NEW YORK — For the first time, boxing will appear on a Turner network when lightweight champion Shane Mosley headlines a Sept. 22 Madison Square Garden fight card on cabler TNT.
TNT’s entry into boxing comes as competitor USA Network ends its long-running Tuesday night boxing series. TNT’s ini-tial fight will premiere on a Tuesday at 9 p.m. (ET/PT).
Kevin O’Malley, Turner Sports’ senior VP of programming, characterized TNT’s foray into prize fighting as an experiment. If the Sept. 22 fight card is a ratings success for TNT, O’Malley said the cable web will air another fight 2-3 months later.
However, O’Malley said TNT will not televise boxing as a weekly series.
That a Turner network would televise boxing is a surprise because Time Warner vice chairman and TNT founder Ted Turner is an outspoken critic of boxing.
Turner’s anti-boxing stance was so fierce that when Time Warner purchased Turner’s company, HBO executives were concerned that Turner would try get HBO out of the boxing business, Time Warner sources said.
Turner has not interfered with HBO boxing, but he has pulled programming from his networks because it offended him. Although TNT developed “Bastard Out of Carolina” as an original film, Turner banned the movie from his network because he believed the subject matter was indecent and not appropriate for basic cable.
“We’ve talked about doing boxing with many people at the company, including Mr. Turner,” O’Malley said. “That’s why it’s an experiment.”
O’Malley said USA’s abandonment of boxing had little to do with TNT’s decision to try the sport.
“The issue of another general entertainment cable network getting out of it didn’t influence us at all,” he said.
Encouraged by HBO
Rather, O’Malley said that Turner Sports decided to enter boxing because the cable net’s wrestling ratings are so strong and sister web HBO had encouraged either TNT or TBS to televise the sport.
O’Malley said HBO sports execs introduced Turner Sports folks to the boxing promoters and the executives at Madison Square Garden. In addition, HBO boxing production people will work on televising TNT’s Sept. 22 bouts.
Dubbed “Title Night on TNT,” the card will feature IBF world lightweight title holder “Sugar” Shane Mosley versus No. 1 contender Eduardo Morales.
The telecast will also include WBU super featherweight champion Angel “El Diablo” Mandredy against John Brown.
In addition to the two title fights, the card will also feature three heavyweight fights with Shannon Briggs, Kirk Johnson and Ike Ibeabuchi.