August 17, 2010

Jay Larkin, Showtime Boxing Bigwig, Passes

The canny negotiator helped to make the cable network a rival to HBO as a presenter of professional boxing.

Jay Larkin, who helped Showtime become a force in the presentation of professional boxing, died August 9, 2010, in Nyack, New York. He was 59. According to news reports, the cause was brain cancer.

Larkin spent 22 years with Showtime, where he began as a junior publicist and eventually became a senior vice president and executive producer. He left the network in 2005 amid cutbacks by parent company Viacom.

During Larkin’s tenure, Showtime emerged as a challenger to HBO’s boxing dominance by televising some of the sport’s biggest events, including major fights involving Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Julio Cesar Chavez.

One of his most memorable fights came in 1997, when Showtime aired the second bout between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield for the heavyweight championship. It was the first fight to gross more than $100 million, a fact overshadowed at the time by the fact that Tyson bit off part of Holyfield’s ear during the fight.

He was the network’s key negotiator for the 2002 heavyweight championship bout between Lennox Lewis and Tyson. The deal required a great deal of effort because Lewis had a contract with HBO and Tyson with Showtime. The eventual agreement was a joint pay-per-view telecast. The fight generated a reported $106.9 million, the largest figure in boxing history at the time.

Larkin was born October 23, 1950, in Brooklyn. He graduated from the C. W. Post Campus of Long Island University. He also studied at the Boston Conservancy and the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

In addition to his boxing work, he produced pay-per-view concerts by such artists as Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones. He also oversaw comedy specials by Jon Stewart, Dave Chappelle and others.

He is survived by his wife and two sons.

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