Can Manny Pacquiao and Showtime Get Boxing Back on Network TV?

Over the past three years Manny Pacquiao has emerged as the biggest star in combat sports. First he established himself as one of the most accomplished boxers in the history of the sport, then mega fights with big names Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton and a much-hyped but failed attempt to book a bout with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. brought him into the mass consciousness in a big way.

Now, even though they can't find an opponent worthy of Pacquiao, it looks like Showtime is leveraging their relationship with CBS to take Pacquiao to even greater heights. Tomorrow the Fight Camp 360 series begins on CBS at 12 noon ET

Luke Thomas puts it in context: 

This is the Manny Pacquiao Show. We are privy to an athlete who is bigger than his sport, a once in a generation athlete and the most popular combat athlete on the planet.

As you may or may not know, his Fight Camp 360 is part of the mega shake-up in boxing as Top Rank left HBO pay-per-view to sign with Showtime. This program, then, isn't just about promoting Pacquiao or power struggles among titans for the future of boxing. It's also about whether Pacquiao and promoter Bob Arum can get the sweet science back on network television.

Scott Christ talks about the target audience for the series:

I reckon it looks like Showtime did their usual fine job, but I will say again that I really doubt that this particular series has been made with the already-familiar boxing fan in mind. This is to spread the good word of Manny Pacquiao (oh and this "Mosley" fellow -- he seems lovely!) out to the masses who either only know the name and mispronounce it, or don't know anything at all about him. Pacquiao's ability to hook fans is remarkable. I've never watched a Pacquiao fight with someone who wound up going, "You know something? I don't like that guy." He's just too nice, too talented, too likeable, and he doesn't run around grimacing and making mean mug faces or trying to play a fake character, which I think at this point is pretty much old hat that nobody wants to see anymore. The only money-making villain I can think of in recent years is Mayweather, in part because Floyd can say "I'm playing a character" all he wants to, but the further we go along the less like a character "Money Mayweather" appears.

Right now it's a race between Pac and the UFC to get their sport back on network TV first. MMA has had a very brief and undistinguished history on CBS with EliteXC and Strikeforce enjoying mixed success on the Tiffany Network. Boxing, on the other hand, has a long and glorious history on network television but it's a long time since the glory days of Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell. 

Thanks to Zuffa's purchase of Strikeforce, which has an existing relationship with Showtime and has aired fights on CBS, there is an outside chance that the UFC could beat boxing back to the big leagues, but I wouldn't bet on it.

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