The demise of USA Network's Tuesday Night Boxing
series won't signal the death of the sport on basic cable, as several networks are
contemplating telecasting regularly scheduled boxing shows for late summer and early fall.
Networks that have never carried boxing matches, such as
Turner Network Television and FX, are experimenting with the sport, while boxing veterans
Home Box Office, Showtime Networks Inc. and ESPN2 are bolstering their boxing lineups for
the rest of the year.
TNT is slated to carry a Sept. 22 fight card featuring IBF
lightweight champion Shane Mosley and lightweight contender Angel Manfredy, sources close
to the situation said.
TNT executives would not comment on the matter, but sources
said the network would look to offer a weekly boxing show if the "experiment"
event is successful.
"Boxing appeals to the audience that TNT is trying to
attract with its sports and movies," the source said.
FX, fresh off its first-ever boxing card June 7, is also
looking to develop more boxing shows as part of its quarterly special-sports-event plan
for Saturday nights, network officials said.
ESPN, which has produced several boxing shows on both ESPN
and ESPN2 this year, will look to create a weekly boxing series Friday nights on ESPN2,
said Bob Yalen, manager of programming for ESPN.
"We've been pretty consistent with boxing, but
we've moved it around a lot. If things go as planned, we'll move boxing to
ESPN2," Yalen said.
Executives said the explosion of basic-cable boxing events
can be partially attributed to USA's cancellation of its 17-year Tuesday Night
While boxing has few stars, Yalen said, there are a number
of good fighters that people are interested in watching.
"What's interesting is that the interest is
there, yet [Mike] Tyson isn't fighting, and the heavyweight division isn't
strong," said Lou DiBella, senior vice president of programming for Time Warner
Time Warner's HBO will continue to showcase
up-and-coming boxers through at least one fight every month as part of its HBO World
Championship Boxing franchise and Boxing After Dark series, DiBella said. The
network has several fights scheduled through November featuring such champions as
International Boxing Federation welterweight champion Felix Trinidad, World Boxing
Association welterweight champion Ike Quartey, World Boxing Council heavyweight champion
Lennox Lewis and World Boxing Organization featherweight champion Naseem Hamed.
Meanwhile, Showtime is also looking to schedule one fight
per month for the rest of the year, said Mark Greenberg, executive vice president,
corporate marketing and communications for SNI.
"Boxing still performs well, and it's one of the
major reasons to subscribe to pay TV," Greenberg added.