By Scoop Malinowski
ESPN just announced a huge seven-year contract with Top Rank Boxing that will extend through the year 2025. Top Rank already had an agreement with the network – which began with the Manny Pacquiao vs Jeff Horn card last year – but the new plan replaces and expands it. ESPN and Top Rank will produce 54 events per year. Some of the boxing shows could be English or Japanese shows produced by other promoters. The American broadcast rights would be acquired by Top Rank. Of the 54 shows, plans are for 18 to air on ESPN, two dozen more on prime-time cards that will stream exclusively on the ESPN+ app and 24 “premium international events” on ESPN+.
The power of appeal of one of the greatest and most popular champions in boxing history, Manny Pacquiao, made this ESPN Top Rank super deal possible. Without Pacquiao’s huge ratings vs the unknown Horn, this now gigantic plan might have failed.
Will Arum and Top Rank remember this truth and treat their fistic goldmine with the appropriate respect? Or will they try to use him as sacrificial cannon fodder for their next big star?
Remember this: Mayweather, Ward, Wilder, Golovkin, Joshua could not revive and resurrect professional boxing at ESPN. Only Manny Pacquiao could.
And maybe Arum and ESPN should show a little respect and gratitude to the one man who made this enormous operation possible.