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Stephen A. Smith headlines broadcast team for Manny Pacquiao-Jessie Vargas fight

Top Rank unveiled its announcing team Monday for the Manny Pacquiao-Jessie Vargas fight, and it’s a unique crew with Google-friendly names.

Controversial ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith will make his debut as a boxing analyst for the Nov. 5 card at the Thomas & Mack Center. Longtime boxing broadcaster and current MLB network host Brian Kenny and former welterweight champion Timothy Bradley Jr. will join Smith for the ringside call.

Charissa Thompson, a co-host on FOX’s NFL Kickoff show, will host the event and Top Rank’s Crystina Poncher will be the telecast’s roving reporter.

“We wanted to get something unique, something that would capture viewers, and we wanted to get the best possible announcing team that we could,” Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said. “I’m a big Stephen A. Smith fan. I love the guy and he’s controversial. Even though he doesn’t agree with everything I think, he’s still fun to listen to.”

Top Rank needed to deliver a knockout cast after deciding to handle the pay-per-view bout without HBO. The network company passed on the Pacquiao fight because it was too close to another HBO PPV, the Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward matchup on Nov. 19.

“We wanted to give the viewers a different perspective that informs and entertains and I think we have accomplished that with this fantastic team,” said Todd duBoef, president of Top Rank. “It’s a great combination with Brian, one of television’s top TV announcers, color commentary from Stephen A. and Charissa’s balanced hosting style.”

Arum doesn’t see this star crew as a one-time thing. He plans on distributing more PPV fights in the future.

“This will be the first of many of Top Rank’s own pay per views,” Arum said. “When HBO passed, it really gave us the opportunity to say, ‘We could do it ourselves and we could do it better. Who needs HBO?’ In doing that, it’s not a one-off. We have to plan for the future.”

Arum said he’s not worried about upsetting HBO executives and plans on doing business with the network soon. Vasyl Lomachenko, a star boxer for Top Rank, will have his Nov. 26 fight in Las Vegas televised on HBO.

“The people at HBO are professionals who want to present the best possible fights for their subscribers,” Arum said. “They’re not in the pay per view business. They’re in the business of pleasing their subscribers.”

Smith is one of the sports debaters on the popular ESPN show “First Take.” He often goes up against Max Kellerman, a veteran boxing analyst for HBO.

“To say I’m incredibly excited would be an understatement,” Smith said. “Anyone who knows me knows I fell in love with boxing from the time I was 3 years-old, when my dad showed me Muhammad Ali beating Jerry Quarry in October 1970. Ever since that day, boxing has been a passion of mine.”

Bradley is a perfect fit to be on the call because of his history with Pacquiao and Vargas. Bradley lost two of three against Pacquiao and went 12 rounds to defeat Vargas last year.

“Stephen A. has never done a boxing telecast, but he’s done a lot of boxing commenting on his show,” Arum said. “He was a big Mayweather fan and anti-Pacquiao fan.

“And for the boxing guy, who better than Tim Bradley? He’s been in the ring with both.”

Contact Gilbert Manzano at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0492. Follow@gmanzano24 on Twitter.

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