Will Stevenson and Kovalev be HBO’s secret weapons in battle with Showtime in 2014?
By Robbie Bannatyne: After a memorable year in boxing, I look forward to 2014 with the same sort of enthusiasm children reserve for Santa Claus. I like millions of others, have so many fascinating fights on my Christmas List.
The promotional ‘Cold War’ between Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions, and by extension, the rival television networks HBO and Showtime respectively, has deprived the boxing public of many great fights. But the great paradox is that I feel the sport has flourished in the last year not in spite of the divisive outside influences, but because of them. Hence, the boxing public should look forward to 2014 with great optimism as there is sure to be transcending Pay-Per-View punch ups in the coming year’s calendar.
The most hotly anticipated match-up barring, of course, a potential Floyd Mayweather Jnr vs Manny Pacquaio contest, is undoubtedly a unification clash between Light Heavyweight warriors, Adonis ‘Superman’ Stevenson and Sergei ‘The Crusher’ Kovalev.
However, unlike the Mayweather and Pacquaio fight, which seems destined to sustain the status of theoretical ‘dream fight’, the wishes for Stevenson vs Kovalev encounter is far more likely to be fulfilled in reality in 2014.
And if both men’s latest performances were a precursor of what’s to come, then boxing fans around the world will be able to feast upon the most ferocious rivalry in the recent history of the 175lb division.
As the two headlining acts of the recent fight card in the Colisee de Quebec, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, both fighters highlighted their credentials as the most explosive punchers in the sport with devastating knockouts. Firstly, Kovalev gave a painstaking insight into how he earned his nickname by crushing the classy challenger Ismayl Sillakh, with a brutal assault which sent his limp body crashing to the canvas.
Not to be outdone, Adonis Stevenson lived up to his ‘Superman’ moniker by putting on a boxing master class of speed and murderous punching power, as he battered Liverpool’s Tony Bellew into submission in the 6th round, to record his 4th stoppage victory of 2013.
Those stunning stoppages set the stage for what is guaranteed to be a brutal battle for supremacy in the Light Heavyweight division when these two colossuses inevitably collide.
The reason I have such courage in the conviction that it will happen is because HBO need it to happen. They need a new supply of P-P-V stars after Showtime’s stunning capture of Floyd Mayweather Jnr on a $200 million, 6 fight deal, whose loss was compounded by Golden Boys entire stable defecting permanently and exclusively to Showtime.
HBO, the boxing coverage colossal for decades has lost its aura of invincibility in the last year. The timing of which, has coincided with Showtime finally shedding their inferior complexity- they are taking the fighting to HBO and landing some heavy shots on their sworn enemy.
According to Mlive.com’s David Mayo in February, HBO as a whole has receded its subscriber lead over Showtime over the past 10 year. Mayo, stated, “A decade ago, the numbers were about 32 million for HBO subscribers and about 14 million for Showtime. Showtime now has more than 18 million subscribers, while HBO’s base has dwindled some”
And the signs are ominous that this trend is set to continue as Mayo also commented that “Showtime Networks Inc. has become a leader in the premium cable and satellite television network business, increasing its revenue and subscriber numbers substantially despite intense competition from HBO. Showtime now has about 23 million subscribers and an estimated cash flow of roughly $900 million compared to $32 million in 1995”
HBO is said to still have upwards of 28 million subscribers. So whilst they may still be in a position of power, the once gaping chasm between the subscribers was been reduced to a barely definable crease.
But in a financial sense, Showtimes power is equivalent to that of Paulie Malignaggi, whereas HBO’s clout is more akin to the concussive power of a Stevenson or a Kovalev.
The network will be looking to use their knockout financial power to put their rivals on the canvas by staging an action packed boxing calendar in 2014. I believe they can land telling blows in the battle for supremacy with Showtime by securing a two to three fight series with Adonis Stevenson and Sergei Kovalev in 2014.
The icy relations between HBO and Showtime show no sign of thawing, which can only mean we are in for another red hot year for boxing in 2014, and I have a feeling we will have many boxing occasions which will encapsulate the joy and spirit of Christmas in the coming year.
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