HBO Contracts: A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing

22.07.04 - By Frank Lotierzo - - Over the last few month's it's been reported that former WBO Heavyweight Champ Wladimir Klitschko may be fighting on Showtime later this year. As we all know, HBO has either exercised their option to drop Wlad as one of their house fighters, or they are planning to. Regardless if HBO drops Wlad or keeps him on for one more fight, as usual they will come out on top. HBO definitely endorses the saying what have you done for me lately.

I know HBO presents themselves as the elite Boxing paragon of the World. The problem I have with that is they could care less about Boxing or the fighters. Yet they act as if everybody gets a fair shake with them. Not according to some of the fighters who have been involved in contract wrangling with them. On top of that they constantly put down the sanctioning bodies as if they are above reproach. Too me they are just as corrupt as the alphabets are.

How many times do we see the deck stacked in the favor of the house fighters who they like and think they can market. HBO has turned the pound-for-pound debate into one of the most talked about topics in Boxing. Never at anytime before was it so widely discussed. However, by them talking this up, they can continue to build up and promote their fighters since a majority of them are on the mythical list. They have actually made the pound-for-pound topic much more relevant than it really is.

For Roy Jones, HBO will approve fighters like Rick Frazier just to showcase him. While Jones was the presumed top pound for pound fighter in the World, until Antonio Tarver, they paid him huge money to fight part time fighters. Of course this was all well and dandy for HBO, they could tell us how great Jones was, oh, and he only fights on HBO. Yet Bernard Hopkins can fight mandatory contenders, and they will fight him tooth and nail for every dollar.

Just recently HBO signed Heavyweight contender Monte Barrett to a multi-fight deal. This is strictly based off of his upset win over the undefeated and up and coming Dominick Guinn and his good showing against Joe Mesi. They are sort of like Don King, someone who they have no problem pointing out how he manipulates the system. Guinn was their guy who they thought might one day be a big star in the division, and he still may become one down the road. Now that he's lost, the contract they had with him can be void, it's totally up to them. It says so in the contract, just like it does in the one that Monte Barrett signed.

Basically, it states you're our guy, but we have to approve who you fight. Oh, and if you lose, the contract states we can drop you and are no longer bind to the agreement. Poor Monte Barrett probably thinks he's made it because HBO has signed him to a two or three fight deal. Mark my words, Barrett will fight one more time on HBO, two more at the most. And that's because the only fighters they'll approve for him to fight will most likely be rated above him. See they can't lose because they know how the game works. HBO could care less if Barrett gets knocked off. They know it will most likely be by a fighter with somewhat name recognition. After he is defeated, they're done with him, and they will just offer the fighter who beat him the same deal they did Barrett. The only way they lose a little bit is when a fighter they totally get behind and push, like Wladimir Klitschko, turns out not to be the real deal.

Unless you are Tyson, De La Hoya, Lewis, or Jones, HBO controls you completely. I'd love to be sitting in the meetings they're having on what to do about Wladimir Klitschko. He's been stopped in his last two HBO fights, no doubt opening the door for HBO to drop him anytime they want under the contract they have with him. However, they built him up so much over the last three years that they have turned him into a pretty good drawing card. They know that he has a huge following, and can probably be a ratings hit again. No doubt they figure the Boxing public might give Wlad one more shot, thus bringing them good numbers for one more night.

I know this is how business is done in the Boxing game. HBO has every right to sign and promote their fighters any way they want. It's just the attitude that they sometimes exude projecting we're the only Boxing faction that is legit. They are no different then the alphabet groups, Don King, or Bob Arum. HBO is no better or worse than any of the other power brokers who control Boxing. The way I see it, they sign and drop fighters the same way Don King does, and they're damn near as good at it too.

I love that through them we the Boxing fans get to see the best fighters in the world on a somewhat regular basis. And that is a good thing. However, don't ever lose perspective and believe that they are any better than the other powers that be who run Boxing, because they're not. They just provide their own PR.

Article posted on 22.07.2004

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