Something is happening over at HBO and in the first couple of months of 2016, we can’t say it is all good. The new year was brought with news from the big office at HBO Sports with former chief Ken Hershman resigning and new head Peter Nelson taking office. Nelson, known as a no-nonsense type of person, was expected to bring in fresh air to the position with experience and a true love and understanding of the sport, its business and its politics. With two months out of the way in the year and three major broadcasts under the belt of the network, we can’t say things are looking all that bright.
The first offering of the year by the biggest platform in the sport was the rematch between Sergey Kovalev and Jean Pascal on January 30th. Curiosity types are still looking for who between fans, media and for that matter the fighters themselves asked for the second fight between these two. Without a doubt the result of this fight was known before the actual first bell rang and it was only matter of how and when Kovalev would defeat Pascal for the second time. It came via TKO and in the seventh round. Needless to say, the semi-main event between Dmitry Mikhaylenko and late sub Karim Mayfield didn’t help matters. Mikhaylenko took an awful unanimous decision. Awful in the sense nobody should be subjected to that again.
Next up was February 27th where we saw from the Madison Square Garden in New York City Puerto Rican Felix Verdejo defeat William Silva of Brazil. It wasn’t all that bad of a performance but more is expected from the twenty-two year old man they call the next big star of the island. In the main event, Terrence Crawford, in his first fight out of his hometown of Omaha, NE, in quite a while, stopped the overmatched Hank Lundy in five. We know HBO is heavily invested in Crawford but is this what we are to be subjected too from the premier platform in the sport?
This past weekend we had a great fight for the vacant WBO welterweight title between previously undefeated Sadam Ali and former light welterweight champion Jessie Vargas. After a solid start where he landed the better punches and flashy combinations, Ali lost all his momentum and was dropped three times by hard right hands from the charging Vargas. After the third knockdown, Vargas was declared the winner and the new champion.
In the main event, we had thirty-six year old Cuban heavyweight Luis “King Kong” Ortiz, touted by his handlers at Golden Boy Promotions as the most feared heavyweight at the moment, you would expect at 36 years of age he would be the oldest man in the ring. Not when you are facing veteran Tony Thompson, who he sent to canvas numerous times, to defeat by TKO in the sixth round.
Not much has HBO offered this year to maintain a subscription. We can only hope Nelson is only setting the table for a bountiful second half with perhaps Kovalev vs Ward, Crawford vs Bradley/Pacquiao and Ortiz vs Fury/Klitschko.