New HBO series launch delayed

There is going to be more boxing on HBO, which is a good thing, but just not as soon as was originally scheduled.

A new series, which is still untitled but will focus mainly on up-and-coming fighters -- think a pricier version of Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation" -- was supposed to debut this month with the first of at least 12 monthly tripleheaders (usually a four- or six-rounder to open up, followed by a six- or eight-rounder in the middle followed by a 10- or 12-round main event).

However, multiple sources involved in the project have told me the debut of the series, which will air on HBO2, has been delayed until January.
Promoters Lou DiBella, Gary Shaw and Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy signed a deal with the network in early March, under which each of them would promote three shows apiece in the first year of the series.

HBO is paying $150,000 per show, according to the deal memo the promoters and former HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg signed.
The network was originally going to keep the remaining three shows in its pocket to dole out as wild cards until Top Rank's Bob Arum complained to upper management about his company's lack of involvement, which was understandable, considering Top Rank has one of the best stables of fighters in the world.

(The day and time slot for the series have not been determined, but it likely will air on a weeknight, with Tuesday or Thursday being discussed. The broadcast team also has not been determined.)

Long story short, Arum's complaint was heard loud and clear. HBO gave him the three remaining three dates even though, if you believe Arum, he said he would have preferred to compete for all 12 dates by offering the best fights and fighters he could rather than just be handed three of them.
Arum has seen output deals go well and poorly. With his highly successful series "Top Rank Boxing," he was the exclusive boxing content provider for a once-fledgling network called ESPN. But he also presided over one of the worst output deal flops in history when Versus handed him a slate of lucrative dates and he shot the deal to hell by saddling it with horrible mismatches and riddled it with uninteresting fights. (Tye Fields, anyone?)

Arum told me he regrets the Versus deal, which got him to change his tune on output deals.

"We convinced Versus to do it and we did a [poor] job and they terminated us," Arum said. "We deserved it. When ESPN was starting we were brought in and did a weekly show, and we did such a good job it lasted for 15 years."

Shaw figures to use his dates to help develop exciting welterweight prospect Thomas Dulorme and rising cruiserweight contender Lateef Kayode, among others. DiBella will aim to continue the development of super middleweight prospect Edwin Rodriguez, for example. DiBella and Shaw have also signed several quality Puerto Rican prospects together, including Dulorme and Jose Pedraza.

Golden Boy and Top Rank have numerous young fighters in their stables. You have to figure we'll see fighters such as Golden Boy's Adrien Broner, Danny Garcia, Frankie Gomez and Daniel Jacobs and Top Rank's Matvey Korobov, Diego Magdaleno, Glen Tapia and Jose Benavidez.

With network television a thing of the past, boxing needs more regular outlets to develop the next generation of fighters. ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" and Showtime's "ShoBox" do a great job, but they can't do it alone.
With the biggest budget in the sport -- around $35 million a year for license fees -- and the highest profile, I applaud HBO for being proactive to help find the future faces of boxing, who someday could populate its flagship series, "World Championship Boxing," not to mention eventually move to pay-per-view if they become big enough stars.

This new series could be a tremendous asset to the sport. HBO is committed to spending roughly $1.8 million in license fees on it for the first year. I hope, even with reduced leverage after having already given out all of the dates, HBO -- and the fight fans -- get the most bang for their buck.