Saul “Canelo” Alvarez might have saved the year for HBO Boxing.
The premium cable network decided to cut funds for its 2016 boxing schedule, and the poor quality has shown. The HBO lineup has been filled with affordable mismatches, dull tuneups and pay per views not worth the price.
HBO is trying to salvage the year with three fights most boxing fans want to see.
Why the sudden change? HBO had extra money in its budget after Alvarez canceled a Dec. 10 bout because of a fractured right thumb sustained in the Liam Smith fight last month.
HBO quickly responded this week by scheduling the Vasyl Lomachenko-Nicholas Walters match at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Nov. 26, and the Orlando Salido-Takashi Miura fight Dec. 17 at The Forum in Inglewood, California — two fights destined to deliver plenty of action that could be in the discussion for Fight of the Year.
The scrapped Alvarez match also gave Gennady “GGG” Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs more time to negotiate a middleweight showdown. Golovkin was scheduled to fight on HBO for Nov. 26, but the three-belt champion took Alvarez’s Dec. 10 date.
HBO potentially could have the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in Golovkin, a rising star in Lomachenko and two brawlers in Salido and Miura going at it to close out the year. Even the most negative boxing fans can get giddy about that.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum considers Lomachenko the best boxer on the planet, a bold statement for a promoter with Manny Pacquiao and Terence Crawford in his stable.
“Lomachenko is the kind of fighter who only wants challenges,” Arum said. “He doesn’t want us to do fights we can get away with so he can make his money. Competition is his whole life. HBO knows that, and when the money opened up, they wanted (Lomachenko against Walters).”
Lomachenko, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, is a wizard in the ring, but it only takes one punch, and Walters has the power to deliver an upset.
“Any fighter can be knocked out no matter who he is,” Walters said. “I like fighting the best, and I like fighting against a great technical fighter like Lomachenko.”
Salido, who has a victory against Lomachenko, was part of HBO’s best fight so far this year — a thrilling draw in June against Francisco Vargas in the front-runner for Fight of the Year. The exciting brawl was probably why HBO jumped at another fight with Salido. It also helped that Miura was part of last year’s Fight of the Year when he lost to Vargas at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
MAGDALENO RETURNS IN LA
Las Vegan Diego Magdaleno will face Fidel Maldonado Jr. in the main event Friday at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles. The 10-round lightweight bout can be found on Estrella TV, with the Golden Boy Promotions card at 6 p.m.
Magdaleno (28-2, 12 knockouts) hasn’t fought since losing to Terry Flanagan for the WBO belt last October in Manchester, England.
Magdaleno’s younger brother, Jessie, is getting his first title shot when he faces Nonito Donaire for the WBO junior featherweight belt Nov. 5 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
‘SIN CITY SHOWDOWN’
Mayweather Promotions is starting a new monthly boxing series at Sam’s Town called “Sin City Showdown.”
The first card will be Oct. 8, with England’s Ashley Theophane headlining the event against an opponent to be named. Theophane, who lives in Las Vegas, will make his return after losing to Adrien Broner in April.
“I have been in the gym training harder than ever and mentally preparing after coming up short against Adrien Broner earlier this year,” Theophane said. “I’m excited to get back in the ring on Oct. 8 and be the first to headline the monthly fight series at Sam’s Town that Mayweather Promotions has put together.”
Contact Gilbert Manzano at email@example.com or 702-383-0492. Follow @gmanzano24 on Twitter.