HBO has aired boxing for 45 years, but 2018 will be the last year that happens as the network announced on Thursday that it will be dropping its coverage of the sport at the end of the year, reports ESPN.
A number of boxing’s best and brightest saw their first major fights aired on HBO, the network which really invented what we now know as pay-per-views. In a statement on Thursday, HBO Sports executive Peter Nelson said that although boxing was part of the “heritage” of the network the wide availability of it on other networks made it a poor fit for HBO which he said seeks “high-profile, high-access, and highly ambitious” projects.
Nelson described the decision as a pivot, and said that boxing could be included some time again but “not for the foreseeable future.”
Despite being seen as the network for boxing coverage, HBO’s interest in the sport has decreased in recent years, which has led to a decline in the quality of fights. That has come as competition has increased with Showtime upping its coverage of the sport and ESPN signing an agreement with promoter Top Rank, leading to the best fights being sent to other networks. Top Rank specifically cited a perceived lack of interest in the sport from HBO when it signed the deal with ESPN, which proved to be a prophetic message.
We have lost our heart and soul. RIP HBO BOXING. pic.twitter.com/wWiPwosSnI— Boxing Insider.com (@BoxingInsider) September 27, 2018
HBO’s latest boxing broadcast, Superfly 3, reflected that decline, with the average audience averaging just 298,000 one of the lowest viewing figures for an HBO boxing card in history.
With over 1,000 fights under its belt, starting with George Foreman’s Heavyweight World Championship win over Joe Frazier in 1973. That launched the network as the leader in boxing coverage and for much of its involvement in the sport the fights aired on the network drew over a million viewers.
There is one more fight left on the schedule for HBO the World Championship Boxing doubleheader which will see two titles decided. The vacant middleweight title bout between Daniel Jacobs and Sergey Derevyanchenko headlining the event, while Alberto Machado will defend his junior lightweight title against Yuandale Evans.
The end of HBO boxing will be good news for three boxers with Jacobs, Canelo Alvarez, and Gennady Golovkin all contracted to the network now set to be free agents at the end of the year. With Alvarez having defeated Golovkin in their recent HBO PPV fight that gave the network over a million buys, he will surely find a new home easily and for more money than he was making at HBO.