World champions Vasyl Lomachenko and Terence Crawford will defend their championship belts on ESPN. Lomachenko will fight Miguel Marriaga to defend his super featherweight belt on August 5th and Terence Crawford will take on Julius Indongo on August 19th to defend his junior welterweight belt and take Indongo’s. Both fighters are on the pound-for-pound, best in the world list.
“ESPN is thrilled to bring these two new title fights to fans,” Burke Magnus, ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and scheduling, said Thursday. “There is a lot of buzz around boxing right now, and much of it centers around these two great champions — Lomachenko and Crawford. We are excited and proud to showcase these two great events on all of our platforms.”
“Pound for pound, no one can match the talent of Vasyl Lomachenko and Terence Crawford,” duBoef said. “They drew the best ratings on premium cable this year, and now everyone will be able to see them when they defend their world titles in all-action fights in August, live on ESPN.”
Both Vasyl Lomachenko and Terence Crawford have had nearly all of their fights air on HBO, but not PPV. HBO could have matched ESPN’s offer but decided to forego their matching option. Top Rank has said that they are expecting a longer term partnership with ESPN. Historically, Top Rank was one of the biggest suppliers of fights to HBO, who can still work with the other boxing promotional company giant, Golden Boy Promotions.
There are two possibilities as to why Top Rank is moving away from HBO. First, ESPN is either matching or exceeding HBO’s financial offers. Second, Top Rank is taking less money in favor of getting more exposure for their top fighters and to benefit from the marketing arm of the Worldwide Leader In Sports.
This move comes on the heels of some reports that this is a make it or break it year for the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC). The PBC has purchased a lot of time on a variety of networks as part of a long-term plan to create more general interest in boxing. Top Rank’s movement to partner with ESPN could be an indicator that there is some success with airing fights on cable television channels.
The fight between Mayweather and McGregor takes place the week after Crawford-Indongo and three weeks after Lomachenko-Marriaga. While Mayweather-McGregor will most likely take some PPV buys away from Canelo-GGG, this is a big stretch of the calendar where boxing is at the forefront of the sports fan’s minds. ESPN had a countdown to Pacquiao-Horn at the bottom of the screen a couple days leading up to the fight. While the broadcast quality left a lot to be desired, there were plenty of features and segments on their talk shows the week of the fight.