Female Boxing Televised on Showtime in 2017 says Showtime’s Espinoza
The revolution will be televised, the revolution will be televised. And it will be live.
Loosely using a quote from the late Gil Scott Heron, the revolution of American women’s boxing takes a giant leap with a boost from network television.
Showtime will be adding women’s boxing to its coming 2017 calendar though no dates have been nailed down. Expect a female fight card to be televised no later than the month of May.
“Really there’s no reason why women’s boxing shouldn’t be on television. It’s a goal we would definitely like to meet in 2017,” said Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president of Showtime Sports. “And more than just an isolated fight or two.”
It’s been seven years since Showtime last televised a female bout when Melissa Hernandez defeated Jeri Sitzes in a six round super featherweight bout held at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. It was the semi-main event to Chad Dawson versus Antonio Tarver. Hernandez was victorious after six rounds.
Since that time, Showtime and HBO have not shown a female bout and other networks like Fox Sports, NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network have sporadically televised a few. But it wasn’t always like that. In the late 1980s and 1990s female boxing did get attention. But in the 2000s, while female boxing was ignored, a brand new sport, female MMA, scored big with Ronda Rousey leading the way.
“The network has had a long list of history with women’s boxing going back to Christy Martin and more recently with MMA. Gina Carano, Cris Cyborg, Mischa Tate, and of course launching Ronda Rousey’s career,” said Espinoza by phone on Wednesday. “Showtime has certainly had a tradition of doing that and with the success of women’s MMA, it just underscores the point the audience is ready for it. The market is ready for it. There really is no reason why it should not be on. If anything, it sort of made the omission more glaring.”
American Females Lag in Exposure, Not Talent
Female boxing has virtually usurped male boxing in several countries around the world. Germany, Argentina, Japan, Canada, and Mexico have made female boxing a must-see sport. But in the U.S. an abundance of female boxing talent remains hidden.
“There are a lot of talented women boxing in the U.S. and around the world. And a lot of them are doing very well in terms of the ticket sales and TV ratings. Those being televised of course are outside of the U.S. because the U.S. is really behind the curve in terms of women’s boxing and I think we can be part of the solution to that,” Espinoza said.
Women’s boxing has dominated in nearby Mexico where fighters like Mariana “Barbie” Juarez, Zulina Munoz, Jackie Nava, Jessica Chavez and Kenia Enriquez have become household names in that boxing crazy country due to television. In Mexico, the women are the main event. Only Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is a bigger name than the women like Ibeth “La Roca” Zamora.
In Europe, welterweight Cecilia Braekhus has dominated that scene and holds all of the major welterweight belts. She recently signed a promotion contract with K2 Promotions that also represents middleweight champion Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin. Though many say she’s among the best fighters in the world pound for pound, even she knows she could find her equal in the U.S.
“Some of the best female boxers are in the United States,” said Braekhus when she spoke to us last spring.
Layla McCarter, a Las Vegas prizefighter who has captured world titles from featherweight to super welterweight, has been gunning for a showdown with Braekhus for years.
“I know that Triple G is being inducted today. He’s with K2 who also has Cecilia Braekhus and I’d like to make that fight happen in the near future for the unified welterweight championship,” said McCarter during her induction to the California Boxing Hall of Fame last Saturday in Studio City, Calif. “So people with the capability let’s make it happen and put a spotlight on women’s boxing.”
New York Start
Espinoza said that he has conversed with Lou DiBella of DiBella Entertainment that promotes Amanda and Cindy Serrano along with Heather “The Heat” Hardy. Impressed with their performances and fan support, discussions between DiBella and Espinoza have led to the possibility of opening up the initial Showtime telecasts for female boxing next year in New York City.
“The promotion of any boxer whether its male or female starts – unless you’re lucky enough to have a gold medal – it always starts locally and regionally. I think that’s where it’s going to go. We have an opportunity for example, with Amanda Serrano or Heather Hardy where we have a venue set in their home area that is very enthusiastic supporter of boxing, in general, of women’s boxing in particular, that’s an opportunity as well,” he said.
Amanda Serrano recently won the WBO super bantamweight world title with a 44 second knockout of Alexandra Lazar last week. DiBella believes she is one of the top female fighters in the world and is confident the world will love to watch her in action.
“A fight against Jennifer Han for the featherweight world title would be an exciting match up,” said DiBella last week.
Espinoza said that they will be venturing out to other parts of the country and will also look to invite international competition.
“We’re going to discover a lot of talented female fighters and this can become a regular staple of the boxing scene really quick,” Espinoza said. “The first step has already happened.”
Heather Hardy’s 10-round battle against Shelly Vincent proved that fan interest was high as ticket sales were extremely good. Plus, the television audience garnered across America was impressive enough to convince all that women’s boxing has arrived.
Female Boxing Promoters
Female boxing is quite different than men’s boxing because no large boxing promotion companies sign women fighters. But there are many smaller promotion companies that have been carrying on with non-televised fight cards and have impressive rosters.
Arqangel Promotions, based in Southern California, has several world class fighters who have been forced to fight overseas or in Mexico on numerous occasions. They have been televised but mostly in foreign soil. Arqangel boast female fighters like bantamweight Melinda Cooper, super bantamweight Celina Salazar and light flyweight Amaris Quintana who are fearless and willing to fight anyone, anywhere. Few men are willing to follow in the women’s footsteps.
Al Applerose, CFO of Arqangel Promotions, said he became interested because he saw the women showed a zeal and passion for the sport despite the lack of attention by promoters, managers and television.
“When you look at Melinda Cooper it’s hard to believe this very pretty woman is one of the best fighters in the world,” said Applerose. “Then you have Amaris Quintana and she is utterly fearless. Most people think she is a model. But the odd thing is they don’t fight like they care about their looks. They go out to destroy the other girls.”
All three Arqangel Promotion fighters are based in the west coast but have fought in France, Costa Rica, and multiple times in Mexico.
“They don’t care who they fight,” said Applerose. “They just want to fight.”
Showtime’s Espinoza said 2017 will be the year of the women on television.
“There is really no reason it can’t be developed for women’s boxing as well it is in MMA. If anything, female boxers are more developed than MMA because women’s boxing has been around a lot longer,” said Espinoza. “They have not gotten the TV exposure recently that would help elevate their profile.”
Applerose said television will be a blessing for female boxing.
“This is something the women boxers have been praying for,” Applerose said. “I’ll be waiting for their call starting tomorrow.”
The change begins next year. The revolution will be live.