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Wednesday July 26th 2017
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Soklin’s Corner: Boxing back on ABC

Boxing is back on network TV. The fight may not be the most exciting card in years. It may not even be the best possible contest for boxing to return to network television. However, it is a big deal that boxing will be shown on network TV. Antonio Tarver (24-4, 18 KOs) is set to take on Elvir Muriqi (34-3, 21 KOs) on April 22nd from Atlantic City on ABC Sports, now known as ESPN on ABC. Tarver now has some mainstream fame with his recent appearance in “Rocky Balboa” where he played Mason “the Line” Dixon who was Rocky’s latest opponent. Tarver hasn’t fought since he lost last June to Bernard Hopkins. ABC hasn’t had a bout on their network since June of 2000 when Jose Luis Castillo upset Stevie Johnston to capture the WBC Lightweight title. This could be a great idea, a marriage between ABC and boxing that could be a great benefit to promoting boxing or could be a dreadful bout that does nothing but hurt the sport.

Tarver has always been known as a slow and unexciting yet successful fighter. The business of boxing will never allow main events or mainstream fights to be shown live on network TV. De La Hoya, Hopkins, Mayweather Jr. or Wright will not be fighting on network TV and that is understandable. A successful run of boxing on network TV however could help to create stars of tomorrow. Many up and coming young boxing superstars want their chance to shine, they want to show they are the future of the sport. A match on network TV, free to the whole country can be the showcase event that the young superstars need. Fighters need a reputation; they need to make a name for themselves before they are successful as a PPV draw. Muriqi, is 27 and he is known as the “Kosovo Kid,” and that is all that I know about him. One bout on ESPN on ABC and I will probably learn a lot more about him, information that I would otherwise not learn about until his first big PPV opportunity. I have an opportunity to develop an opinion about him earlier. The ability to follow a young boxer and watch them grow is important to fans. A bout on network TV, especially if he is impressive against well-known Antonio Tarver could do a lot for Muriqi’s career because of the large audience that has potential to see the bout.
The potential audience is what is important when talking about this boxing return to network TV. If entertaining, the Tarver-Muriqi bout could stage the way for boxing to return more regularly to network TV. If Muriqi makes a name for himself or if Tarver shows that his fight skills improved while sparring with an HGH-charged up Sly Stallone this fight could pave the way for many more important showcases of future stars. ABC’s Wide World of Sports was at one time a very important showcase for boxing. The success of The Contender shows that there is an audience on network TV looking for boxing but maybe unwilling to splurge for PPV fights. There is no reason to believe that these one hour shows, can’t both promote future stars as well as keep a fighter like Tarver relevant.
Although, there is the chance that the fight sucks and fans remember why they tuned away from boxing. Even worse for boxing would be faulty judging, but at least the fight is not in Vegas.


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