When looking at the American boxing schedule this year it looked the premium cable network HBO looked to have a monopoly on what can be called big fights.
That changed a few hours ago.
Showtime, HBO’s main rival network who had a thin fight schedule, released their lineup of fights in the spring and early summer for both their Showtime Championship Boxing and Showtime Boxing International series in what can described aa a blitz against their competition. The schedule is as follows:
April 9: Showtime Boxing International will carry British network Sky Sports’ broadcast of International Boxing Federation heavyweight champion Charles Martin’s first title against top British prospect Anthony Joshua and IBF featherweight champion Lee Selby’s second defense against American Eric Hunter from London’s O2 Arena. The time difference between London and Las Vegas means this card won’t collide with the HBO Pay-Per-View card featuring Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley.
April 16: Showtime Championship Boxing will air World Boxing Council featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr’s first defense against Patrick Hyland and IBF junior lightweight champion Jose Pedraza’s mandatory defense against Stephen Smith from the Foxwoods Resorts Casino in Mashantucket, CT.
April 30: Two super middleweight title fights are lined up as WBC champion Badou Jack will face former champion Lucian Bute. Jack was originally set to fight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. until a heel injury sidelined him. Also on the card is IBF champion James DeGale’s mandatory defense against Mexico’s Rogelio Medina. As part of the agreement the winners of these two fights are set then to face each other in a unification bout later in the year. The venue for the card is yet to be determined.
May 21: Showtime Boxing International will carry WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder’s fourth title defense against mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin in Moscow, Russia with the venue yet to be determined. The card is also likely to feature a cruiserweight unification fight between World Boxing Association champion Denis Lebedev and IBF champion Victor Ramirez that was originally scheduled for April 30. It is very likely that Showtime will have their broadcast team of Mauro Ranallo, Al Bernstein, and Paulie Malignaggi call the fights due to the language difference.
June 11: Perennial fan favorite Ruslan Provodnikov will make his Showtime debut in a 12-round junior welterweight bout against John Molina at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, NY. This is part of a multi-fight deal Provodnikov signed with the network. He was previously mentioned as a possible opponent for World Boxing Organization junior welterweight champion Terrence Crawford. A possible co-feature for the card is a WBC junior middleweight title eliminator between Demetrius Andrade and Charles Hatley.
June 25: In a fight originally scheduled for Saturday at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman will face Shawn Porter in one of the more anticipated fights of the year. The fight was postponed due to injuries suffered by Thurman in a car accident. The co-feature will be the fight between WBA (regular) featherweight champion Jesus Cuellar and Abner Mares. While the fight will be a Showtime production it will be aired by its parent company CBS as originally planned. The card will be held in a new venue yet to be determined.
Also Showtime will air a yet to be finalized fight between WBA featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz defending his title against WBA/IBF junior featherweight champion Carl Frampton. Both men are coming off successful defenses on February 27 when Frampton defeated domestic rival Scott Quigg in Manchester, England and also gaining the WBA belt while Santa Cruz defeated Kiko Martinez in Anaheim, CA. Frampton was mandated by the WBA to fight Guillermo Rigondeaux but likely have his title stripped.
All of these cards have ties in some way to power broker Al Haymon, who has good relations with Showtime, and can be a sign of the overall financial health of his Premier Boxing Champions venture. The PBC has not done many events as compared to last year when it launched with time buys on multiple networks. So far the only networks with scheduled PBC cards this year have been Fox and its sister channel FS1 with Spike TV and NBC having upcoming cards. With Showtime paying the licensing fees for these fight the financial burden on Haymon’s side is much lighter. There is even a clash of events such as the April 16 Showtime card being on the same day as the PBC card headlined by the fight between welterweights Errol Spence Jr. and Chris Algieri airing on NBC.
For Showtime though this is a sign of strength. Not only is their boxing calendar more full but a majority of the fights will be seen as competitive. The deal made with Provodnikov, who has no ties to Haymon, also shows that the network may be starting to wean themselves from him. The only knock that the network has now is that it has no scheduled PPV fights as compared to HBO who currently has two and might have as much as five by the end of the year.
Showtime is currently celebrating 30 years of broadcasting boxing events.