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Showtime fires boxing czar Larkin

Jay Larkin, who in 22 years at Showtime rose from a junior publicist to senior vice president and executive producer -- and became one of the most powerful people in boxing -- was fired Monday.

Larkin, who headed Showtime's boxing department for more than a decade, could not be reached for comment. However, he was given the news Monday upon returning from Saturday's Showtime card headlined by super middleweight titlist Jeff Lacy's second-round knockout of Scott Pemberton.

Showtime is undergoing significant cutbacks now that media giant Viacom, Showtime's parent company, is splitting into two entities. Larkin was one of the casualties.

"He's no longer with us. Jay is going on to new challenges," said Ken Hershman, a Showtime senior vice president and the general manager of sports and event programming. "I think that as we move to being a smaller organization his job was somewhat narrowed. We're in the middle of downsizing the organization. This was an opportunity for him to take advantage of the [buyout] package available."

Larkin was involved with boxing at Showtime and its pay-per-view arm since they began televising fights in March 1986 with Marvelous Marvin Hagler's middleweight title defense against John Mugabi.

From there, Larkin was a major player, deciding which fights the network would buy and negotiating the deals. The list of fights he was involved in includes many of the sport's biggest events of the last 20 years, including numerous Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Julio Cesar Chavez fights.

He also was one of the key negotiators for the biggest money fight in history, the 2002 heavyweight championship bout between Lennox Lewis and Tyson that happened because of a landmark deal between Showtime (Tyson's network) and rival HBO (Lewis' network).

"Jay was a tremendous asset to the organization for a long time and we're going to miss him and his contributions, but life goes on," Hershman said. "I am losing a tremendous asset and a good friend. I wish him success. Right now, we have a boxing program to run, and we'll move on. But his contributions will be missed. He is a talented executive."

Larkin, an opponent of multi-fight contracts with fighters, was behind Showtime's recent adoption of a "great fights, no rights" philosophy. It allowed the network to buy quality fights a la carte without an obligation to buy lesser fights involving a star fighter the way HBO often does.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.