Cable Operators

Showtime Back In The Ring

7/18/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

Showtime, looking to step up in the boxing game, will distribute the first ever round-robin world championship boxing tournament over the next two years.

The tournament will pit six fighters in the super-middleweight division (168 to 175 pounds) in a points-driven tournament to determine the best in the weight class. All fights — which will take place in various locations in the United States and Europe — will air on the Showtime pay TV service, but the championship match could find its way on pay-per-view, according to Ken Hershman, senior vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports.

“We're looking to put the best boxers together in the best fights we could make and with the tournament overlay we think it adds a whole other layer that the fans can follow and enjoy,” he said.

The fighters in the tournament include International Boxing Federation middleweight champion Arthur Abraham (Germany); Andre Dirrell (United States); World Boxing Council super middleweight champion Carl Froch (England); World Boxing Association super middleweight champion Mikkel Kessler (Denmark); former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor (U.S.); and Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward (U.S.).

Each boxer will fight three bouts against different opponents in a round-robin tournament, Hershman said. The winners of each bout will receive two points, earning one point for fights ending in a draw.

The tournament marks the first such structured format for the sport. Hershman said it should keep fans interested and excited as it unfolds over the next two years.

Former HBO programming executive and current boxing promoter Lou Dibella said the tournament will also help build the sport among young viewers.

”This is what is going to get boxing back on the map,” said DiBella, who represents tournament boxer Taylor. “There's not going to be a bad fight in the tournament because it's the best fighting the best.”

The event also provides more exposure for Showtime's boxing program, which for the past few years has operated in the shadow of rival pay TV service HBO's premium and pay-per-view boxing events.

In its heyday during the mid to late 1990s, Showtime distributed some of the most high profile and lucrative PPV fights of all time with a roster of marquee fighters such as Mike Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez and Evander Holyfield.

Hershman said the fights will be televised live on Showtime but said the potential of at least one marquee PPV event “is an option” though nothing is currently planned.

“We think that this will take our boxing program to a new level,” he said. “It is unique, it is one of a kind and whenever you do something like that, you do so with the goal of raising your brand.”

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