After 45 years of Boxing programming on HBO, HBO Sports President Peter Nelson has confirmed the network will no longer air the sport that was a cornerstone of its programming for nearly a half century.
“Our mission at HBO Sports is to elevate the brand. We look for television projects that are high-profile, high-access, and highly ambitious in the stories they seek to tell and the quality of production in telling them,” Nelson wrote in a press release on Thursday.
The announcement, first broken by the New York Times, the network will be dropping boxing in 2019, as the network will be moving away from live boxing programming, with the network remaining “open to looking at events that fit” their programming mix.
“We are a storytelling platform. The future will see unscripted series, long-form documentary films, reality programming, sports journalism, event specials and more unique standout content from HBO Sports.”
With Showtime, DAZN, Fox, and ESPN making major moves in the space, and Canelo Alvarez testing free agency waters, there were no longer any tentpole fighters for the network. Bob Arum, a frequent detractor of Nelson, called for HBO to end its relationship with the sport, after the Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin rematch earlier this month.
“There’s plenty of boxing out there,” Nelson said referencing the amount of deals being handed out across the sport. “But what we have not seen is a lot of signature destination fights.”
In a week where he was disciplined and fined for a video of him mocking a drug addicted homeless woman, WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders tested positive in a drug test leading up to his October 20th fight against Demetrius Andrade.
The British boxer signed up with the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association for his TD Garden showdown with American challenger Demetrius Andrade, and would be shown to test positive for oxilofrine, a stimulant that helps with increasing adrenaline production and oxygenation of the blood.
With the positive test, Saunders could not only have his October 20th DAZN showdown cancelled, but also be stripped of the title he won in 2015. The title would be the only leverage Saunders had to set up a fight with either Gennady Golovkin or Canelo Alvarez, who fought earlier this month for the remaining titles in the division.
Saunders would be fined £100,000 by the British Boxing Board of Control this week for a video showing Saunders and friends offering crack cocaine to a homeless woman to commit sexual acts and assault a random pedestrian.
UFC President Dana White conceded this week that Conor McGregor gets away with more than any fighter has ever had in the history of the UFC.
The former two division champion would commit what White claimed to be the “most disgusting” thing he’s ever witnessed, when he and a dozen associates would attack a bus holding Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 media day, throwing a hand truck through a window and injuring fighters and staff members.
While a lower fighter would have been fired or at the very least suspended, White let the legal system sort it out, and then brought McGregor back into the fold. Why? He’s the biggest draw in the history of the company.
“Conor works very well with us. We’ve worked very well with him. There are obviously certain things you have to deal with, with a Conor McGregor,” White told ESPN’s “Get Up” recently ahead of UFC 229. “He’s worth it.”
“For example, the New York thing. The fact that he thought he could come here and have this beef with Khabib in the middle of New York City and the way that it was done, that’s obviously the craziest thing.”
Kickboxing may not be mainstream in the United States, but in Europe—especially The Netherlands—it’s gigantic. And Rico Verhoeven (54-10), the GLORY heavyweight champion, is its rock star.
Eight straight title defenses, a 17-1 record in GLORY, and a driving passion to become the best at his chosen craft, have propelled the 29-year-old champion to the top of the kickboxing mountain. His handsome good looks, striking presence and outgoing personality have now shot him into the orbit of stardom.
Once called the sport’s prince, Verhoeven, who faces No.2-ranked contender Guto Inocente at GLORY 59 at Johan Cruijff Arena on September 29, is now referred to as “The King of Kickboxing.”
And right now it’s good to be the king.
When he’s not training, the Dutch champion is juggling a never-ending schedule of sponsorship obligations, Dutch television appearances, a clothing line, movie auditions (his most recent with Sylvester Stallone for Creed 2, which he didn’t land) and rubbing elbows with some of Hollywood’s elite A-listers.
“I look for motivation and I look for people I can compare myself with, who are in the same kind of position with what their motivation is and their vision of life and stuff like that,” Verhoeven told FIGHT SPORTS. “For example: Will Smith, Kevin Hart, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, those people just really motivate and inspire me.”
Verhoeven, who recently spent time wth Johnson at the Skyscraper premiere in Hong Kong, China, and trained with Hart, shared some of his experiences with both of them, as well as the audition with Sly, which would have landed him the part of Viktor Drago.
On Johnson: “It was a cool experience. It was fun. We had a good connection.”
On Hart: “I trained with him. I had him on the pads. So we had a lot of fun and a good connection as well. We are going to meet up again [later on] in October when I’m going to be in L.A.”
Alexander Gustafsson called out Jon Jones when it was announced that the former light heavyweight champion would be clear to return in October, and it seems Jones is ready for a showdown.
Speaking with RT Sport, Jones welcomed the idea of facing Gustafsson in his return fight to the UFC, most likely slated for early 2019.
“I’ve been hearing about the possibility that Alexander Gustafsson will be the first person I fight when I come back, which I’m excited about,” Jones said. “A lot of people feel like he beat me the first time we fought, which didn’t happen, it was close, but he didn’t beat me.”
Jones would best Gustafsson in a fight of the year candidate at UFC 165 in 2013, where Jones would walk out with a unanimous decision victory. And while he got the win, Jones knows he could have taken the showdown a little more seriously.
“So, Alexander Gustafsson is a possible first fight back, I’d love to fight him again and take him seriously this time,” the 31-year-old Jones said. “The first time I fought him, I wasn’t living life the way a champion should be living life.”
“I didn’t train very hard for that fight, I’m not making excuses, but this is just the truth, I could have given it a lot more effort, I got fatigued after the first two rounds, which is something that never normally happens in my fights, so I feel like the next time I fight him, I will finish him.”