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Top Rank, ESPN formally extend deal until 2025, with 54 live events per year

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Terence Crawford (L) lands a right hand on Jeff Horn while winning the WBO welterweight title in June in a bout streamed on ESPN+. (Getty Images)

Top Rank formally announced the extension of its television deal with ESPN on Wednesday, extending it through 2025, as first reported by Yahoo Sports.

New details were announced about the partnership, including that 54 Top Rank boxing events a year will be broadcast on an ESPN platform. That will include 18 live fight cards on ESPN, 12 prime time events in the U.S. on ESPN+ as well as 24 international cards on ESPN+. There will be undercard coverage of all 54 events.

The deal has largely been successful. It debuted last year with Manny Pacquiao fighting Jeff Horn for the WBO welterweight title in Brisbane, Australia. The bout averaged 3.1 million viewers and peaked at 4.4 million viewers, and was a hit even in the coveted 18-to-34-year-old demographic. It was the highest-rated boxing telecast on cable since 2006 and ESPN’s top-rated boxing show since 1995.

A news release announcing the extension noted it “is the result of the huge success of the first year of Top Rank on ESPN.”

Getting television dates is important to all boxing promoters, but the dates are often tied to a specific fighter. In this case, what was important to Top Rank president Todd duBoef was that by turning over his entire vertical to ESPN, it would provide significant additional shoulder programming that would help raise the profile of the boxers in particular and the sport in general.

He believed that if boxing was treated similarly to the way the NFL and NBA are on television, with pre- and post-game shows and studio shows with expert analysis, boxing would grow in popularity in the U.S.

The deal includes not only the 54 fights, but original programming and library content, as well as extensive news coverage.

ESPN will show original programming including “In this Corner,” “Camp Life,” weigh-ins, press conferences and Top Rank’s fight library that includes classic matches involving legends like Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.

“This partnership will continue to bring the biggest events and best fights from around the world to ESPN networks,” duBoef said. “Our collective ability to integrate live events, classic fights, studio shows and behind-the-scenes features will raise the long-term profile of the sport of boxing and the athletes.”

ESPN+ is ESPN’s new streaming service that began in April. It costs $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year and includes Major League Baseball, NHL and MLS games, UFC fight cards (beginning next year), Grand Slam tennis matches, PGA Tour golf events and more, in addition to Top Rank boxing.

ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro was pleased to work out the extension.

“ESPN is thrilled with this new long-term agreement with Top Rank, which represents the most innovative and comprehensive relationship in the world of boxing today,” Pitaro said. “By creating and distributing significantly more Top Rank events and boxing content, ESPN and Top Rank will jointly cultivate upcoming fighters and fights, creating the stars of tomorrow while providing fans with teh sport’s best content in a more personalized manner.”

Vasiliy Lomachenko (L) stopped Jorge Linares on ESPN on May 12 to win the WBO lightweight title in New York. (Bill Tompkins/Getty Images)

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