TVKO Starts Slowly With 2001 Fight Slate

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The good news for cable operators: TVKO has set its first pay-per-view boxing event of 2001. The bad news: the bout won't take place until April, and it's one of just a few PPV boxing events currently on tap for the event distributor.

TVKO will distribute an April 7 featherweight bout pitting former champion Prince Naseem Hamed against top-rated Marco Antonio Barerra. The PPV event will be the first for TVKO since its successful Dec. 2 Felix Trinidad-Fernando Vargas bout.

The fight's PPV performance could surprise a lot of people, said HBO Sports senior vice president of programming Kery Davis. But he would not hazard a guess as to the eventual buy-rate. The fight marks the first PPV appearance for the enigmatic Hamed, who is known as much for his long and elaborate ring entrances as for his ability.

The fight could well be TVKO's only PPV bout in the first half of the year. With many of its best-known champions appearing on TVKO sister service Home Box Office in the near future, its unclear when the next PPV event will be scheduled.

HBO will televise the April 21 Lennox Lewis-Hasim Rahman heavyweight champion-ship fight, the Feb. 24 Roy Jones Jr.-Derrick Harmon light-heavyweight champion-ship bout and the March 10 Shane Mosley-Shannon Taylor welterweight championship fight.

Davis also said Time Warner Sports is still determining the extent of its agreement with Oscar De La Hoya in light of the "golden boy's" successful move to discontinue his association with promoter Bob Arum. Though HBO has a long-term deal with De La Hoya, sources said the deal was part of the pact with Arum.

Two weeks ago, a U.S. District Court judge in Los Angeles granted De La Hoya's request to void his contract with Arum.

De La Hoya, who is now promoted by Univision head Jerry Perenchio, has already announced his intentions to fight Arturo Gatti in March.

Though the fight would be an attractive PPV event, Davis said that nothing is set in stone-particularly the network's relationship with De La Hoya.

"We have not talked to them about any specifics about the next fight," Davis said. "No one knows if our [current] contract is effective."

Davis said the apparent long period between PPV fights is more a result of timing and commitments to HBO than a move away from the technology.

"January is not a particularly good time to a PPV fight and a lot of our big guys did their last big fight on PPV," Davis said. "Jones, De La Hoya and Lewis are all looking to fight on HBO."

But it's conceivable fighters such as Felix Trinidad, De La Hoya, Mosley and Jones could see action on PPV in the second half of the year, Davis added.

Besides the Hamed fight, only a March 3 Evander Holyfield-John Ruiz rematch is scheduled for the first quarter of 2001. The category also got off to a slow start last year, generating only $9.2 million during the first three months of 2000, according to Showtime Event Television.

Eventually the genre rebounded to generate $116 million by year's end, according to SET.

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