Dougie’s Monday mailbag (Goodbye HBO Boxing, Lomachenko-Pedraza, Teofimo Lopez)

A SAD ENDING FOR HBO

Hi Doug,

Merry Christmas to you and your family from all of us here. I wanted to chime in for the last time in 2018 as we wrap up another year of the mailbag.

I watched Saturday night, the last scheduled boxing program on HBO. I have been with HBO for as long as they have been covering the sport so I saw all of the legendary fights they showed clips from when they happened. There were truly some fights for the ages. Sadly, the retrospective of past fights that they showed at the end of the evening was the best thing about Saturday night’s broadcast. I know you can’t make every fight you present Leonard vs Hearns but it seems they could have done better for their swansong fight card. I will leave it to other mail baggers to break the fights down. For me the departure of HBO is a bummer because they and Showtime are my go-to places for boxing. I guess I am old school because I have to this point, avoided DAZN or ESPN+ streaming services because I really don’t want to watch fights on my phone or my PC (and my satellite bill is high enough without adding more monthly charges) but I will probably be going to DAZN so I can keep up with the sport because I do love it. Maybe watching it on my new smart TV will soften the hit.

Elsewhere on Saturday, ESPN had the best fights of the night. I had not seen Teofimo Lopez before before but wow! That was a KO of the year candidate and he is a fighter I want to watch as he progresses. To say he is full of confidence is an understatement but it will be interesting to see how they match him and how he does on the more elite level. He reminds me of the kind of excitement young Manny Pacquiao brought into the ring.

Turning to main event Lomachenko. What can you say? The man is a scientist in the ring. What a display of everything boxing is at the elite level. (I am going to review some old Willie Pep films to compare as he is considered the measuring yardstick for boxers). The only thing Lomo lacks is one hitter power but with his footwork, angles, speed and accurate punching that is somewhat off set. The 11th round of the match with Jose Pedraza was an incredible display.

As for what is next…I looked at The Ring ratings. I can’t understand why they did not make Lomo and Mikey Garcia. That’s a great matchup and much less dangerous for Mikey than Errol Spence.

Have a great Christmas and New Year, Doug. Looking forward to what the sweet science has in store in 2019. – David / Nashville

It’s going to be an interesting and very busy year for boxing. Fans will also get a lot of “shoulder programming” from the networks and platforms that are dedicated to boxing. Thanks for the holiday wishes, David. Regarding Lomachenko-Pedraza, two things are clear: Vasiliy’s athletic ceiling appears to be lightweight, he’s the most versatile 135 pounder in the sport. I’m positive he can still make 130 pounds without struggle, so it comes as no surprise that bigger lightweights (who happen to have excellent finesse games), both Jorge Linares and Jose Pedraza, gave him some trouble. But he’s such a complete FIGHTER – one who is very comfortable walking down elusive opponents – as well as a brilliant, creative boxer, that he winds up overwhelming them by the championship rounds.  In terms of a style matchup, I’m not so sure that Lomachenko represents an “easier” fight for Garcia than Spence, who is a straight-forward fighter with an orthodox style, but there’s no doubt that the top welterweight in the game is more of a physical threat to the Southern Californian.

I watched Saturday night, the last scheduled boxing program on HBO. I was there, ringside, at a depressingly empty StubHub Center, along with my longtime colleague Steve Kim.

I have been with HBO for as long as they have been covering the sport so I saw all of the legendary fights they showed clips from when they happened. There were truly some fights for the ages. No doubt about it, and I feel ya. Hagler-Leonard (1987) brought me back to the sport, along with Mike Tyson’s title-unification run in the late ‘80s, while I was in high school. I watched Tyson-Douglas and Chavez-Taylor (1990) live while in Boston during a college internship at the Boston Globe. And the young stars that were featured on HBO during the early ‘90s – Terry Norris, Roy Jones Jr. and James Toney – are what made me the hardcore fan I remain today. I remember exactly where I was and what was going on in my life when I think about those fights.

Sadly, the retrospective of past fights that they showed at the end of the evening was the best thing about Saturday night’s broadcast. Dude, Kim and I were watching the ESPN show. (Kim on his laptop, me on my iPhone – I’m a little more discrete than the K-Hammer.)

