Listen Live
    HBO's Larry Merchant interviews Manny Pacquiao after a fight

    Counted Out: Game Of Thrones Broadcaster HBO Quits Boxing After 45 Years

    © AP Photo /
    Get short URL
    0 20

    Veteran boxing commentator Jim Lampley broke down during an interview at the weekend as he brought the curtain down on HBO Sports' coverage of boxing. The US network - which also makes Games of Thrones and a string of popular TV dramas - decided to quit the ring just as boxing is tipped to be entering a new golden age.

    HBO went out with something of a whimper, rather than a bang — a small crowd watched several bouts, including two involving women boxers, at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles.

    It was a far cry from the drama of the previous weekend when Tyson Fury got up off the canvas to earn a draw with Deontay Wilder in a WBC heavyweight title fight in the nearby Staples Center.

    ​HBO (Home Box Office) has pulled the plug on boxing in order to concentrate on Game Of Thrones and other dramas which it reckons subscribers are more interested in.

    Boxing Helped HBO Become What It Is

    It is ironic for a channel that was founded in 1972 and rose to prominence off the back of boxing.

    HBO's first big coup was airing the 1973 fight in Kingston, Jamaica, when George Foreman shocked the world by knocking out heavyweight champion Joe Frazier.

    In the late 1980s and early 90s Mike Tyson fights helped sign up a lot of HBO subscribers
    © AP Photo /
    In the late 1980s and early 90s Mike Tyson fights helped sign up a lot of HBO subscribers

    Two years later HBO also screened the "Thrilla in Manila" between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier and big boxing events was one of the main reason for rising subscriptions during the 1970s and 1980s.

    In the 80s and 90s HBO and its rival Showtime went head-to-head with rival promoters Bob Arum and Don King battling out to put the best shows on for the two US cable channels.

    Arum, now 87, hit out at HBO at the weekend.

    "HBO's going out with a whimper. It's sad but they got what they deserved. Go out with dignity for the sport. Go out with dignity…and they didn't. They went out like pussies," said Arum.

    Arum predicted last month Showtime would follow HBO in quitting boxing.

    "Both HBO and Showtime are competing for viewers with Netflix. So every dollar that they have has to go into what they're really great at — providing entertainment. HBO certainly has done it. They have really, really good, good programming.  And so does Showtime. So I'm predicting also that within the next year Showtime will be exiting from boxing," Arum told Sirius XM Boxing.

    Boxing Still Popular With Viewers

    HBO Sports Executive Vice President Peter Nelson's decision to quit boxing does not mean the "sweet science" is struggling to find an audience.

    Pay-per-view figures for recent fights like Fury v Wilder, Alvarez v Golovkin II and Mayweather v McGregor have been through the roof and boxing experts say a new golden age beckons for the heavyweights with Fury, Wilder and Anthony Joshua all set for mega-fights and several younger fighters, like Joe Joyce and Jarrell Miller, coming up to challenge them.

    But HBO had to decide whether it put its money where its mouth was and battled it out with Showtime, ESPN and new streaming service DAZN, which made its debut with Joshua's fight against Russia's Alexander Povetkin in September.

    Another potential player in the market will be Facebook, which signed a deal in July with Oscar de la Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions to show live boxing on Facebook Watch.

    ​In the end HBO decided there was too much competition and it was not worth the hassle.

    "This is not a subjective decision. Our audience research informs us that boxing is no longer a determinant factor for subscribing to HBO," HBO Sports Executive Vice President Peter Nelson said back in September.

    Boxing No Longer Important Piece Of The HBO Cake

    In the 1980s boxing fans made up 33 percent of HBO's subscriber base of 15 million people but now that base has grown to 40 million and boxing telecasts counted for only two percent of the total available audience.

    ​Long-time HBO commentator Jim Lampley, 69, signed off at the weekend with a short piece to camera which had boxing fans welling up.

    His voice broke as he described how his hand was shaking when he covered his first fight for HBO — Mike Tyson against Tony Tubbs in 1988.

    "I walked away that night and thought why in the world did I get so nervous? And I realised that I got nervous that night because to me…..this was the Holy Grail. It was as high as you could go, to do boxing with HBO, to do a show where you didn't throw to commercials, where you worked with people like Larry Merchant….and that's where my hand shook that day….so to have the right to person to stand here and say goodbye is a privilege that is beyond indescribable," Lampley said.

    From now on the only fighting to be seen on HBO will be in Game Of Thrones.

    United States, television, boxing, sport, Game of Thrones, HBO, Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury
    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via FacebookComment via Sputnik