Slumping economy behind cancellation of Telefutura's 'Solo Boxeo'

NEW YORK -- A month after ESPN2 canceled "Wednesday Night Fights," boxing fans must deal with another hard blow.

Spanish-language network Telefutura canceled its Friday night live boxing series "Solo Boxeo" because of the ailing economy. Although the show is one of the network's most popular series, it is one of its most costly and will end its run in December.

"It's a fact of life," Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com. "We are very disappointed. It was a long-running series and had a good following. It is unfortunate that due to this economic situation, fight fans are not going to be able to enjoy Solo Boxeo anymore. It's rather depressing."

The cancellation is a big setback for promotional companies Top Rank, Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions and Don Chargin Productions, which had a lock on the roughly 48 dates each year that paid a license fee of about $60,000 a week. Top Rank put on about 24 shows a year while Golden Boy promoted about 18 and Chargin six.

Like many businesses, Telefutura and sister network Univision, the largest Spanish-language network in the United States, have felt the impact of the slumping economy. The publicly held company run by business magnate Jerry Perenchio was sold for $13 billion in June 2006 to a private investment group headed by billionaire Haim Saban, but the downturn in the economy has battered the investment.

"Univision was acquired by a private investment group at the height of the market," Schaefer said. "It was a highly leveraged transaction. They used a lot of debt to acquire Univision and this debt has to be repaid. They have to go through very significant cuts to keep the company afloat, so they have to cancel a host of shows where they do the production, which costs them money. To produce a boxing show where they travel all over the country every week is a very expensive proposition. It's much more expensive than doing a show in a studio."

Univision Sports president David Downs, who created the series, could not be reached for comment, but Schaefer said he spoke with him Friday about the decision.

"David Downs was very down as well," Schaefer said. "The show was one of his babies. It really saddened him. He loves the sport of boxing and he knows its importance to the Hispanic audience."

Schaefer said he had already started looking for other opportunities to create a new show elsewhere.

"We still have a wonderful sponsor in Tecate, we have Oscar and an exciting young stable of fighters, so those are three important ingredients we can take to land somewhere else," he said.

Solo Boxeo debuted in August 2000 as a one-hour Sunday afternoon show on Univision before it was shifted to newly created sister network Telefutura in 2002 and into a two-hour Friday night time slot.

In October, Solo Boxeo aired its 400th fight card and has given numerous Hispanic fighters exposure on their way to greater stardom; fighters such as standouts Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Juan Manuel Marquez, Rafael Marquez, Juan Diaz and Kermit Cintron all fought on Solo Boxeo. Even some non-Hispanic fighters have been featured including Kelly Pavlik -- before he became middleweight champion.

The show also introduced broadcasters Bernardo Osuna and Ricardo Celis and ring announcer Lupe Contreras to the masses. Osuna was honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America with the Sam Taub Award for excellence in broadcast journalism in 2004.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.