After 45 years, HBO said on Thursday that the network will no longer feature live boxing matches starting in 2019.
“Going forward in 2019, we will be pivoting away from programming live boxing on HBO,” the network said in a programming statement. “As always, we will remain open to looking at events that fit our programming mix. This could include boxing, just not for the foreseeable future.”
The pay-cable network currently has no more fights scheduled past the Oct. 27 Madison Square Garden middleweight title fight between Danny Jacobs and Sergey Derevianchenko. An HBO rep says its unclear if the network will have any matches in November or December.
HBO Boxing production staff, which included play-by-play announcer Jim Lampley, analyst Max Kellerman, ringside scorer Harold Lederman and former boxing champions Andre Ward and Roy Jones Jr., who worked as freelance commentators, were notified Thursday morning of the decision. Of the group, only Lampley is expected to remain with HBO Sports.
“My thirty-year love affair with HBO continues, and I am motivated and prepared to support storytelling initiatives in the sports department. So I will remain in place,” Lampley said in a statement.
The decision ends what is HBO’s longest-running programming franchise, having aired its first match on Jan. 22 1973 — “The Sunshine Showdown” between Joe Frazier and George Foreman — just a few months after the channel debuted. The network has televised more than 1,000 matches since, with Jones Jr. and Oscar de la Hoya tying for the most appearances at 32 apiece.
It also comes at a time when rival network are placing bigger bets on the sport. ESPN signed a seven-year rights deal with Top Rank last month, marking the most exclusive relationship in the sport’s history. Fox Sports signed a deal this month with Premier Boxing Champions, while Showtime has aired some 22 fights this year.
You can read the full statement from HBO below:
“Our mission at HBO Sports is to elevate the brand. We look for television projects that are high-profile, high-access, and highly ambitious in the stories they seek to tell and the quality of production in telling them.
Boxing has been part of our heritage for decades. During that time, the sport has undergone a transformation. It is now widely available on a host of networks and streaming services. There is more boxing than ever being televised and distributed. In some cases, this programming is very good. But from an entertainment point of view, it’s not unique.
Going forward in 2019, we will be pivoting away from programming live boxing on HBO. As always, we will remain open to looking at events that fit our programming mix. This could include boxing, just not for the foreseeable future.
We’re deeply indebted to the many courageous fighters whose careers we were privileged to cover.
There have been hundreds of dedicated and remarkably creative men and women who have delivered the best in television production for HBO’s coverage of boxing and we are so grateful for their contributions. It has been a wonderful journey chronicling the careers and backstories of so many spectacularly talented prizefighters.
We are a storytelling platform. The future will see unscripted series, long-form documentary films, reality programming, sports journalism, event specials and more unique standout content from HBO Sports.
We are constantly evaluating our programming to determine what resonates with our subscribers. Our audience research clearly shows the type of programming our subscribers embrace. For HBO Sports, it’s programming that viewers can’t find elsewhere.
In keeping with this mission, we’ve accelerated our commitment to storytelling. This has produced landmark shows like “Andre the Giant,” which is the most viewed sports documentary ever on HBO; the acclaimed NFL reality franchise “Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Cleveland Browns,” which delivered double-digit viewership gains from a year ago; “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel,” the gold standard in sports journalism on television; the powerful docu-series “Being Serena” that chronicled the comeback of tennis icon Serena Williams; and the acclaimed unfiltered talk series “The Shop” featuring LeBron James.
This fall, HBO Sports will present an edition of “24/7” highlighting the upcoming Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson match play plus engaging documentary films like “Student Athlete” and “Momentum Generation” brought to us by accomplished filmmakers. In 2019, we will have the innovative multi-part documentary presentation “What’s My Name|Muhammad Ali” from director Antoine Fuqua in conjunction with executive producers LeBron James and Maverick Carter of SpringHill Entertainment.
Other new ventures will be announced in the weeks ahead as HBO Sports continues to explore new frontiers in sports programming.”