Welcome to Magno’s Monday Rant…
Kudos to Bryan Vera for beating the smug, underachieving “Latin Snake” and, hopefully, removing him from the sport’s collective unconscious on Friday night.
Regardless of his status as resident turd in the pugilistic punch bowl, Sergio Mora stands as a living, breathing testament to a very basic truth in boxing: Mainstream TV exposure is the key to doing anything positive for the sport.
Mora is still reaping the benefits of his NBC TV exposure on the boxing reality show, The Contender. Despite being one of the most stylistically frustrating and personally repugnant characters in a long time and while almost universally hated among hardcore fans and media alike, Mora still gets TV dates.
Sadly, Los Angeles’ most embarrassing product since OJ’s white Bronco chase, has a higher Q Rating than anyone on boxing’s pound for pound list not named Pacquiao or Mayweather and it’s all due to his brief 14-week run on NBC.
The Contender reality show on The Peacock Network during the 2004-2005 season, regarded as a ratings disappointment, averaged about 7 million viewers over the course of its 14-episode run, even while often finishing in third place among network shows in its time slot. Compare that to the 800,000-1.3 million who routinely watch HBO’s product, which is far and away the highest rated boxing series on US television.
So, with about 98 million people exposed to Mora over a three and a half month period, it only stands to reason that his name registers with fans above and beyond the usual cast of hardcore fight nuts.
Even Peter Manfredo Jr., who finished second to Mora in the million dollar Contender finale, has more name recognition than guys with significantly greater skills. Manfredo’s recent bout against Daniel Edouard on ESPN2′s Friday Night Fights pulled in about 800,000 live viewers.
Let’s just make this clear to anyone who still doubts the power of free network TV– A spot on CBS, NBC, ABC and even Fox means access to each and every household in the US and even a last place prime time show brings several times more viewers than the highest rated HBO Boxing telecast.
The first priority of anyone claiming to want to help the sport is to get boxing back on free TV in whatever way possible. The second priority is to not embarrass themselves once they get there.
Bob Arum’s tantalizing, mouth-watering deal with Showtime, which is offering a side order of CBS to sweeten the pot for the Pacquiao vs. Mosley pay per view, is a step in the right direction.
Well, actually, any step away from the HBO brain trust should be considered a step in the right direction.
In the matter of two months, HBO managed to chase away two of their most consistent producers in Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto. And prior to that, they signed burgeoning crossover star, Sergio Martinez, to face a crafty southpaw from the Ukraine in an effort, I guess, to completely nullify any momentum gained from two simultaneous FOTY-level battles.
Considering that Floyd Mayweather is ambivalent about whether he wants to fight ever again, Amir Khan’s contract is finished in May and neither Timothy Bradley nor Devon Alexander are this generation’s answer to Hearns, Leonard, or even Donald Curry, HBO is in some deep distress.
With no more Showtime stars to steal for a quick fix, HBO will be left to their own devices and will have to do two things that no deep pocket could ever resolve on its own: make quality match-ups and build stars.
February 19th’s Fernando Montiel-Nonito Donaire is a big step in the right direction and the proposed Andre Berto-Victor Ortiz bout would finally be a way to showcase two of their most maligned recent investments. Even the March 5th Saul Alvarez-Matthew Hatton, Adrien Broner-Daniel Ponce de Leon doubleheader looks to be a solid return to when Boxing After Dark shows routinely featured crossroads bouts with young prospects and/or earnest veterans with something to prove.
However, we’ve seen HBO drop the ball before and, from all reports, the second half of 2011 looks to be rather dicey in terms of available budget.
And this brings us back to the initial premise of this rant.
Promoters and management teams need to be creative and need to work outside of the HBO-Showtime box. The easy money might not always be there and if, suddenly, HBO decides that boxing is too much hassle for too little reward or if they decide to ease back and do less shows, the end result would be devastating.
A promoter is, essentially, a salesman, right? Let them sell boxing to one of the networks. With the networks comes a young demographic and, if done right, about 20 years worth of fan base for a sport that is instantly electric to those who are actually allowed access.
After all, if network TV can make a guy like Mora into a quasi-star, imagine what it can do for those who really deserve the attention.
You can email Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him as he stalks gorgeous female strangers on Facebook and catch him as he dodges narcos and gringo-hungry señoritas in Michoacan, Mexico. Paul is a full member of the Burger King Kid’s Club and an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church.
About the Author: Paul has been in and around the sport of boxing for more than thirty years. You can read his work on Fox Sports, Yahoo Sports, or on his own website, The Boxing Tribune. In the past, he has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. Paul currently resides in Michoacan, Mexico, where he has worked as a licensed boxing official as well as co-trainer at Ruben Olivares' gym.