Ross Greenburg speaks with Bill Russell at SI's 2010 Sportsman of the Year party. (Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
If you are familiar with the boxing industry, the following sentence will sound strange: Ross Greenburg is working for Showtime.
Greenburg, of course, was the President of HBO Sports from 2000 to 2011 -- and an executive producer at the network for nearly two decades before that -- before being forced out in the summer of 2011. With Showtime, Greenburg will produce a one-hour documentary that will air on CBS chronicling the last year in the life of Floyd Mayweather, including his time in prison. In addition, Greenburg will work on Showtime’s All Access reality show, a carbon copy of the the 24/7 series Greenburg created at HBO in 2007, that will air in the weeks leading up to Mayweather’s fight against Robert Guerrero on May 4th.
“This has always been in my blood,” Greenburg told SI.com. “I have always been a producer at heart. I love telling stories. It’s refreshing. There are not a lot of headaches. I didn’t have to put out too many fires. I really enjoyed the people I work with.”
Since leaving HBO, Greenburg has worked closely with NBC, producing documentaries on Earl Campbell (which was nominated for a Sports Emmy), the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union, the 1952 U.S. Open and the 1991 Ryder Cup. Greenburg also worked on Costas Tonight on NBC Sports Network -- including Mayweather’s appearance on the show last year -- and consulted for the NHL, Discovery Channel and Under Armour.
Now, Greenburg is back in boxing, working with the archrival of the network that he had a big hand in turning into a powerhouse.
“I guess I feel like [Kevin] Youkilis and [Johnny] Damon going into the [Yankees] locker room,” Greenburg said. “I’m just interested in helping [Showtime Executive Vice President] Stephen [Espinoza] as much as I can. It’s been very easy for me. They have welcomed me like family. It’s like Jeter putting arm around Youkilis. I’m back doing what I want to do. I have to take care of my family. I’ll always remember and cherish the glorious past. I had a wonderful 33 years [at HBO].”
It’s been comfortable for Greenburg to work with Mayweather, who he maintained a close relationship with during his time with HBO. And despite the fact that since Mayweather became a star on 24/7 in 2007 his story has been told repeatedly, Greenburg believes the events of the last year have left a rich tale to tell.
“There is the evolving relationship between Floyd, Roger [Mayweather] and Floyd Sr.,” Greenburg said. “Floyd himself spent 62 days in solitary. It changed his whole point of view on life. We spent the last three or four days with Floyd in the gym. Floyd and Roger are both there. Floyd Sr. is very involved. It’s an interesting evolution of that relationship. Floyd and his father are very close. The time he spent in prison did change him.”
Greenburg wouldn’t say if his relationship with Showtime could last beyond this fight (“We’ll see,” Greenburg said) but said he had no regrets about his time at HBO.
“No, not at all,” Greenburg said. “I did my job. The HBO sports department is something I will always remember. I think we built a hell of a franchise and a brand. The boxing program when I left it was as strong as it ever was. I have no regrets whatsoever. I took a lot of criticism, most of it unwarranted, but that is OK. I’m a big boy. I’ll pick myself back up. I have so many great memories. All fond memories.”
Well, almost all. Greenburg admits he still wishes he could have made the mega fight between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
“It’s funny, there weren’t that many times that I couldn’t make a fight,” Greenburg said. “I tried twice and got very close. To this day, I’m not going to put the blame on anyone because I couldn’t figure out why it didn’t happen. But I think boxing can recover. It didn’t happen, and it was not meant to be. It’s unfortunate because it probably would have been an epic buildup, even though I’m not sure it would have been a good fight. I know Floyd has moved on. He continues to be asked about Pacquiao and his attitude is much like mine, that if it was meant to be, fine. He believes his third act, over the next couple of years, is going to be special.”
-- Chris Mannix