Meet Sergey Kovalev, assuming you don’t follow professional boxing and didn’t already know who he was.

Nathan Cleverly v Sergey Kovalev WBO World Light-Heavyweight Title Championship Fight

The massive Russian is currently the undefeated, unified WBA, IBF, and WBO light heavyweight champion of the world. He’s known for being a power puncher, with 24 of his 27 professional victories coming by knockout. That makes him a pretty big deal in the boxing world and a significant draw when he steps into the ring for a title defense. He has one of those coming up shortly and it’s scheduled to be broadcast once again on HBO, but a wrinkle has shown up in the negotiations. The cable network is threatening to put the kibosh on the deal because of one feature of the boxer’s in-ring apparel. Can you guess what it is? Here’s a different view of Kovalev as he prepared to deck one of his previous opponents. Let’s see if you can spot it.

KovalevTulammo

That logo across the back of Sergey’s trunks is from Tulammo USA, a Texas based ammunition company. The firm apparently has an established, close relationship with Kovalev beyond the fact that their name is plastered to his backside. This is apparently offensive to the delicate sensibilities of somebody at HBO and they want Sergey to remove the offending branding before the fight. (From the National Shooting Sports Foundation blog)

Now, as he prepares for his biggest fight to-date, and first in Las Vegas, his sponsors have told NSSF that HBO is demanding Kovalev remove the logo of Tulammo USA, a Round Rock, Texas-based ammo manufacturing company, from his boxing trunks. Kovalev has not made a public response, but his relationship with the company is a close one. The fighter appeared at Tulammo’s SHOT Show booth this past January…

In the fight of HBO vs. Tulammo we won’t know the victor until Kovalev appears Saturday night. But a decision by HBO to ban advertisements for lawful products is, in boxing terms, ‘a low blow,’ and we suggest that the network just as soon ‘throw in the towel.’

Is this really the fight HBO is looking for? (If you’ll pardon the pun.) How much of the country do they want to offend while offering a sports event which already struggles for ratings? And as the NSSF blog entry points out, there’s something curious about HBO deciding to get offended by an ammunition company logo, isn’t there? I was just taking a brief look at the offerings in our HBO GO account and you’d be hard pressed to guess that they’ve got a problem with violence. I was originally going to cite Game of Thrones, but to be fair to the network, the tens of thousands of dead bodies littering the screen in that show are generally created by way of swords, spears, poison, torture or gaseous entities summoned up by the Fire God. At least they don’t use guns.

But what about The Sopranos? There’s also Boardwalk Empire, Deadwood, The Leftovers, True Blood and The Wire. There’s enough ammo burned up in gunning people down in a single season of any of those series to keep Tulammo in business for years. (Okay… True Blood is mostly vampires, but they shoot plenty of people too.) And if the general concern on the part of HBO is more along the lines of objecting to violence, might I remind them that this is a boxing match?

Cable television is very competitive these days. HBO already faces plenty of challengers in the pay channel market and on demand services such as Netflix are eating into their margins even further. Do they seriously want to take a stand which will probably annoy the majority (yes, I said majority) of the nation which supports gun rights? I have to agree with the author of the linked article… HBO should throw in the towel on this one and do so quickly.