First Ricky Hatton. Now Joe Calzaghe.
Calzaghe, the unified super middleweight world champion, is poised to become Great Britain's second major boxing star to jump from Showtime to rival network HBO in less than a month, multiple sources involved in the negotiations told ESPN.com.
Calzaghe (41-0, 31 KOs), who cracked the pound-for-pound top 10 rankings by unifying 168-pound titles with a near-flawless shutout decision against Jeff Lacy in March, is due back in the ring July 8 against an opponent to be determined.
But rather that the fight being televised on Showtime -- as have all of Calzaghe's previous U.S.-televised bouts -- HBO is close to landing the Welsh star after the latest bidding war between the networks.
The irony of the deal: Former Showtime chief boxing executive Jay Larkin, fired by the network last fall after more than 20 years, is the one responsible for delivering Calzaghe to HBO on behalf of promoter Frank Warren, a close associate from his days at Showtime.
Larkin refused comment, as did HBO.
"There is no way we comment on something that's not a done deal," HBO spokesman Kevin Flaherty said.
A spokesperson for Warren's Sports Network did not answer an email seeking comment.
HBO is offering $1.5 million for the rights to the Calzaghe fight, which would air on a same-day tape delay from either Cardiff, Wales, or Manchester, England, sources said. In addition to Calzaghe, HBO would also air an undercard fight featuring lightweight sensation Amir Khan (6-0, 5 KOs), the 2004 Olympic silver medalist for England and regarded by many as the best prospect in the world.
HBO's bid is said to be significantly more than Showtime's offer, but under the terms of Showtime's deal for the Calzaghe-Lacy fight, it has until Friday to match HBO's offer, although it isn't expected to do so.
This is a similar situation to what happened with Hatton. After he stopped Kostya Tszyu to win the junior welterweight title in a star-making performance on Showtime last summer, HBO went after him. It beat Showtime in the bidding war, signing Hatton last month to a contract that covers his next three fights, and could extend to six depending on which bouts materialize. He makes his HBO debut May 13 in Boston against welterweight titlist Luis Collazo.
Calzaghe's opponent has not been set, but the most prominent names being mentioned are Librado Andrade (23-0, 17 KOs), a Golden Boy-promoted contender who defeated Otis Grant three weeks ago to earn a mandatory shot at titlist Markus Beyer; rising contender Allan Green (19-0, 13 KOs), who faces Donnie McCrary in the ESPN2 "Wednesday Night Fights" main event this week; and Peter Manfredo Jr. (25-3, 11 KOs), the runner up in the "The Contender" reality series last year.
In a statement last week, Calzaghe downplayed rumors that Manfredo was already set to fight him.
"Peter Manfredo is just one of the fighters that we've taken a look at on the list of who was available to fight," Calzaghe said. "For obvious reasons, we'd prefer to fight an American. If you asked me about Manfredo six months ago, I probably would have laughed, but at the end of the day he's stepped up and had a good win over (Scott) Pemberton and got himself ranked, so he's a possibility."
If HBO lands Calzaghe, it would like to eventually match him against light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver should Tarver win his June 10 fight against Bernard Hopkins, who plans to retire after the fight, win or lose.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.