Top Rank Boxing has reportedly struck a deal to air events on ESPN, starting with Manny Pacquiao’s upcoming fight against Jeff Horn.
We’re just less than two weeks away from Manny Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs) taking on Australia’s Jeff Horn (16-0-1, 11 KOs) at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, and a US television deal has still not been officially announced. That is expected to change in a matter of days, as Top Rank has reportedly struck a deal with ESPN to air not just Pacquiao vs. Horn, but multiple events over the next two years. RingTV.com’s Mike Coppinger has the story.
The Las Vegas-based promotional outfit has been engaged in talks for months on a new deal that will see Top Rank’s best and brightest stars — boxers such as Manny Pacquiao, Terence Crawford and Vasyl Lomachenko — featured on ESPN and perhaps ABC (Disney owns both networks), multiple sources told RingTV.com.
RingTV.com was unable to confirm whether some shows will be telecast on ABC but multiple sources suggested it’s a possibility.
A major announcement should come next week, with ESPN unveiling the series.
HBO, the longtime home for Pacquiao, reportedly offered to televise the fight on its regular network, but Top Rank turned it down. Bob Arum has grown increasingly frustrated with HBO’s slashed boxing budget, which has led to a reduction in available dates for his fighters. While this doesn’t necessarily mean Top Rank is done with HBO for good, ESPN provides them an outlet that HBO no longer provides. This would be a reunion of sorts, as the ESPN Top Rank Boxing series ran from 1980-1996.
Coppinger also reports that a rematch between Vasyl Lomachenko and Orlando Salido (the only man to defeat Lomachenko in the pros) is being looked at for an ESPN date on August 5th. Another August show could feature a junior welterweight championship unification bout between Terence Crawford and Julius Indongo, with the winner holding all four major belts, thus becoming “undisputed champion.” These are well above the general quality of matchups that ESPN once aired under its defunct Friday Night Fights banner.
Also of interest is Top Rank’s plan to create an over-the-top network that’s similar to WWE Network or UFC Fight Pass.
It’s expected Top Rank will also roll out an over-the-top network in the vein of WWE Network where fans will have digital access to the company’s massive fights library, built over 50-plus years, with a slew of Muhammad Ali bouts. The tentative plan is for Top Rank to also televise live fights on that network, where prospects from their 2016 Olympic class — fighters such as Michael Conlan, Shakur Stevenson and Teofimo Lopez — will gain exposure.
It’s also expected ESPN will kick in its massive library of classic fights for viewership on the unnamed over-the-top network.
It’s early days with nothing made official just yet, but there’s reason to be optimistic if you’re a boxing fan. Hopefully the Top Rank-ESPN deal is executed better than what Premier Boxing Champions has done across multiple networks, much to their own financial ruin.
Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn takes place on Saturday, July 1st (Sunday, July 2nd in Australia due to time difference). In Pacquiao’s previous fight, he defeated Jessie Vargas by unanimous decision in a PPV main event produced by Top Rank, following HBO’s decision to terminate their contract with one of the greatest of all-time. Pacquiao currently holds the WBO welterweight crown.