HBO is throwing a combination punch at fight fans for the 12-round featherweight title bout between Naseem Hamed (below), the champion, and Augie Sanchez. Besides televising the fight (Saturday, 9:30 p.m.), the cable channel will offer complementary coverage on its Web site, HBO.com/boxing.
Among the better features that the site, which is produced by Interactive Video Technologies (IVT) with HBO, will offer: Users choose audio from either of the fighter's corners as well as selecting various punch statistics; analysis by former Golden Gloves female flyweight champ Anne Giotelli, who is a judge for USA Boxing; and a chance for the viewer to score the fight and compare his card with that of HBO's unofficial ringside judge, Harold Lederman, on a round-by-round basis. "We don't want to cannibalize the core audience," says IVT executive vice president Douglas Warshaw. "We want fans to be as involved in the bout as they want to be."
HBO didn't land the first punch in the on-line pugilism battle. Showtime, using its site Sho.com/scboxing, has gone interactive in past bouts, although to a lesser degree. "We had Evander Holyfield doing live chats during the Mike Tyson-Lou Savarese bout," says Showtime spokesman Jason Oberlander, "and we gave viewers a choice of five camera angles for the Tyson-Orlin Norris fight."
Is more coverage better? "When I watch a fight," says Doug Fischer, cofounder of House of Boxing, "I just want to watch the fight. Never mind the computer." Then again, since Fischer runs boxing's premier Web site, chances are his company may follow HBO's and Show-time's lead, as soon as it finds a boxing channel to partner with.