Showtime Returns 168 Division; HBO, EPIX Happy To Refurbish

Ken Hershman likely had a lot to do with HBO's interest in Andre Ward and Showtime's disinterest in 168.It took nearly three years to complete it, but the groundbreaking boxing endeavor that was the Super Six World Boxing Classic was good business for premium U.S. television network Showtime—until they decided to cash in their chips at the conclusion.

What Showtime did, which is invest conceivably millions of dollars as well as a high number of dates in a single weight class over a lengthy span of time only to walk away from the table once the tournament had reached its conclusion, is quite perplexing.

It’s akin to purchasing a storage unit to house items that gain considerable value as time wears on, only to quit paying the bill at a high point in their value, thus letting someone else off the street come in and pick up your stuff for a slashed price.

Based on the way things have played out since Andre Ward outclassed Carl Froch in the tournament final last December, that is what we are looking at.


Last weekend, Mikkel Kessler fought Allan Green in a 175 pound battle between two guys who not only participated in the Super Six, but were scheduled to fight each other in a Stage 3 bout before Kessler pulled out of the tournament altogether. It seemed an easy storyline to sell if Showtime decided to pick up the bout, but they neglected not to.

This coming Saturday, tournament runner-up Froch takes on beltholder and clear #2 in the division Lucian Bute in Nottingham. Bute signed a multi-fight contract with Showtime in November 2010, seemingly to set him up with the tournament winner following its conclusion. With Andre Ward not ready to fight in April, you would think Bute-Froch would be an easy sell to the network in the interim, but for some reason we will be seeing the fight on EPIX, a network which is all too happy to benefit from Showtime’s misstep.

Froch isn’t the first time Showtime neglected to buy a fight of Bute’s since he signed a contract with the network. Of his four fights since the deal, Showtime only bought his fights with Glen Johnson and Brian Magee, but not fights with Jesse Brinkley, Jean Paul Mendy, and of course, Froch.

Andre Ward will instead jump to HBO to meet Chad Dawson in an intriguing (but probably not exciting) fight in September.

The 2004 U.S. Olympic Gold medalist fought early in his career on HBO before the network got out of the Andre Ward business, and Showtime has picked up eleven of his last twelve bouts.

Only to let him slip away to another network. After turning him into a recognizable name. It really makes little sense. There are context clues, though.

It can’t go unmentioned that Ken Hershman, who can largely be charged with the conception of the Super Six, went from being the head honcho at Showtime to running things at HBO in the time since just before the tournament final. Is it possible that the new regime at Showtime wanted to distance itself from anything associated with Hershman? It is quite possible, but since Showtime was unable to answer any correspondence regarding this manner, questions are all we have to ponder.

At Showtime, Stephen Espinoza stepped in to command the ship. Espinoza has ties to Golden Boy Promotions as well as Al Haymon that have been largely tapped into as far as filling up their 2012 schedule. It also must be pointed out that when the network rebuffed a Bute-Froch showdown, they told Bute’s team that they preferred an American opponent. Who in particular? Andre Dirrell, who coincidentally has Al Haymon behind him.

HBO has us on their books for a conversation sometime in the next few weeks, and a more complete report on the situation will be available then.

For now it was just important to note these things. The super middleweight division is thriving, and that is in large part thanks to Showtime. Will where things go from here be charged to a completely different entity? It’s looking likely. Stay tuned.

Mark Ortega can be reached via e-mail at and followed via Twitter at Mark also contributes to renowned boxing publications RING Magazine and Boxing Monthly, and is a member of the Boxing Writer’s Association of America and RING Ratings Advisory Panel. Check the June issue of Boxing Monthly for his piece on Timothy Bradley in anticipation of his clash with Manny Pacquiao.