By MARK F. GRAY, Special to the AFRO
Few people in sports know the exhilaration of constantly being at the epicenter of world-class events. Howard University Athletics Director Kery Davis does. The former HBO Boxing executive is now the steward of a Bison athletic program that is enjoying a renaissance thanks to the credibility he has restored.
However, there is a still a passion for the game where he made his name. Davis was formerly one of the big players when HBO was the leader in televised boxing. Davis helped grow fighters into household names by bringing unbelievable talent onto an international stage that gave them a platform to become icons that transcended sports.
With another homecoming week on the horizon Davis is focused on his football team that remains in contention for a berth in the Celebration Bowl and the start of basketball season. However, more than three years removed from being one of the most influential executives in sports broadcasting, there are still melancholy feelings about what his former employers did to the brand he did so much to build.
“It hurts,” Davis told the AFRO on the sidelines during Howard’s win at Morgan State. “When you put your heart and soul into something and watch it go away, it’s like a death in the family.”
HBO made it official in September when they announced they were getting out of the boxing game. The days of Sugar Ray Leonard vs Thomas Hearns were no more. Mike Tyson knockouts were a thing of the past. There would be no more cards headlined by Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather either. Talents such Canelo Alvarez would no longer have that stage as a place to display the skills that make them box office celebrities.
“When they hired my assistant to fill my role I could see the handwriting on the wall,” said Davis. “I knew I could do something, but it wouldn’t be in network TV.”
Davis signed Alvarez in one of his last major coups at the network. Now, as HBO gets out of the game, Alvarez has signed with DAZN, the new subscriber based fight platform, for a multi-year deal that will pay him over $300 million.
“If you’re starting a fight network these days that’s not a bad place to start,” Davis said. “He brings viewers and that’s a great signing for them.”
Davis’s mark is now being felt on the entire athletic department at Howard. Once homecoming was the signature event and the focus of the department for the ensuing 364 days until SportsCenter meets Access Hollywood surrounded by football game again. Now Howard athletics values its brand and Davis has played a major role in that.
From the outset Davis chartered a course that has renewed Howard’s athletic visibility. When he hired Mike London from the University of Maryland as football coach, the seismic shift in credibility shifted dramatically. London, who was a national champion at the FCS (Division I-AA) level, had previously been an ACC Coach of the Year. Once London beat UNLV in his first game, order had been restored.
However, Davis hasn’t been shy about using the media to take his brand into the homes of potential student athletes while exposing their events to an international audience. ESPN chronicled an entire basketball season after James Daniel led the nation in scores. The network also put the Howard soccer legacy in focus through the documentary Redemption Song.
Now Howard sports are broadcast through WHUR’s “Our Voices” satellite radio channel each week. Once basketball season commences, four games – including vs Harvard and Hampton are expected to be broadcast via Monumental Sports Network.