on CBS, ESPN/ABC, Fox/FS1, NBC/NBCSN for the most part failed, Top Rank is looking to take over. With as many as 25 fight cards on ESPN and ABC over the next two years, it appears that the sweet science will have a home on basic cable for the near future.