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HBO boxing says goodbye; Showtime eyes future

Changes coming to boxing in 2019

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The fall and winter seasons mean football, basketball, hockey and the MLB playoffs. Usually, boxing slows down as fighters plan for the 2019 schedule.

But before we look too far ahead, here's what's coming up in 2018:

Leija Anniversary

October 2, 1988 is a very special date for the former world champ, "Jesse" James Leija. Tuesday marks the 30th anniversary of Leija's first professional fight, which he won with a first round knockout against Oscar Davis at Freeman Coliseum.

"Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN"

San Antonio's own Joshua Franco will headline a nationally televised fight on Thursday, October 4, in Costa Mesa, California. Franco (14-1, 7 KOs) will face Oscar Negrete (18-1, 7 KOs) in a 10-round bout for the NABF Bantamweight title. Both fighters are 1-1 in their last two fights. 

HBO cutting boxing from programming in 2019

On Thursday, HBO Sports released a statement announcing the end of live boxing on their network starting in 2019. The reason for the decision was based on several factors, most notably that live boxing can be seen on numerous networks and online. Subscribers watch HBO for the unique content and since boxing can be found anywhere, it's not necessarily the reason people turn to their network anymore.

Younger boxers don't think the change will affect boxing as a whole but for boxing veterans who grew up tuning in and purchasing fights, the announcement was a punch to the gut.

"It kind of hurts a little," said "Jesse" James Leija to KSAT 12 Sports on Thursday afternoon. "Hard to believe that it will no longer carry boxing. I'm honored to have fought ten times on HBO in my career."

Twelve of the last 14 pay-per-view fights have aired exclusively on HBO since October of 2015.  The network only aired one pay-per-view fight in 2018. The last time the network aired only one such PPV boxing event was in 1995, when Riddick Bowe defeated Evander Holyfield.

You can't help but wonder if the postponement of the rematch between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin may have added to the decision to stop live boxing at HBO.

Both fighters were schedule to fight in May but Canelo failed two random urine tests, which resulted in Alvarez pulling out of the fight and was later suspended six months by the Nevada Athletic Commission.

Canelo/GGG 2 finally happened in September but it was HBO's first and only PPV fight for the year.

Had there been no failed drug tests and the fight went as planned, perhaps HBO would have aired at least two PPV events in 2018? We will never know.

Live boxing could return to HBO in the future but after 45 years, the last scheduled fight night on the network will be on October 27 at Madison Square Garden. The evening will feature three different championship title matches.

Showtime boxing only getting bigger

Showtime sports is no stranger to boxing. The amount of fights and the quality of their broadcasts have only gotten better and is arguably the best boxing broadcast around. For those reasons alone, it should be no surprise that Showtime is expanding their coverage.

Showtime Sports and Premier Boxing Champions entered into a three-year agreement back in August to extend their live boxing programming.  For the fans, that means Showtime will increase their boxing schedule, airing bouts featuring prospects, contenders and of course, world championship fights.

Showtime will have aired more than 30 live boxing events in 2018 alone and that includes one last PPV event for the year.

On Thursday, Showtime announced that WBC World Champion Deontay Wilder will defend his title against lineal champion Tyson Fury on December 1 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. This could be the most significant heavyweight battle in the United States since Lennox Lewis defeated Mike Tyson in 2002.

Ironically, Tyson Fury is named after Mike Tyson.

This is also the first December PPV boxing event since 2012. 

Daniel P. Villanueva has worked with KSAT 12 Sports for over 15 years and is an award-winning sports producer. To submit story ideas, email sports@ksat.com.