Showtime is putting a full court press on HBO, and not being shy about proclaiming themselves as the top dog in the premium cable pugilism space these days.
The best fighting the best, find that on Showtime, their people will tell you, and they believe that as the year in boxing plays out, more and more of the boxers featured on the Sho screen will be ones that are also found on those mythical lists of the best of brand, the pound for pound lists.
Who is on that list, who has just made it on there, who will likely in the very near future, that subject came up with Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza as he and select fight-game media awaited the presence of WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder to a press luncheon at the Palm on 50th St in Manhattan on Wednesday.
Wilder was making his way northward from southward, where he’d been the plaintiff in a case against Russian boxer Alexander Povetkin. They’d been slated to tango last May but the fight was scrapped last minute because Povetkin had tested positive for meldonium, a substance added to the “banned” list in January 2016. If a court and jury agreed that Povetkin had taken the drug AFTER it went on the ban list then he’d have to pony up purse money that has been held in escrow since last summer.
So as we waited for the 37-0 heavyweight, who tussles Feb. 25 on Fox against Gerald Washington, that left us time to pepper Espinoza with queries. Such as, when will Mikey Garcia, now edging up top ten pound for pound lists, glove up again? Probably June, Espinoza said. “Whichever other 135 pound champ will take him on,” Espinoza said, and that could include the winner of the Anthony Crolla v Jorge (WBC and WBA champ) Linares scrap, and Terry Flanagan (WBO champ) could be in the mix. Or maybe Mikey moves up to 140 if the choices are tastier there, Espinoza said.
A date for a card that would feature WBC 154 pound champ Jermell Charlo fighting Charles Hatley and WBC feather king Gary Russell Jr taking on Oscar Escandon is seeking a decent date. March 11 is where it could land. “Still some loose ends to tie up” but it is probably taking place at a Maryland site.
Claressa Shields was spoken of. Women’s boxing is getting a push on Sho, with Shields, who is getting ducked by risk averse boxers, getting a featured slot on Shobox. “If she keeps growing and achieving and growing her fanbase” she could easily headline a bigger platform Showtime event down the line, the executive said. Also, it isn’t off the table that we could see the March 4 Heather Hardy fight slide on air during the CBS event topped by Keith Thurman v Danny Garcia. Hardy’s everywoman appeal could widen the demographic appeal to that show, I would think.
Espinoza said that in April or May we will probaby see an Andre Berto vs Shawn Porter scrap on Showtime.
No definition on who gets the Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko scrap on US TV; we will see in the next week to ten days. “It is one of the higher profile fights of the year,” Espinoza said. “We really, really want it,” but he knows that Joshua will be fighting a lot on Showtime regardless, and the rights are up for grabs.
And any word on Errol Spence vs Kell Brook? “I’ve expressed my interest” but nothing specific has been decided, as far as where it occurs and on what platform. That would make sense to unfold in Brook-land. “We’d be very interested in it,” not matter where it was presented, he said.
Read Michael Woods on Twitter @Woodsy1069 for much, much more on that Wilder lunch.