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TVKO, PPV Get Piece Of Middleweight Series

TVKO and the pay-per-view industry could have access to at least one of the three proposed middleweight-unification boxing matches set scheduled for later this year.

Time Warner Sports is close to finalizing a series of matches that would eventually unify the division later this fall. A May 12 bout-which TVKO would distribute via PPV-would pit World Boxing Association title holder William Joppy against current WBA and International Boxing Association junior middleweight champion Felix Trinidad, said HBO senior vice president of sports operations Mark Taffet.

The first fight, which will most likely be televised by Home Box Office on April 14, is expected to pit World Boxing Council champion Keith Holmes against International Boxing Federation champion Bernard Hopkins, Taffet said.

The winners of those two matches would meet in a unification bout either Sept. 15 or Nov. 10, Taffet said. That fight could also go to PPV, depending on the participants.

Taffet believes the series could go a long way toward re-establishing boxing's appeal among casual viewers who want to watch the top champions fight each other.

Given the middleweight division's history of strong champions and marquee bouts-as well as the appeal of Trinidad and the other fighters involved-the fights could perform very well for both TVKO and HBO.

"We believe the two fights and the subsequent unification bout will make the series a major event for boxing and the biggest storyline for 2001," Taffet said.

The Trinidad-Joppy bout could match or surpass the surprising performance of the Dec. 2 Trindad-Fernando Vargas bout, which generated 520,000 pay-per-view buys-the second-highest buy performance for a fight last year.

"This is exactly the type of product that industry should be wrapping itself around and supporting," Taffet said. "We would provide tremendous marketing support for the series and we expect the industry to respond in kind."

If signed, the Trinidad-Joppy fight would be TVKO's second PPV event this year. The network will distribute an April 7 featherweight bout between former champion Naseem Hamed and top-rated Marco Antonio Barerra.