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Zbik approved for Chavez, not Martinez


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Zbik approved for Chavez, not Martinez

 

by Dan Rafael, ESPN.com

 

 

It's no secret the relationship between HBO and Top Rank's Bob Arum is on the rocks in the wake of Arum's taking the May 7 Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley pay-per-view fight to Showtime last month. Both sides acknowledge it. It's as obvious as the sun and the moon.

 

It's only a one-fight deal and HBO executives are hopeful that Arum will come back, although that may be wishful thinking if the fight is a huge success. And it probably will be, given the fact that Pacquiao is a mega-star and that CBS -- Showtime's sister company -- will be heavily involved in the marketing and promoting of the event.

 

But HBO remains hopeful, which is why it is doing whatever it can to appease Arum. When Arum made the deal with Showtime, HBO did not try to retaliate. It vowed not to counter-program the pay-per-view with a network fight. It went through with putting on Arum's card last week, the one headlined by Nonito Donaire's massive second-round knockout of Fernando Montiel in a star-making performance that earned Donaire a pair of bantamweight belts.

 

And HBO still finalized a deal to put on a Top Rank card March 26 in Atlantic City, N.J., where featherweight titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa will headline in a defense against Jorge Solis. Those were all wise decisions. But now it gets a little goofy.

 

Last week, HBO Sports' top three executives -- Ross Greenburg, Kery Davis and Mark Taffet -- came to Las Vegas for Donaire-Montiel. It's unheard of for all three of them to attend a "Boxing After Dark" card -- the network's B series -- especially one located across the country from their New York base.

 

The network did host a screening of it's new (and outstanding, by the way) documentary "Runnin' Rebels of UNLV," which premiers March 12. Still, it was highly unusual for all three executives to attend.

 

But they are in damage-control mode, and everyone -- especially Arum -- knows it. According to sources, the three executives, Arum and Todd duBoef (Top Rank's president and Arum's stepson) had dinner after the film in an effort to clear the air. During the dinner, I am told, HBO offered a June 4 date to Top Rank for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., a mandatory challenger, to face middleweight titlist Sebastian Zbik -- even agreeing to go to Cancun, Mexico, where production would be far more costly than if the fight were held in the United States and where there are also security concerns.

 

Given how desperate HBO is to find its way back into Arum's good graces, I guess it's no surprise that it would offer him dates in an effort to make nice. However, HBO's showing interest in buying this particular fight is fairly stunning.

 

Previously, the network scoffed at putting Chavez on, despite Arum's best efforts. The reason was simple: Despite his famous last name, Chavez isn't very good. That could at least be overlooked because he does have a large fan base and typically makes entertaining fights. What can't be overlooked is the apparent double-standard at work.

 

On March 12, HBO will air Sergio Martinez, the legitimate and lineal middleweight champion, against junior middleweight titlist Sergei Dzinziruk. Zbik had been an interim titleholder and Martinez's mandatory challenger, and Martinez, his promoter (Lou DiBella) and his adviser (Sampson Lewkowicz) wanted to fulfill the obligation to the WBC by fighting him.

 

HBO said no. It refused to approve Zbik, an undefeated fighter whom I have ranked in the middleweight top 10. HBO instead gave Martinez one choice: Dzinziruk, mainly because, according to sources, it had promised his co-promoter, Gary Shaw, that Dzinziruk would be on the network as part of the deal it made with Shaw for the Jan. 29 fight between Timothy Bradley Jr. (Shaw's fighter) and Devon Alexander.

 

Because HBO wouldn't approve Zbik as an opponent for Martinez, he was put in the position of having to face Dzinziruk if he wanted to make a living -- at the expense of his belt. He took the Dzinziruk fight and wound up being stripped as a direct result of HBO's decision. That move gave the belt to Zbik, who had his interim tag lifted. Now Chavez is his mandatory challenger.

 

When I asked Greenburg a few weeks ago when we were in Pontiac, Mich., for Bradley-Alexander why he didn't approve Zbik to fight Martinez, he said that he had watched tapes of Zbik and described him as "terrible" and not worthy of being on HBO. Fair enough. It's his opinion. We all have them.

 

But HBO suddenly changed its mind and accepted Zbik for Chavez because of the mess it is in over losing Pacquiao. That obviously doesn't sit well with Martinez, DiBella and Lewkowicz, and who could blame them? Now they have to watch HBO swoon over Arum and, contrary to its previous vow, agree to put a guy on the air whom it wouldn't let Martinez fight, thus costing him his belt.

 

I have no problem with any network trying to buy the fight it wants and not buying a fight it doesn't want. But I do have a problem with such a clear double-standard.

 

DiBella usually rants and raves at the drop of a hat when he's upset. His outbursts are legendary. But when he called me on Tuesday after he had heard that Zbik-Chavez was approved by HBO, he seemed to be in shock, beyond ranting and raving. He was absolutely seething.

 

Perhaps HBO will patch things up with Top Rank, but it seems more problems lie ahead.

 

http://espn.go.com/sports/boxing/blog/_/name/rafael_dan/id/6151018/zbik-approved-chavez-not-martinez

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