The evolution of HBO’s 24/7 boxing series

I’m fully willing to admit that boxing has not been the world’s most prosperous sport of late. In fact, if I pressed you to name 10 boxers off the top of your head, I would honestly be surprised if you could actually do it.

There are many reasons for this decline, including a lack of talent (specifically that from the United States) entering the sport, and the competition provided by the more versatile sport of mixed martial arts.

One good innovation that has, however, entered the sport of boxing in recent years is HBO’s 24/7 series. For years, HBO has produced an excellent series of Countdown shows, previewing their big pay-per-view fights. These shows were great 30-minute specials designed to get undecided and casual fans excited enough to pay the $50 needed to watch the fight live.

The series is still going strong, but, in early 2007, they finally encountered a fight too big for the Countdown series. This led to the creation of De La Hoya-Mayweather 24/7, a four-episode series that, when put together, played like a two-hour countdown special that focused on the fighters’ camps in addition to their backstories. Oscar De La Hoya, by far the biggest draw in boxing, brought in the viewers by himself, but the star of the show was the sport’s top fighter, Floyd Mayweather Jr., whose charisma and dysfunctional family were the reasons that the fans kept watching. 

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The show turned Mayweather into a superstar, in addition to boosting the profile of his uncle and trainer, Roger Mayweather, who was unconventional and wildly entertaining at the same time. Floyd’s dad, Floyd Sr., who had trained both Mayweather and De La Hoya for extended stretches of their careers, started out for this fight in Mayweather’s camp, but after feuding with Floyd Jr. and Roger, could not finish it. The series was deemed a huge success, with Mayweather ultimately winning a fight that was nowhere near as exciting.

Seven months later came another Mayweather fight, and another round of the 24/7 series. Mayweather-Hatton 24/7 carried less name reputation than its predecessor, but eclipsed it in terms of quality. The Mayweather family was up to its usual antics, specifically Roger, who provided the best scene in the history of the series with a fantastic Thanksgiving grocery shopping trip. His opponent, Britain’s Ricky Hatton, who boasts boxing’s most loyal fans, brought his own down-to-earth brand of humor to the show as well, contrasting brilliantly with the flashy confidence displayed by Mayweather.

The series turned what was already shaping up to be a good fight into a superfight. Mayweather again won, this time by a 10th round TKO, and promptly retired a few months later. While nobody believes that Mayweather’s career is actually finished, the man who made 24/7 what it is and, as it turns out, the man who 24/7 was tailor-made for, is not presently in the show’s future.

Even without Mayweather, the show still has life. Its two 2008 editions include the recently completed three-part Calzaghe-Jones 24/7, which profiled Welshman Joe Calzaghe (a rich man’s Ricky Hatton), and future Hall-of-Famer Roy Jones Jr.

Calzaghe provided the show with some charm, while Jones was the real star. Now years removed from being boxing’s pound-for-pound top fighter, the modern-day version of Jones, though by no means as talented, showed up changed as both a fighter and as a person, and reflected amazingly well on his life as a boxer. As expected, Calzaghe ended up winning a lopsided fight.

Next up for the series is De La Hoya-Pacquiao 24/7, a preview of 2008’s most anticipated fight.

De La Hoya returns to the show, prepping for his bout against Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao. The celebrity status of the fighters alone should make this season incredibly watchable, though many are already writing off the much-smaller Pacquiao in the actual fight.

Even if Mayweather’s officially done, and if De La Hoya inevitably retires at some point in the near future, this show certainly provides boxing some hope of allowing fans to identify with its fighters. There are still many boxers out there that could carry the show’s torch. In the heavyweight division, the Klitschko brothers would make for an entertaining season due to the intrigue of their being the opposite of the typical boxer. Both brothers have doctorates in the Ukraine and likely will have the boxing ability and financial security to get out of their careers before risking serious health problems.

Fellow heavyweight Samuel Peter would also make for an entertaining focus of 24/7, simply due to his brash demeanour and cocky attitude, in combination with his outspoken management that would be able to provide a fantastic supporting cast (think of a watered-down Mayweather clan).

However, it would truly be an injustice if the show never based a season on Bernard Hopkins. The 43-year-old light heavyweight is a true comeback story, going from prison to the World Middleweight Championship, a title he held for a decade. Hopkins is still one of the sport’s craftiest fighters and great talkers, and his recent losses have only come to the best.

A recent win over reigning middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik, 17 years his junior, has cemented Hopkins’ legacy, and a 24/7 profile of him would likely outdo the show’s fantastic look at Jones. HBO’s done a great job on 24/7, and, if it hopes to keep it up, Hopkins should get the next look.

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