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HBO off to a nice start in 2009!

Once upon a time, HBO Sports was the premiere network for elite level, world champion boxing television. Remember the heavyweight tournament that took place in the mid 80s that resulted Mike Tyson not only becoming the youngest heavyweight champion of the world at the age of 20, but also the undisputed heavyweight champion?

Do you recall the chilling and memorable outcome of the showdown between undefeated jr welterweight champions Julio Cesar Chavez and Meldrick Taylor on March 17, 1990? Chavez's controversial come from behind knockout of Taylor, with two seconds remaining in the fight, still has fans and experts debating the outcome to this very day. On May 17, 1990, Pernell "Sweetpea" Whitaker and Azumah "The Professor" Nelson fought for the lightweight championship - both combatants at the time were pound for pound entrants.

Even as recent as 2000, Mexicans Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales squared off against each squared off against one another for jr featherweight supremacy, staging an unforgettable 12 round battle that was barbarically beautiful. Do you remember that fateful night on February 17, 2000? Because I do - it was in fact the 2000 Fight of the Year and still remains an excellent candidate for Fight of the Decade. The fighters in these matchups were not necessarily stars, but the results and memories of their fights catapulted many of them into super stardom. What do each and every one of these events have in common ladies and gentlemen? They were televised on HBO - once designated as the Heart and Soul of Boxing.

In the television rivalry that has ensued between networks Showtime and HBO, Showtime has built a reputation over the past few years of televising the best possible match ups in the sport of boxing. The names in those match ups are not always necessarily star quality, but the match ups are usually highly significant. Examples of such quality exemplified by Showtime include the Vasquez vs Marquez trilogy, Corrales vs Castillo I, Corrales vs Freitas, Castillo vs Casamayor, and Darchinyan vs Mijares.

Showtime continues to deliver on that objective this year, as they will be televising the Undisputed flyweight championship fight between champion Vic Darchinyan and former champion Jorge Arce. On April 4 a significant unification title fight at 140lbs will also be televised on Showtime, when WBC champion Timothy Bradley and WBO titlist Kendall Holt will square off against one another. Once again, this is a reputation that Showtime has established for itself throughout out the years. Showtime rival HBO, a network that has focused more so on star power than equally matched prize fights of significance, appears to be realizing the competitive advantage of televising quality boxing matches that Showtime has exhibited over the years.

So far in 2009, HBO has televised championship fights such as Berto vs Collazo and Mosley vs Margarito. By HBO's usual standards, the fight between Mosley and Margarito could have easily headlined a PPV broadcast. On February 28, lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez and former lightweight titlist Juan "Baby Bull" Diaz will meet for the championship of the world - on HBO World Championship Boxing. On the undercard of what appears to be an attractive doubleheader, featherweight champion Chris John defends his title against Rocky Juarez. Such a doubleheader could have also been televised on a PPV outlet, but HBO ponied up the money to televise those fights as well. After all, it was a little over a year ago when Golden Boy Promotions was going to put its "Fireworks" - Juan Manuel Marquez vs Rocky Juarez promotion on HBO PPV September 15, 2007.

When the Marquez vs Juarez title fight was rescheduled for November 3, 2007 due to an injury suffered in training by Marquez, Showtime bought the fight and saved boxing fans from having to pay $44.95. One must wonder if an intriguing match up such as Marquez vs. Diaz would have also been distributed on HBO PPV two years ago? As a boxing fan, I am thankful that HBO has begun to take a page out of Showtime's book and has improved its focus of televising the best matches available on their television network rather than distributing them on PPV.

On March 14, in what is a rematch of a fight that Showtime televised exclusively back in October of 2008, IBF/IBO light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson will defend his titles against Antonio Tarver. In their first encounter, Dawson won the title from Tarver in what was surprisingly a bigger than expected mismatch. Dawson used his speed and ring generalship to outbox Tarver to a clear unanimous decision win. Tarver is exercising the rematch clause that was in the original contract, but the fact that HBO is picking up the fight is confidence inspiring, especially if it leads to potential showdowns between Dawson and former two division champion Bernard Hopkins or even a rematch between Dawson and former light heavyweight champion Glen Johnson being shown on HBO.

Let us hope, as boxing fans who subscribe to HBO, that such a positive trend remains ongoing.