Last night, the boxing world witnessed an unusual spectacle as two world title matches unfolded in the early hours of Thursday morning. In a departure from the typical weekend schedule, the decision to stage these matches midweek was orchestrated by ESPN and the architects of their television programming.
This scheduling anomaly was driven by strategic considerations related to the Formula 1 race taking place in Las Vegas during the same week. Bob Arum, a prominent boxing promoter overseeing the event, shed light on the unconventional timing, stating, "We're not accustomed to Thursday night boxing shows, but ESPN has a robust sports program.
They insisted on hosting this event during the Formula 1 race week, aligning with the presence of numerous sponsors and executives in town. In the world of sports, decisions are often dictated by those who control the financial reins.
They foot the bill, and naturally, we cater to their preferences." On this unexpected Thursday night, Shakur Stevenson stepped into the ring, contending for the WBC lightweight world title. Facing Edwin De Los Santos, Stevenson secured victory through a unanimous decision, claiming the prestigious WBC belt, emblematic of his prowess in the ring.
Adding to the spectacle, Emanuel Navarrete defended his WBO world super featherweight title against Robson Conceicao. The bout concluded in a draw, allowing Navarrete to retain possession of the coveted belt. ESPN's decision to forego a weekend slot for this event was a calculated one, with the network prioritizing the Formula 1 extravaganza.
Despite the unconventional timing, ESPN was insistent on showcasing the boxing matches during the week, aiming to enhance their programming and provide sponsors with a unique glimpse into the world of elite boxing. Top Rank, the promotion company responsible for organizing the event, found themselves bound by an exclusive contract with ESPN, valued at over 80 million dollars annually.
This financial partnership significantly influences Top Rank's decision-making process. Shakur Stevenson, boasting an unblemished record of 21-0 and having clinched world champion titles across three weight categories, stands as one of the sport's premier athletes.
While ESPN currently ranks him eighth on their "Pound for Pound" list, Stevenson undoubtedly harbors aspirations for grander matches and more spectacular events in the future, surpassing the midweek bout that unfolded on Thursday night.