I know you can’t make every fight you present Leonard vs Hearns but it seems they could have done better for their swansong fight card. Given their budget, their decision to get out of live boxing, and the steep competition for quality fighters and matchups in the current climate, I can see why the network sort of cut its losses with this final show. I’m sure they would have loved to go out with Canelo vs. Fielding or the Alvarez-Kovalev rematch as the main event, but those fighters/fights were snatched up by other networks/platforms that could easily outbid HBO.

For me the departure of HBO is a bummer because they and Showtime are my go-to places for boxing. Well, Showtime’s still in the game.

I guess I am old school because I have to this point, avoided DAZN or ESPN+ streaming services because I really don’t want to watch fights on my phone or my PC (and my satellite bill is high enough without adding more monthly charges) but I will probably be going to DAZN so I can keep up with the sport because I do love it. Maybe watching it on my new smart TV will soften the hit. You’re gonna love watching DAZN on your TV screen, and I would consider ESPN+ if I were you. If you dump HBO, you’ll free up the monthly funds to pay for both streaming services.

 

LOMACHENKO STRUGGLED WITH PEDRAZA

Hey Dougie,

Quick 3 questions I wanted to run by you, since you’re the closest we’ll get to a human boxing databank.

1- Pedraza seemed so limited and one dimensional, yet he won some rounds against the so-called Neo of boxing. Did Loma slip since surgery or were Pedraza’s herky-jerky movements a legit puzzle for him?

2- Will this fight prove to have been helpful or hurtful for Loma’s overall marketability?

3- Loma of tonight vs Garcia that just beat Russel Jr? Who wins?

I hope you and your fam are well, thank you as always for your coverage and insights, I hope you never forget that your work and the fact that you do it so well means a lot to us fans! – Miguel from Naples  

Thanks for the very kind (and motivating) words, Miguel.

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

1- Pedraza seemed so limited and one dimensional, yet he won some rounds against the so-called Neo of boxing. Did Loma slip since surgery or were Pedraza’s herky-jerky movements a legit puzzle for him? I think Loma’s “failure” to completely dominate Pedraza was a combination of three things: Vasiliy not being 100% confident in using his right, the size and range of the Puerto Rican, and (most importantly) Pedraza’s skill and ring generalship. Having said that, it’s not that big of a deal for a master boxer to lose a few rounds while figuring out his opponent. It happened with Pernell Whitaker more than a few times, but he was always the man during the second half of his title bouts.

2- Will this fight prove to have been helpful or hurtful for Loma’s overall marketability? I think it will be helpful. This year, he’s proven to be human by struggling a bit against lightweight titleholders (so it may not be so tough for Top Rank to bring in quality opponents), as well as a draw in New York City and a boxer who tries hard to close the show (so I’m sure ESPN is happy with him and will continue to push him across its platforms).

3- Loma of tonight vs Garcia that just beat Russel Jr? Who wins? When did Garcia beat Gary Russell Jr.? Loma’s the only pro to defeat Russell. I favor Loma by close decision over Garcia in a sensational fight.

 

IT’S ALMOST TANK TIME!

Hey Doug,

First time writer just wanted to give my 2 cents. Hope team #TMT has Tank in shape. After watching Loma tonight big baby has more than a legitimate shot. Loma has great footwork and head movement/upper body but he still gets touched too much for my liking. Let’s see what’s in the tank #2020. – Ben

I think Lomachenko vs. Gervonta Davis could be built into a major lightweight showdown – and a competitive fight – by 2020, maybe even by late 2019 if Tank can get the activity that he needs. 

But if he only fights once (as he did in 2018), he won’t be ready for Lomachenko, just like an inactive Pedraza (who had only fought once in 2016) was not ready for Davis in 2017.

 

HBO’S UNSUNG PRODUCTION CREW

So, with all the postmortems of HBO boxing, I keep thinking about the future minus HBO. Every top box office attraction in my lifetime was built on HBO. Sure some of them moved on to Showtime, but every consistent top tier attraction had the HBO brand behind their rise. The power of that brand won’t be transferred overnight and it remains to be seen how the future plays out. I’m curious how you see it? Does the reach of ESPN prove dominant, does Showtime with its deep PBC bench and solid boxing brand take its premium competitor’s spot, or with HBO’s final box office king Canelo and massive marketing campaign, does DAZN prove the new era’s upstart?

Max Kellerman’s stomach-churning “story of the fight” has become an epidemic of bad salesmanship in TV boxing….and bad storytelling when the reality of a fight differs from the prefab story a commentator brings to the broadcast, such as ESPN trying to con me into thinking Loma was in a close fight on Saturday…and to me completely misses what made HBO boxing such a powerful brand. It wasn’t Lampley comparing average fighters to legends, it wasn’t Max gushing valentines to fighters, it wasn’t even Larry cynically knocking every subpar performance.

