HBO’s Desperation Is Palpable

By Paul Magno on July 22, 2018
HBO’s Desperation Is Palpable
OMG, a star might’ve accidentally wandered through HBO’s doors. (Photo: Courtesy)

Coming into his HBO Boxing After Dark reappearance, it was clear that HBO was big on the affable and entertaining Mexican KO artist

Back about a year ago, following a series of odd life events, I found myself temporarily based in a senior citizen-heavy Florida community. On one evening out with a lovely young lady friend of mine, I decided to visit one of the many, many strip mall casinos in town.

“Lucky Ducks” was packed with slot-loving retirees, no younger than 70. The smell of pipe tobacco and hair spray wafted through the stale, air-conditioned air.

As we moved through the gamblers, looking for some loose-looking slots, the old folks started coming up to us.

“Oh…you’re so young and pretty,” one lady told my date. Another reached out to feel the smoothness of her skin. “So smooth,” she marveled.

Before long, there was a Walking Dead-like group around us, all of them awed, apparently, by my friend’s youth and beauty. More than a handful reached out to touch her skin or her long, black hair. It was as though they had never seen a young person before and just couldn’t believe one had actually wandered into their stale domain. It was a very strange moment.

I almost got that same vibe last Saturday when Jaime Munguia returned to HBO to defend the WBO junior middleweight belt he took from Sadam Ali in May.

OMG, a star might’ve accidentally wandered through HBO’s doors and nobody there seemed quite sure of how to deal with their accidental find.

The 21-year-old Mexican banger had started “he’s a star in the making” talk with his dominant stoppage of Ali and many, many members of the media had continued that narrative going in the 60 days or so before his return to the network.

Coming into his HBO Boxing After Dark reappearance, it was clear that HBO was big on the affable and entertaining Mexican KO artist. And the big shots with the big HBO salaries had to understand the importance of getting their hooks into a bankable fighter so early in his career with so many possible big fights available in his size range (which may run from 154 to 175 within a few years).

At various points of the broadcast, Lamps and Kells (my “affectionate” nickname for Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman), drew comparisons between Munguia and George Foreman, Mike Tyson, Arturo Gatti, Canelo Alvarez, and Oscar De La Hoya. The enthusiasm and reverence shown was overkill for a kid with only Sadam Ali and a bevy of Mexican club fighters on his résumé. Again, it resembled the awe with which old ladies at “Lucky Ducks” picked at my friend’s hair…”Ooooh, so pretty…so young.”

After a dominant, but still too competitive encounter with Liam Smith, the fellas at the premium sports outfit had some harsh realities to face. As Munguia noted, himself, he was still very green and still learning on the job. The star they wanted right here and now is still a few years away from his best and will require some smart matchmaking to keep him unbeaten and undamaged while he develops.

Munguia is what he is—a likable and compelling all-action fighter with star potential. He’s not someone the network can fast track to the opponent slot for the winner of Canelo-Golovkin and he’s not someone who’s going to help carry the network through its rough patch of falling ratings and general malaise.

One can totally understand, though, HBO’s desperate hunger for a star.

The network has seen most of its biggest and most bankable talent walk away over the last several years under the disastrous leadership of Ken Hershman and now Peter Nelson. Of their remaining stars, PPV kingpin Canelo Alvarez has been sullied to a still-unknown extent by his recent clenbuterol scandal and hard-hitting Sergey Kovalev has had his star shot to pieces by several racist comments and a pair of embarrassing losses to the now-retired Andre Ward. Current top non-PPV draw Gennady Golovkin is not far from retirement at 36 years of age and, frankly, just never became the crossover sensation the HBO suits hoped he’d become after six years spent pushing him to the moon.

Boxing, no matter what the rock-headed “purists” say, is a star-driven sport and a dozen thrilling super flyweight brawls do not amount to one NAME who can bring subscriptions to the network and put a buzz in the air.

Munguia’s not that guy. Not yet, anyway.

Oh yeah, and as for my evening at “Lucky Ducks?” In between the senior citizen muggings, we somehow managed to lose a few hundred bucks and a creepy old man who does “private videos” and owns a luxury yacht slipped us his phone number.

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  1. Cofresi 11:14am, 07/26/2018

    You are just noticing HBO Sports is 95% agenda driven commentary?

  2. Pete The Sneak 04:08am, 07/26/2018

    ceylon mooney, the Brits are correct, particularly when it comes to Showtime. That guy Mauro Ranallo (or whatever his name is) is one of the worst boxing announcers ever. The guy is nothing but shtick and cheer leading and has no clue what is going on in the ring. But for Paulie M., I would be hitting the SAP button (thanks for teaching me Spanish mom) for every Showtime boxing broadcast. Peace.

  3. ceylon mooney 03:15am, 07/25/2018

    the cheerleading for most fights i see on tv is crickin awful. its terrible on showtime. hell its a lot worse than HBO. brits who post on boxing forums say how awful the televised commentary is over there.

  4. ceylon mooney 03:11am, 07/25/2018

    HBO is a shit show, but nothing was embarrassing about kovalevs first fight over ward. ROC nations rigged judging was shameful, but both fighters were
    damn good and the fight was one helluva contest.

  5. Asher 12:57pm, 07/24/2018

    “Before long, there was a Walking Dead-like group around us…....” LOL!!!

  6. Thrashem 04:41pm, 07/23/2018

    I hate it when people heap acolades on up and coming fighters when they have proved nothing. Hopefully he has a good manager and doesn’t put him in over his head for money.
    Fernando Vargas could have been great. Too much too fast and he was ruined. Let the kid grow.
    I used to like the freshness of Max, but lately kisses too much Lampley ass.

  7. Chico Suave 02:09pm, 07/23/2018

    Did the “creepy old man” look like Harvey Weinstein by chance?

  8. Kid Blast 01:31pm, 07/23/2018

    Well I disagree but as a disclaimer I am reasonably close to Lampley and he is one of the brightest human beings I have ever met. One very nice guy.

    I like Tarver, Paulie, and Jones as guys who can get inside of what’s happening. Teddy’s OK but he overanalyzes. ESPN need someone. Gurrero was pretty darn good IMO.

  9. Paul Magno 11:42am, 07/23/2018

    @Kid Blast….THAT was hate? These guys are cheerleaders—especially Lamps—and have stopped even trying to provide any real analysis for the most part…That’s just their style these days…Propagandists for their bossmen…and that’s ok…just calling it like it is…

  10. Kid Blast 10:59am, 07/23/2018

    Not sure I get the hate towards Lampley and Max.

  11. Chico Salmon 05:30am, 07/23/2018

    I love to smell pipe tobacco. Always was a stogie man myself, preferring a Hoyo De Monterrey Number 1 or an Arturo Fuente Canones stick, but nothing beats a great smelling pipe. Story sounds a bit contrived though, ese. I lived in Florida for decades and your tale sounds a bit scripted, makes me think of the 80’s movie, “Cocoon.”

  12. Casanovita de Ahome 08:11pm, 07/22/2018

    Tell the truth….that “creepy old man” slipped you his phone number when your date wasn’t looking.

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