CANELO ALVAREZ quite rightfully dominated the headlines after his one-sided victory over Jermell Charlo at the weekend, but it was the return of a true boxing legend that caught the attention of this writer. Jim Lampley’s voice is synonymous with some of the most memorable fights in modern boxing history thanks to his peerless run as a commentator on HBO. When the broadcaster pulled out of boxing entirely in 2018, Lampley too withdrew from the sport.
That was until this weekend, when he called the Canelo-Charlo fight for PPV.com, a fringe streaming platform that features a live chat function on its broadcasts. And Lampley did what he does best; call fights with unbridled passion, eloquence and knowledge. But his talents are wasted on such a platform. Canelo-Charlo was a Showtime pay-per-view in the US and picked up by DAZN in the UK, neither of whom have tapped the talents of Lampley in the five years since HBO chopped off its boxing arm.
Well, as far as we know, anyway. It’s hard to imagine HBO’s competitors did not jump at the chance to bring Lampley on board after 2018 but for whatever reason this is the first time he’s been back behind the microphone, and even then not for a major broadcaster.
What is perhaps even more surprising to see is how his love for the sport has not waned during his hiatus. In a number of interviews conducted during Canelo-Charlo fight week – including one with Boxing News – Lampley spoke of his continued confusion surrounding HBO’s decision to stop broadcasting live boxing. He was offered no explanation at the time and hasn’t had one since. But what shined through every time Lampley spoke with someone in the media was how much boxing means to him.
He still tears up (something he’s become well-known and loved for) when talking about the trilogy between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward. He’s just as clued up about the current power players in the sport as he was five or so years ago. And while he didn’t go into too much detail about what life’s been like for him since 2018 – he has been keeping busy mentoring college students – it’s clear that it has been a very difficult time for him.
So hopefully this return to commentary is a permanent one.
With that being said, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that Showtime will hire Lampley anytime soon, because they too could be out of the sport by this time next year. Rumours have been swirling recently that the broadcast giant will follow in the footsteps of HBO and cast boxing aside. Rumours that Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza rather tellingly did not outwardly deny, instead saying “nobody knows what the future holds.”
If Showtime did leave boxing, there would be a significant hole in the space they leave. In just 2023 alone the broadcaster has helped bring about some hugely important bouts, including Terence Crawford against Errol Spence Jnr. They have a long-standing relationship with PBC (Premier Boxing Champions), with whom Canelo is also tied with in the short term.
This would leave an impressive stable of fighters looking for a new broadcast home. And with HBO and Showtime out of the picture, boxing – in the US at least – would be ruled by streaming services, namely DAZN and ESPN+. That would truly be a new chapter for the sport, to not have a major network committed to it (here in the UK the likes of Sky Sports and TNT Sports are still going strong). But would it necessarily be a bad thing? Well, probably, yes. It’s worth analysing though. On the one hand, swathes of more casual fans who were already signed up to networks like Showtime – not necessarily just for their boxing coverage – would need subscriptions with platforms like DAZN that do not offer the same range of content. They are less likely to do that. Plus, huge networks like Showtime had unparalleled platforms from which they could promote major fights.
However, with fewer broadcasters in the market, there is actually more chance of the biggest and best fights getting made. We know that one of the biggest hurdles to some superfights is when the two fighters involved are tied to separate broadcasters, and no agreement can be reached on TV rights. But if more big-name fighters are under the same roof, that problem ceases to exist.
So, in theory, there could be a silver lining to Showtime exiting stage left but it would still ultimately be a blow both to the sport and the countless people who do excellent work producing Showtime’s boxing coverage both on camera, behind the scenes and on their website and podcasts.
And while Showtime were the ones behind Canelo-Charlo in the US, it was DAZN who scooped up the UK broadcast rights to the fight at the last minute. For a while, no UK broadcaster had dished out for what was, on paper, a big fight.
Aside from his dominant performance, Canelo further endeared himself to fans after the bout and proved, once again, that his learning of English is one of the best things to happen to the sport in a long time. When asked in the ring who he will be fighting next, he simply said: “I don’t know and I don’t f***ing care.”
Charlo, meanwhile, seemed elated that he hadn’t been knocked out by the Mexican superstar. Even in the post-fight press conference, once some of the adrenaline had drained away, he appeared overly content to have just turned up and made it through the full 12 rounds. It was disappointing to see and will have done a fair bit of damage to his image and marketability.
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