To me HBO’s greatest strength was its production team. From the 24/7 packages to the largely seamless broadcasts of stand up to feature to backstage, etc. to the direction and shot selection of the fights themselves (that last bit is huge to me as nobody else broadcasts the fight itself as well as HBO). I’m curious if there’s been any talk/rumors of those HBO boxing folks we don’t know, who were the real workhorses that helped make the HBO brand and so many fighters feel special, like big fights were the Superbowl, being poached by ESPN, Showtime, DAZN? For me, any of those brands getting that HBO quality production would be a massive leg up in the battle for supremacy. – Greg

Many former HBO Sports producers have already moved over to ESPN and Showtime, Greg, and they’ve done their usual excellent work on non-boxing projects (including some of my favorite 30 for 30 documentaries and Showtime’s excellent political series The Circus). There’s no doubt in my mind that DAZN and Fox are also on the lookout for any available producers from HBO’s live boxing series. However, some may remain with HBO to work on non-boxing sports and original programming, documentaries, etc.

By the way, although I don’t have the same disdain that you and other hardcore fans have for the commentators, I wholeheartedly agree that the network’s production quality for live boxing was second to none. No other network could present boxing quite like HBO. And the sport – inside the arena and inside the ring – just didn’t look as good on other networks. It was like magic, but it was really the work of the best producers in the industry. I got to meet and get to know some of them back when HBO had Countdown shows for some of their “lesser” PPVs, and they were all very friendly and smart people. A nice guy named Dave Harmon was “the boss” producer for all those live broadcasts and pre-shows, by the way.

So, with all the postmortems of HBO boxing, I keep thinking about the future minus HBO. I gotta be honest with you, Greg, I love HBO as much as the next over-40 boxing fan, but I have not been obsessing about the sport’s future without the subscription cable giant.

Every top box office attraction in my lifetime was built on HBO. Sure some of them moved on to Showtime, but every consistent top tier attraction had the HBO brand behind their rise. Pernell Whitaker, Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, Terry Norris, James Toney, Roy Jones Jr., Naseem Hamed, Lennox Lewis, Arturo Gatti, Oscar De La Hoya, Fernando Vargas, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao are among those attractions. A few – most notably Evander Holyfield and Felix Trinidad – were developed on Showtime and then transferred to HBO. Julio Cesar Chavez’s rise took place off both cable networks, and then he bounced back and forth from HBO and Showtime during his “glory years.”

The power of that brand won’t be transferred overnight and it remains to be seen how the future plays out. I’m curious how you see it? Does the reach of ESPN prove dominant, does Showtime with its deep PBC bench and solid boxing brand take its premium competitor’s spot, or with HBO’s final box office king Canelo and massive marketing campaign, does DAZN prove the new era’s upstart? DAZN has the two biggest attractions in boxing under contract – Canelo Alvarez and Anthony Joshua – so they’ve got a leg up on the competition in that area. But they still need to feature good, world-class fights on a regular basis to compete with established brands like ESPN and Showtime, and a major network like Fox. We’ll see if their deal with Golden Boy helps in this regard. Now that HBO is out of the picture, Showtime has the most experience with live, world-class boxing and the old PPV model. We’ll see how they do in 2019 with the Wilder-Fury II and Pacquiao-Broner PPVs, and if they can deliver on the title unifications (Hurd-Charlo and Russell-Santa Cruz please!) that they’ve promised. To me, the success of the PBC (on both Showtime and Fox) hinges on whether they can get their top talent to face each other. ESPN has the farthest reach, the most experienced promotional partner (Top Rank), some of the best boxing talent (Loma, Terence Crawford, Jose Ramirez, Teofimo Lopez) and very talented producers and commentators to help deliver their product. I think ESPN will deliver the highest ratings on a consistent basis. The challenge for ESPN is the same that all the platforms have – getting top competition for their top talent. The only way that will happen is if they do business with other networks/platforms.

 

THE TEOFIMO TAKEOVER

What up Dougie,

I hope everything is going well. I remember asking you who you thought out of all the prospects had the highest potential or who would you put your bet on as a promoter if you were one. I was stuck between Devon & Teomifo but after last night I definitely think Teomifo is a class above all the others. Wow, what a knockout. Wanted to ask you what you think of him after yesterday, I am really high on this kid. Of course, I am already creating match ups in my head. And what your thoughts on these match ups.

