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Showtime exec discusses boxing's network return, 2013 plans

December 15, 2012|By Lance Pugmire
  • Leo Santa Cruz, right, defended his title against Alberto Guevara on CBS.
Leo Santa Cruz, right, defended his title against Alberto Guevara on CBS. (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )

Boxing's return to network television for the first time in 15 years went off smoothly Saturday, though there were moments when it wasn't certain it would come off without interruption.

Stephen Espinoza, the television executive presiding over the situation, breathed a sigh of relief when the fight was barely delayed by an overtime basketball game.

"It was a good match and performance for this broadcast, all-action from the opening to the final bell," Espinoza said after world bantamweight champion Leo Santa Cruz successfully defended his title against Alberto Guevara by unanimous decision on CBS.

"We'll look at the ratings and have the discussion about when we can do it again, but I thought the production went extremely well."

Espinoza, the Showtime executive vice president of sports and event programming in his position for just more than a year, had to endure a brief delay of the broadcast's scheduled start time when Butler upset top-ranked Indiana in overtime on CBS.

That lead-in should help the bout's ratings.

Then, Espinoza learned CBS News was considering a news break during the fight to air comments from Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy regarding Friday's school shootings. The network opted not to air those comments.

In a Los Angeles Sports Arena lunch room later Saturday, Espinoza started laying out his 2013 plans.

Those start Jan. 9 with the debut of "60 Minutes Sports," on Showtime, which will include segments featuring soccer star Lionel Messi and cyclist Tyler Hamilton, who will revisit his access to the world of doping unearthed in the Lance Armstrong affair.

While Espinoza's network will televise a fight starring Mexico's Saul "Canelo" Alvarez later in 2013, Espinoza expressed hope Saturday that he'll also bring pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. from HBO.

Negotiations are underway for Mayweather's May 4 fight, with Robert Guerrero the top candidate.

"It's hard to tell, but given the advances we've made this year," in landing fights promoted by Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions (Espinoza was formerly Golden Boy's attorney), "we think it speaks well for our chances. The Mayweather camp is fairly private about its decision-making process. I'm one of the potential suitors waiting for a reply."

Espinoza said he's already voiced his wish that World Boxing Assn. super-welterweight champion Austin Trout emerge as Alvarez's opponent.

However, he said Alvarez's next opponent and date is "a multilayered conversation of whether it will be with or without Floyd, against Miguel Cotto in the summer," while considering the gifted but box-office "B" fighter Trout "might not be the best career decision for 'Canelo' with Mayweather looming."

Also, Espinoza confirmed that the scheduled Jan. 19 card at Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre has been scrapped because of an injury to Kell Brook, who was supposed to fight a main event against Devon Alexander.

Espinoza said he'll move the co-main event between Lucas Matthysse and Hank Lundy to Jan. 26 at a site to be determined, still possibly in the Southland.

Additionally, Showtime is positioned to televise an April 21 card in Brooklyn pitting welterweight champion and Showtime analyst Paulie Malignaggi against Pomona's Shane Mosley, coming out of retirement.

"I actually think it's an intriguing matchup," Espinoza said. "Shane thinks at 147 pounds he's still got a lot left and given his career, he deserves the opportunity to prove it. It's an action, 50-50 fight, and those are the kinds we love."

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