At 6 PM Eastern Time on Friday the final step in the lead up until Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao step in the ring took place in Las Vegas.
Weigh-ins in boxing have become events when either Mayweather or Pacquiao are involved and combining the two raised the stakes even higher as it drew the largest crowd to date for what once was a standard procedure. Neither fighter was at risk of not making the 147 lb. welterweight limit and it showed as Pacquiao came in at 145 lbs. even after having a big lunch beforehand and Mayweather came in at 146 lbs.
Even as this event was a spectacle the real focus was not on the fighters themselves. Rather this was in reality a dress rehearsal for the two networks joining forces in the Pay-Per-View broadcast for the fight, HBO and Showtime.
Throughout the promotion for the mega fight the networks have worked separately in the preview specials and together in the press conferences. This time though viewers watching either network got a taste of the dynamic the will be at play Saturday night.
HBO’s Jim Lampley led the broadcast as he will be the play-by-play man for the fight. Alongside him was Showtime’s Al Bernstein who will serve as analyst. The team of Lampley and Bernstein, a dream combination for some in the boxing world, didn’t have any hiccups in the broadcast and had a casual tone in their interaction. That speaks to the mutual respect between both men as each has a storied career covering boxing.
Handling the interviews for the fighters were HBO’s Max Kellerman for Pacquiao and Showtime’s Jim Gray for Mayweather. Gray’s interview had a tone of reflection at the size and scope that the mega fight. Kellerman’s interview was more contemporary and focused on the actual fight.
The main component missing from the broadcast was the man that will share the stage with Lampley and Bernstein in the fight, Roy Jones Jr. That is understandable given that Jones will largely serve as a combination of the two in the fight.
The importance of the dynamics working well in this fight is large to say the least. Both networks have in recent years conducted their own version of the boxing ‘Cold War’ with each competing for the right to broadcast big fights and neither being open with sharing fight footage with the other. The best example of this has been until recently Lampley’s ‘The Fight Game’ show having to rely on photos to cover fights shown on Showtime.
Some of the animosity between the two networks is still noticeable. In the final press conference previewing the fight on Wednesday HBO Sports president Ken Hershman made it a point to highlight the upcoming fights on his network. It was largely seen as a jab at the light boxing schedule after this fight of Showtime, Hershman’s former employer.
For the most part the HBO/Showtime partnership has not seen many bumps. That is essential for the benefit of boxing overall. While any possible joint broadcast in the near future won’t be nearly as large as Mayweather-Pacquiao is, the current political climate in boxing thanks largely to Al Haymon will dictate that one will be needed. The biggest possible HBO/Showtime project after Saturday on the horizon is a heavyweight unification fight between Wladimir Kiltschko, who is with HBO, and Deontay Wilder, who is with Haymon and by default Showtime.