Lopez vs Verdejo – I think this is the match that should happen next and should easily be made. Winner gets a future shot at Loma.

Lopez vs Pedraza – I honestly think he can get rid of Pedraza as Davis did.

Lopez Vs Devon – I think one day either at 135 or 140 this will be a big superstar match up if both continue on the right path. Right now I think Devon is a little greener for Lopez but if Devon continues to improve he could be a problem for anyone.

Lopez vs Loma – I’ll probably get a lot of heat for this one maybe I am getting a head of myself but I think Lopez could be the one to dethrone Loma. After yesterday Loma no longer seem unbeatable to me. I understand Perdaza style is difficult and I know his a tough opponent but I think Lopez has the speed and pop to get the job done only problem is he might still be a little to green.

On to my next question, what’s next for Teomifo? I would love for him to get a crack at the IBF or WBC if it goes vacant. He wants a title shot in 2019 so if your were his manager or promoter what would be your 2019 plan for him. And what do you envision actually happening?

As for Loma what did you think of his performance? Am I being hard on him after coming back for a surgery?

Lastly didn’t get to watch the HBO event but going to catch up tomorrow. Farewell to HBO left a bittersweet feeling. – Omar

HBO’s exit has left a lot of fans feeling sad and pensive, and that’s proof of the deep and meaningful impact the network had on the sport.

I thought Lomachenko boxed and hunted effectively against a well-prepared, motivated and skilled fellow titleholder. He wasn’t untouchable, but he was in command every step of the way. Pedraza did very well to keep up and not get overwhelmed until the 11th round but there was no doubt who the better man was. Loma may not have looked like a P4P King, but, to me, he definitely looked like the No. 1 lightweight.

Teofimo Lopez looked like the No. 1 prospect in boxing. I think he’s a leading candidate for Prospect of the Year, along with Jaron Ennis, Vergil Ortiz, Joshua Buatsi and Josh Kelly.

Lopez vs Verdejo – I think this is the match that should happen next and should easily be made. Winner gets a future shot at Loma. I think that’s a perfect next step for Lopez, and I think it could headline an ESPN show at Hulu Theater inside Madison Square Garden, but I would not rush Lopez into the Loma showdown if he won it.

Lopez vs Pedraza – I honestly think he can get rid of Pedraza as Davis did. Lopez would not get the frustrated, inactive version of Pedraza that David got. He’d get the active, motivated version that Loma had to deal with, and that might be too much too soon.

Lopez Vs Devon – I think one day either at 135 or 140 this will be a big superstar match up if both continue on the right path. Right now I think Devon is a little greener for Lopez but if Devon continues to improve he could be a problem for anyone. I’d favor Lopez if the fight were made next year.

Lopez vs Loma – I’ll probably get a lot of heat for this one maybe I am getting a head of myself but I think Lopez could be the one to dethrone Loma. After yesterday Loma no longer seem unbeatable to me. I understand Perdaza style is difficult and I know he is a tough opponent but I think Lopez has the speed and pop to get the job done only problem is he might still be a little too green. “A little”? Lopez is 21, been a pro for two years with 11 fights under his belt. And he doesn’t have Loma’s elite amateur experience. I don’t think Lopez should be rushed into a challenge to The Ring champion. He should at least beat ONE legit top-10 contender before we start talking about title shots, no?

On to my next question, what’s next for Teomifo? I would love for him to get a crack at the IBF or WBC if it goes vacant. He wants a title shot in 2019 so if you were his manager or promoter what would be your 2019 plan for him. And what do you envision actually happening? My plan would be to get him ROUNDS against veteran contenders (or at least guys ranked by the sanctioning bodies). Looking at the WBA, IBF, WBO, WBC 135-pound ratings, I see seasoned fighters that will make for entertaining bouts, give him more experience and move him up those rankings – scrappers like Ray Beltran, Nihito Arakawa and Mercito Gesta. That’s who I’d put him in with. And that’s what I think Top Rank will do. We might see Lopez taking on Richard Commey for a belt (or a vacant title) by the end of 2019.

 

 

Email Fischer at dougie@boxingmailbag.com. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer

The post Dougie’s Monday mailbag (Goodbye HBO Boxing, Lomachenko-Pedraza, Teofimo Lopez) appeared first on The Ring.

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