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HBO’s Hershman has his work cut out

By John F. McKenna (McJack): HBO’s Sports new executive Ken Hershman has his work cut out for him when he assumes control of the cable giants Boxing program early next year. Hershman succeeds Ross Greenburg who resigned earlier in the year. HBO’s Boxing division has seen an ongoing decline during Greenburg’s time at the helm.

Hershman, who was spirited away from rival Showtime and has long been considered a knowledgeable boxing businessman. Most significantly Showtime was able to remain competitive with the better funded HBO while Hershman was in charge.

Hershman has a reputation for being innovative and being able to think outside the box. Ken also has a proven ability to make solid matchmaking decisions. Among Hershman’s major achievements was putting together the Super Six World Boxing Classic, which despite delays and pull outs by various fighters will finally conclude on December 17 when finalists Andre Ward and Carl Froch go toe to toe.

In contrast to Greenburg who fought long and hard to keep mixed martial arts off HBO, Hershman has used Showtime funding to promote MMA events. With his taking over HBO Boxing, Hershman becomes one of the most powerful men in boxing.

Hersham will inherit a shrinking fan base and some very questionable match making decisions by his predecessor. Ken will have to turn that around and figure a way to improve its ratings at a time when there are very few American fighters outside of Floyd Mayweather Jr. who have a significant fan base.

Over the last month HBO has seen two if its fights end disastrously. The September 17 fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Victory Ortiz came nowhere near close to being the exciting fight boxing fans had hoped for. The PPV sells also fell short of what was anticipated. Saturday night’s bout between Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson was even worse with B-Hop landing on Dawson’s back after missing with a right hand. The result was that Dawson straightened up and threw Hopkins off of him. Bernard landed on his shoulder causing the shoulder to become dislocated resulting in a TKO fight stoppage for Dawson.

Controversial endings are nothing new to boxing, but as of late they have seemed to become the norm. If the top execs at HBO are wondering why their numbers are off they need to figure a way to attract the masses of fans back to boxing who are turned off by the exploits of some of its so called super stars.

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