Pascal-Hopkins moved off pay-per-view

When light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal defends his title against former champ Bernard Hopkins on Dec. 18, fight fans will not have to ante up an extra $50 to watch it on pay-per-view.

Instead, what was originally a scheduled as a Showtime PPV event was moved to regular Showtime on Thursday.

"We are thrilled to be able to offer this important championship fight directly to our loyal subscribers and fight fans," said Ken Hershman, executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports. "This is a milestone fight for each man's respective career and thus this matchup fits perfectly into our programming strategy, to televise the most competitive and meaningful bouts in the sport. I want to thank the promoters for this event, Group Yvon Michel Inc., Golden Boy Promotions, and, of course, the fighters themselves for working with us to bring this bout to our faithful audience. It's an early holiday present for Showtime fight fans."

The fight, which will take place at the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City, figured to be a hard sell on pay-per-view to begin with. Hopkins, who will be 46 a few weeks after the fight, faced Roy Jones in a rematch in April and it tanked on pay-per-view, not even reaching 150,000 buys for what was once considered a mega fight. Also, the fall boxing calendar is loaded with attractive fights on a weekly basis from Nov. 6 to Dec. 11, leaving Pascal-Hopkins pulling up the rear a week before Christmas with it costing an additional fee to watch it.

Although nobody involved will talk about exactly why the change was made, Showtime likely wound up with unspent money that it could put toward the bout following the implosion of other fights for which it had earmarked money in the fall.

For example, Showtime was supposed to carry a Super Six World Boxing Classic bout featuring Mikkel Kessler against Allan Green on Sept. 25. When Kessler dropped out, the replacement fight, Green against Glen Johnson, was moved to another card on Nov. 6. That bout costs far less than it would had Kessler remained in the tournament. The same goes for the Andre Ward-Andre Dirrell Super Six fight that was canceled last week when Dirrell dropped out of the tournament. Although Ward will still fight Nov. 27, the fight, likely against Sakio Bika, will cost Showtime much less than the Dirrell fight.

"Ken Hershman approached me with the idea and we started talking and we found a way to get it done," Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer, who promotes Hopkins, told ESPN.com. "This is tremendous to have a fight like that to end 2010. I think it's ending on a high note. I'm really excited that fight fans in the United States will be able to see it live on Showtime without having to go in their pocket for pay-per-view. It shows the commitment Showtime has to boxing and that they can have the necessary funding in the fourth quarter to make it happen. It's fantastic."

Schaefer said the response he has received from boxing fans since the fight was announced was positive except for the fact that it was on pay-per-view.
"I cannot always have everybody's wish come true, but I take those 'Fight Freaks' seriously," Schaefer said. "They wanted to see the Amir Khan-Marcos Maidana fight get done, and we got it done. Then we made Pascal and Hopkins and the response was very positive, but I kept hearing, 'Why is it on pay-per-view? Please try to find a way not to have it on pay-per-view. Well, we found a way."

Pascal and Hopkins, promoting the Canadian pay-per-view telecast, will hit the road for a four-city media tour to promote the fight next week. They will be in Quebec City on Monday morning followed by an afternoon stop in Montreal. On Tuesday, they have a news conference in Toronto and they finish in New York on Wednesday.

Showtime and the promoters are still discussing the undercard. One of the undercard bouts likely will involve former junior welterweight titlist Paulie Malignaggi. He is moving up to welterweight and would be fighting for the first time since being stopped by Khan in a May title bout and signing with Golden Boy last month.

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.