Pay cable network HBO announced on Thursday, Sep. 27 that it will cease coverage of boxing events by the end of 2018, after a 45-year run on the network that produced and televised more than 1,000 fights.
Peter Nelson, executive vice president of HBO Sports, said in a recent interview to the New York Times, “This is not a subjective decision… Our audience research informs us that boxing is no longer a determinant factor for subscribing to HBO.” Declining ratings for boxing on the outlet combined with its relatively exorbitant production costs played significant parts in the decision.
Analyst Max Kellerman, ringside scorer Harold Lederman and commentators Andre Ward and Roy Jones Jr. are all likely to exit HBO. Play-by-play announcer Jim Lampley is expected to remain despite the departure of the sport.
The long legacy of HBO boxing features such notable bouts as George Foreman’s knockout of the heavyweight champion Joe Frazier in 1973, Mike Tyson’s knockout of Trevor Berbick in 1986 to become the youngest heavyweight champion in history, Mike Tyson’s upset loss to Buster Douglas in Tokyo in 1990, and classic 80’s rivalry matchups of Marvin Hagler-Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns.
Currently, the sport of boxing is landing on an increasing amount of outlets. Recently, Fox Sports and Premier Boxing Champions agreed to a four-year deal, while ESPN and Top Rank Boxing signed on for a seven-year deal. Pay streaming service DAZN launched on Sep. 22 with a heavyweight fight between Anthony Joshua and Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium from London, England. And, Showtime plans to amp up its boxing slate in 2019.
The LeBron James-produced two-part documentary on Muhammad Ali will be HBO’s only planned association with boxing in 2019.
HBO has no boxing broadcasts scheduled beyond a middleweight title fight between Daniel Jacobs and Sergiy Derevyanchenko at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 27.