After months of haggling, bitter premium cable rivals Showtime and HBO have made a deal that will see both of their broadcast crews at ringside at sold-out Wembley Stadium in London on April 29 to produce separate American telecasts for the fight between heavyweight world titleholder Anthony Joshua and former champion Wladimir Klitschko.
The deal, announced Monday by promoters Matchroom Sport and Klitschko Management Group and the two networks, will see Showtime, which has a contract for Joshua's American television rights, televise live coverage of the bout in the United States beginning at 4:15 p.m. ET. HBO, which has a contract covering Klitschko's U.S. TV rights, will air its version of the fight on tape delay beginning at approximately 10:45 p.m. ET/PT, following the conclusion of its taped coverage of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction concert.
Because both networks have contractual rights to their fighters, making the deal was a huge struggle. Both wanted to televise one of the biggest heavyweight fights in years. Now they both will under their unprecedented agreement.
"We are thrilled to be delivering Joshua vs. Klitschko to the U.S. audience live on Showtime," Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports, said. "On the afternoon of April 29, U.S. sports fans will be able to tune in to Showtime to join a record-breaking crowd of 90,000 at Wembley Stadium and a worldwide television audience in witnessing an event that represents not only the contesting of the heavyweight world championship, but potentially the changing of the guard in the most influential division in boxing.
"We are proud to be Anthony Joshua's exclusive U.S. television partner as he attempts to establish his legacy against the legendary Wladimir Klitschko, live on Showtime Championship Boxing, as Showtime continues its unrivaled commitment to the sport."
Although HBO will get the short end of the stick with the taped coverage, the fighters have a two-fight deal. According to multiple sources with knowledge of the deal, HBO would have the right to air the rematch live with Showtime getting the delay. Of course, there is no guarantee of a rematch, because if Klitschko loses -- and he is the 41-year-old underdog coming off a loss -- there is a good chance he could retire.
HBO Sports executive vice president Peter Nelson said he was pleased to finally have resolved the issues.
"Both promoters and both networks have found a solution that enables boxing fans in the U.S. to watch the world heavyweight championship," Nelson said. "This agreement ensures that our subscribers have access to same-day prime-time coverage of the fight. It will mark Wladimir Klitschko's 22nd appearance on HBO and the first for Anthony Joshua."
Showtime and HBO have worked together twice before on mega pay-per-view events, Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao in 2015 and Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson in 2002, but never on a non-pay-per-view fight. Joshua-Klitschko, which will be fought before a British-record crowd of 90,000, will be on Sky Box Office pay-per-view in the United Kingdom, but because of the afternoon start time in the United States, and the fact that neither Joshua or Klitschko are pay-per-view attractions in the U.S., it led to the deal for separate network broadcasts.
"I'm extremely happy and thankful that our respective U.S. TV partners, Showtime and HBO, reached an agreement," Bernd Boente, managing director of Klitschko Management Group, said. "This happened before in the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao and the Lewis vs. Tyson fights and shows you the magnitude of our event at Wembley Stadium on April 29."
Matchroom Sport promoter Eddie Hearn and Boente have had smooth sailing in their dealings putting the fight together and promoting it. They reached agreement with the networks weeks ago, but having the networks work out their issues was the last piece of the puzzle.
"I'm delighted to announce this historic deal that will see Britain's biggest-ever fight shown on both HBO and Showtime in the U.S.," Hearn said. "It takes a special fight to break down barriers and boundaries but also networks and executives who believe in working with the best interest of fight fans in mind. With the obstacles in place it would have been any easy resolution to not air the fight in the States, but I want to thank HBO and Showtime for their perseverance and allowing America to see one hell of a fight at our national stadium in front of 90,000 passionate fans. Joshua vs. Klitschko is a fight for the ages and we look forward to the show!"
Joshua (18-0, 18 KOs), 27, of England, will be making his third title defense and also boxing for a vacant world title. Klitschko (64-4. 54 KOs), of Ukraine, has not fought since November 2015 when he lost a unanimous decision and his titles to England's Tyson Fury. Because of his array of personal problems, Fury twice backed out of the rematch in 2016, leaving Klitschko, who had reigned for nearly a decade as champion and had not lost in 11 years, to finally make a deal to challenge fellow Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist Joshua instead. Klitschko won gold in Atlanta in 1996 and Joshua in London in 2012.