Undefeated Russian boxer Sergey Kovalev is a dominating presence in the ring. The current reigning light heavyweight champion of three sanctioning organizations, Kovalev is set to defend his title against challenger Nadjib Mohammedi in a much-anticipated fight to be held this weekend. A sparring match outside the ring has drawn the attention of the gun community away from the upcoming bout, however. HBO, the channel that will be broadcasting the event live, apparently called for Kovalev to remove an ammunition manufacturer’s logo from his shorts just days before the fight.
“Sergey wears the Tulammo logo on the back of his trunks and has done so in the past on HBO,” stated Tulammo, a Texas-based ammunition company, on Wednesday. “Yet for the upcoming bout this weekend, HBO has told Sergey they do not want him promoting a ‘war related product.'”
The demand drew a quick backlash, both from viewers and from organisations like the National Shooting Sports foundation (NSSF), which called the move by HBO a “low blow” in show business.
“TV networks are certainly free to decide what they broadcast, but the typical daily HBO fare of murder, mayhem and the glorified misuse of firearms suggests a certain degree of hypocrisy in HBO’s reported decision to ban the simple logo of a company that manufactures ammunition,” said NSSF Senior Vice President Larry Keane. “It is strange that a media company such as HBO has decided to infringe on the First Amendment rights of the boxer and Tulammo by censoring what can be printed on a pair of trunks.”
Keane, along with many HBO viewers, noted that the channel found popular success based on violent shows such as The Sopranos, The Wire, and True Detective. In 2012, Fox Sports Media Group similarly decided to ban gun-related advertisements during the coverage of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) events, prompting a wave of criticism.
“This isn’t the first time a network has taken a punch at gun companies,” Keane said.
However, Tulammo and Kovalev stood their ground. On Thursday, Tulammo announced that the network had withdrawn its request and that the company logo will be worn on Saturday’s fight. The broadcasting company may have also listened to some of the scathing criticism it received on social media.
“HBO will play movies that have plenty of violence and death,” wrote one viewer on Facebook. “Then why are they giving a boxer a hard time about his sponsor who is a ammunition manufacturer? Seems like a pretty ridiculous thought process to me. I will be cancelling our HBO subscription on Comcast if they pursue this line of thought.”
“Mutual combat is OK. His logo is not?” wrote another.
If you are not familiar with Sergey Kovalev, you can see some of his greatest hits in the ring below:
Image from Twitter