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HBO’s Peter Nelson insists boxing still a priority

Photo courtesy of HBO
Fighters Network

HBO Sports executive vice president Peter Nelson reaffirmed the network’s commitment to boxing in the wake of a weaker than normal first half of 2016 and fought against the perception the pay TV service is scaling back its boxing profile because of rumored budget cuts.

Promoter Bob Arum recently blasted the network for not having enough dates to satisfy his stable of fighters and suggested he was ready to work with rival Showtime. Nelson declined to discuss HBO’s finances and refused to get into a war-of-words with Arum. He did, however, insist that boxing will be a large part of the network for years to come.

“We have had over 40 years of commitment to the sport,” Nelson told on Tuesday following a press conference for Sergey Kovalev’s light heavyweight championship against Andre Ward Nov. 19 on HBO PPV in Las Vegas. “And we have shown again and again the sport is vibrant, healthy, sound and brand elevating for us. And all those things hold true and they will continue to for many years to come.”

Nelson pushed back against the notion that HBO has shown a bunch of mismatches in 2016. Exhibit A was Gennady Golovkin’s second-round blowout against overmatched mandatory Dominic Wade in April; then there was Luis Ortiz’s sixth-round knockout of 44-year-old Tony Thompson in March; of course, who can forget Ward’s last two fights against Sullivan Barrera and Alexander Brand? Nelson views 2016 through a different prism and pointed to the talented names who have fought on his airwaves.

“We’ve had great competition this year — arguably the fight of the year in Vargas and Salido,” Nelson said of Francisco Vargas’ draw with Orlando Salido in June. “We’ve had Terence Crawford on the network; we’ve had Gennady Golovkin on the network. We’ve got Golovkin coming up again on the network (against Kell Brook on Sept. 10). We’ve got top pound-for-pound fighters on the network like Roman Gonzalez, who’s fighting this weekend, fighting for his fourth lineal world title — significant fights, meaningful fights, fights that come from someplace and go someplace.”

Nelson pointed to Ward vs. Kovalev as the type of match-up HBO is famous for making. But on the whole, the network has been panned for televising too many blowouts. “We don’t try to litigate opinions,” Nelson responded. “We just try to create great fights and work with fighters who are committed to trying to keep the sport elevated. Every time there’s an opportunity to make a great fight we go out on the hunt and most of the time we find that the fighters who want to fight on HBO want to dare to be great and those are the fighters we want on the network every single time.”