Manny Pacquiao Headed Back to HBO; Smart or Dumb?

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By Nick Tylwalk

Almost without exception, all of the prominent fights won and lost by the biggest boxing star in world, Manny Pacquiao, have been televised by HBO.

I say almost because Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum and his company Top Rank briefly shook up the televised boxing landscape in the U.S. by taking Manny's most recent victory over Shane Mosley to a pay-per-view broadcast produced by HBO's chief rival. Indeed, it looked for a few months that the relationship between Team Pacquiao and HBO had deteriorated to the point that the Filipino superstar might become a fixture on Showtime.

But as often happens in the sweet science, the pendulum can quickly swing back the other way in a battle between two powerhouses. HBO's time on the mat was short, as it was announced yesterday that the third meeting between Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, set for November 12, will air on HBO pay-per-view. Top Rank president Todd duBoef said both parties made excellent proposals, but in the end, HBO's was just a bit better.

As always, Dan Rafael's ESPN piece has all of the relevant details, but here were the big takeaways as I saw them:

  • Alternate methods of promoting Pacquiao's fights are important 

HBO's "24/7" and Showtime's "Fight Camp 360" are both awesome, well-produced vehicles to promote big PPV fights. Yet they preach to the choir for the most part, serving primarily to get hardcore boxing fans even more psyched up for those bouts.

Arum and company are obviously aiming much higher than that. I was initially skeptical about Showtime using its sister network CBS to push Pacquiao-Mosley, because we all know that broadcast TV isn't what it used to be. Clearly, though, Top Rank thinks that the Showtime-CBS partnership was a driving force behind that PPV doing 1.3 million buys, because a big part of the winning bid by HBO for Pacquiao-Marquez III includes the heavier use of HBO's sibling outlets under the Time Warner umbrella to cement the event in the public consciousness.

If all of their plans come to fruition, the bout is going to get promoted on CNN, TBS, TNT, and even People magazine. Put simply, that can't hurt.

  • Maybe Ross Greenburg was a bigger part of the problem than we thought

The former head of HBO Sports, Greenburg was perhaps the key figure in making his network the king of boxing in the U.S. You would have thought that would have earned him some goodwill even when he failed to deliver Pacquiao-Mosley, but as Rafael points out, Greenburg was forced out of his job last month.

It's vastly oversimplifying things to see Greenburg out of the picture and Pacquiao back on HBO and draw a direct cause and effect relationship, but it certainly raises some eyebrows. Would Pacquiao-Marquez III have stayed with Showtime if Greenburg hadn't resigned? It's a fair question.

  • Showtime is still in the running for the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito rematch

Arum stated not that long ago that whoever got Pacquiao's next fight would also receive the much anticipated second meeting between Cotto and Margarito, but he's now being very clear that Showtime still has a chance to carry that bout. That appears to be a good move on the part of Top Rank, as now the two networks may push each other to make better offers.

Honestly, assistance from CBS or the other Turner channels may do more to raise awareness of Coto and Margarito than they would for Pacquiao, who is already the definition of a household name.  The sport can't revolve around Pac-Man alone, and don't think Arum doesn't know that. Letting HBO and Showtime alternate for Pacquiao's two 2011 fights could keep both networks competing hard to stay on top, and Top Rank's other boxers can reap some of the benefits.

Get more great boxing analysis over at Boxing Watchers.