In announcing April 12 as the launch date of ESPN+, ESPN's new, $4.99 per month subscription streaming service, on Monday, the network also said boxing would be a significant part of its many live sports offerings.
The network announced that the first live boxing event to air on ESPN+ will be the return of British welterweight contender Amir Khan, who is scheduled to fight Canada's Phil Lo Greco on April 21 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, England.
According to ESPN, ESPN+ is a key part of ESPN's multi-platform Top Rank Boxing on ESPN agreement, and it will feature boxing events throughout the year, including "a selection of exclusive main event fights beginning with the April 21 Amir Khan vs. Phil Lo Greco bout in Liverpool, England."
Top Rank made a deal with Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn to secure the American rights to the card for ESPN+, so undercard bouts could be part of the stream as well. Top Rank is pursuing deals for U.S. rights to other bouts that would otherwise go unseen, at least legally, in the United States.
The international fights are in addition to the roughly 12 cards over the next year that Top Rank will promote as ESPN+ exclusive cards in addition to its ESPN-televised events.
According to the ESPN+ announcement, the streaming service on the redesigned ESPN App will also "feature undercard fights throughout the year from Top Rank on ESPN events, re-airs of all Top Rank on ESPN and pay-per-view events and an unmatched library of legendary fights from the Top Rank and ESPN 'Big Fights' archives."
"ESPN was built on a belief in innovation and the powerful connection between sports and a remarkable array of fans," James Pitaro, the president of ESPN and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, said in announcing the ESPN+ launch date and a wide array of programming. "That same belief is at the heart of ESPN+ and the new ESPN App. With ESPN+, fans have access to thousands more live games, world-class original programs and on-demand sports content, all at a great price. They will get all of that as a part of a completely re-imagined, increasingly personalized ESPN App that provides easy, one-stop access to everything ESPN offers."
Khan, a former unified junior welterweight world titleholder and longtime welterweight contender, is coming back after a nearly two-year layoff. He moved up two weight classes to challenge Canelo Alvarez for the middleweight title in May 2016 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and although Khan boxed and moved well in the early going, he eventually succumbed to Alvarez's massive power and suffered a brutal sixth-round knockout.
Khan (31-4, 19 KOs), 31, will make his return against Lo Greco (28-3, 15 KOs), 33, of Toronto, who has experience against quality opponents but has lost both times he has stepped up his opposition level. In 2013, he faced Shawn Porter, a former welterweight world titleholder and got knocked down in a near-shutout 10-round decision loss. In 2015, he faced Errol Spence Jr., who is now a welterweight world titleholder and rising pound-for-pound talent, and was blown out via third-round knockout.