For the past several months, ever since the heavyweight championship between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko was finalized, Showtime’s boxing head Stephen Espinoza would smile sheepishly at reporters who approached to ask if the network was any closer to announcing the U.S. television rights for the bout.
Not yet, we’re getting closer, it’s complicated, became common buzzwords for Espinoza, who finally won’t have to go into detail about the thorny negotiations of making a deal for the April 29 bout any longer. On Monday, it was announced that Showtime will produce its own broadcast of the London bout, live at 4:15 p.m. ET, while HBO will televise the bout tape-delayed at 10:45 p.m. ET the same day, allowing both networks to split the rights for the bout. The negotiations took so long and became a storyline unto itself because Showtime has Joshua under contract while HBO owns the U.S. rights to Klitschko. Neither would surrender such an attractive bout that could change the complexion of the heavyweight division for years to come.
Joshua (18-0, 18 knockouts) is set to defend his IBF title against former champion Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) at a sold-out Wembley Stadium in London in front of 90,000. The vacant WBA itle is also on the line after Tyson Fury vacated his belts for personal reasons. Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn suggested an option was simply not to air the fight in the U.S. with the HBO-Showtime hurdle muddying prospects for a deal, which was announced nearly 10 days before the fight.
“With the obstacles in place, it would have been any easy resolution to not air the fight in the States,” Hearn said in a press release. “But I want to thank HBO and Showtime for their perseverance and allowing America to see one hell of a fight at our national stadium in front on 90,000 passionate fans.” Espinoza said the fight could serve as a “changing of the guard” for the division “as (Joshua) attempts to establish his legacy against the legendary” Klitschko.
Peter Nelson, HBO’s boxing decision-maker, lauded the networks for finding a way to resolve their differences. “Both promoters and both networks have found a solution that enables boxing fans in the U.S. to watch the world heavyweight championship,” he said in the release. “This agreement ensures that our subscribers have access to same-day primetime coverage of the fight. It will mark Wladimir Klitschko’s 22nd appearance on HBO and the first for Anthony Joshua.”
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