By Mark Elezaj
HBO and boxing have been synonymous for nearly half a century, and it has come to an end with its final card last night in California.
The “network of champions,” better known as the “Heart and Soul of Boxing” that “built legends one round at a time” gave us amazing fights during their “World Championship Boxing” events and “Boxing After Dark” series.
HBO boxing became apart of our lives in 1973 with George Foreman’s second-round knockout of Joe Frazier in a heavyweight championship fight. Today, we stand here in awe as we watched HBO Boxing throw in the towel on the sport last night, 1,118 fights later.
As a child, everyone would gather on fight nights. Uncles, cousins and friends. The adults would be “talking,” although it sounded more like arguing, about the fights while us kids played in another room. The living room looked more like a casino with how the table was set up for a game of dominoes. The men of the house were all sitting there, smoking on their cigarettes while the ladies of the family would bring drinks and food out to them.
Feb. 11, 1990
I was too young to understand it, but I witnessed the most shocking upset in boxing history, perhaps in all of sports. Buster Douglas knocked Mike Tyson out to win the undisputed heavyweight title in an unforgettable fight and the room was silent. You heard a pin drop. Everyone was shocked, EVERYONE. I fell in love with the sport and it was thanks to HBO boxing.
During the 1990’s HBO was the home to many legends. Names like Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe, Lennox Lewis, Pernell Whitaker, Oscar De La Hoya and Roy Jones Jr. We witnessed fights that produced memories that will last a lifetime.
Ratings fell in the 2000’s. There was still plenty of good stars to watch, guys like Arturo Gatti, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. These stars and many memorable fights helped keep HBO a household name, but then Mayweather left, as did many of the most marketable fighters that were originally on HBO, and now we all witnessed and welcomed a new brand of boxing, on Showtime.
Be that as it may, we will never forget fights like Bowe vs Holyfield. Who can forget the drama we saw in round nine of Gatti vs Ward. We all stood in the shock when we saw the shot heard around the world in round two of Tarver vs Jones II. Countless memories and goosebumps to mention.
And finally, I will never forget my HBO Boxing family. Legendary names like Jim Lampley, Harold Lederman, Larry Merchant, Emanuel Steward, George Foreman, Max Kellerman, and Roy Jones Jr. You have all been apart of my life since the early 90’s and I will miss you all.
Thank you HBO, Thank You!
~The Fighting Voice~