ABS-CBN VS GMA IN BOXING?
By Rico Navarro
Thu, 22 Mar 2007
(Note: This was written for the March 18 edition of "Bleacher Talk" of The Freeman.)
March 18, 2007 was a date we were looking forward to around six months ago when it was announced that this date was booked for the much-awaited rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera. That was then. But while we'll still take time out to watch the fights over TV, we'll do so with a different twist this time now that Pacquiao is not in the ring.
As boxing fans eagerly make their own forecasts and analysis, there's a welcome development in boxing that has gone quietly unnoticed, but which could explode to become something as big as a Pacquiao-Barrera (or Marquez) rematch. For the first time in a very long time, it now looks like local TV's biggest giants are now looking to be more involved in boxing.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is TV's main event of the year. Fighting out of the blue corner, a TV giant fighting out of Kapamilya stable, presenting ABS-CBN! His opponent fighting out of the red corner, from the Kapuso stable, introducing GMA! Yes, believe it or not, boxing has now crept into the two networks' programming, something the PBA (country's most popular pro league) hasn't been able to do at all.
With its recent forays into boxing for TV including the recent "Moment of Truth" / Battle of Cebu, ABS-CBN has finally found a way to earn from boxing, something it couldn't do back when they launched "Knockout," a weekly TV program devoted to boxing. Since then, boxing was never seriously considered to be part of ABS-CBN's programs. But it sure looks like times are changing.
The Lopez-owned network "returned" to the boxing scene when they won the TV rights to the Pacquiao vs. Erik Morales 2 and 3 fights. ABS-CBN did the unthinkable when they covered Pacquiao-Morales 2 and even put aside and overlapped the network's high-rating weekly variety show "ASAP" that's aired every Sunday. They followed this up with "Mano a Mano" in July 2006 featuring Pacquiao vs. Oscar Larios. Pacquiao-Morales 3 wrapped up ABS-CBN's TV tie-ups in 2006, but they came right back last month (with a bang) through Battle of Cebu: Moment of Truth.
This was ABS-CBN's biggest boxing project without Pacquiao fighting, and was thus viewed as a risk to take. After all, the card's top draws were "only" Rey "Boom Boom" Bautista, Z Gorres, Bert Batawang and AJ Banal. While they're the country's future stars, they were nowhere near Pacquiao's level. But according to a philboxing.com story written by Ronnie Nathanielsz, it looks like ABS-CBN's risk has paid off beautifully. TV ratings for the show were relatively high. This has now given the network more options to pursue outside of Pacquiao and has also proven that with the right elements, tools and characters, a boxing production can become a revenue earner for the network.
A step in this direction is the fact that they won the rights to today's Barrera-Marquez battle, and this includes Gerry Peñalosa's attempt to win the WBO super bantamweight title of Daniel Ponce de Leon.
And where is GMA-7 in all this? Just as fans were expecting ABS-CBN to win the rights to the upcoming Pacquiao-Jorge Solis fight on April 14, in comes GMA-7 with a partnership with Solar Sports to cover the Pacman's latest fight. Although Solar is the main player in this transaction in dealing with MP Promotions, GMA-7's involvement is raising a few eyebrows and questions. Can they be following their archrival's latest sports venture, and get into boxing as well? And what will their production be like? Do they even have a sports department that takes care of sports productions?
Although we can't feel it now, we can already sense the intense competition that both ABS-CBN and GMA-7 will get into if and when Pacquiao's next fight is announced: whether it's against Barrera, Marquez, Edwin Valero or Joan Guzman. Solar Sports will also be involved in there somewhere, but they'll most likely end up partnering with either of the two giants instead.
Meanwhile, ABS-CBN has shown that they're serious about international boxing as they've reportedly bagged the rights to the May 5 fight between Oscar de la Hoya and Floyd Mayweather. This is already being considered as THE fight of the year that is expected to break existing records in TV audience and revenues. The card also includes Boom Boom Bautista's acid test as he faces the undefeated Sergio Medina of Argentinain a WBO title-eliminator fight.
Aside from the rise of the country's future world beaters, the timely entry of ABS-CBN and GMA-7 into boxing has us fans and enthusiasts rejoicing. After years of having to deal with the "smaller" networks, boxing has finally been noticed by no less than ABS-CBN, and now GMA-7. We are now assured of top-quality (and high budget) productions that will match those of the U.S.networks such as HBO and Showtime. This will mean a better image of boxing from a TV program that only men watched to something even bigger.
And the winner by an overwhelming unanimous decision: Philippine Boxing!
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