Boxing’s demise in recent decades is partly because it disappeared off terrestrial TV, but now it has a new format and fans of the sport are hopeful that its popularity will be restored to the level of its heyday in the ‘80s.
American prime-time network television gave Premier Boxing Champions its debut on Saturday night on NBC.
Headlining was WBA welterweight champion Keith “One Time” Thurman (25-0, 21 KOs) who battered former world champion Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero (32-3-1, 18 KOs) for most of the 12 rounds to retain his belt.
Thurman won in front of a crowd of 10,000 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and for once it was not a predictable, boring, one-sided match, although he won on a unanimous decision.
Thurman started aggressively and took the fight to southpaw Guerrero. Thurman landed the heavier shots throughout and scored a knockdown in round nine. The tough and gritty Guerrero got up and battled bravely all the way to the final bell but there was no doubt whose hand would be raised. Scores were 120-107, 118-109, 118-108.
In the chief supporting bout, former three-division world champion Adrien “The Problem” Broner (30-1, 22 KOs) also scored a one-sided unanimous decision over John Molina, Jr. (27-6, 22 KOs) in a super-lightweight clash.
Broner dictated the pace over the early rounds. Molina connected with some decent shots in rounds three and five, but otherwise he was comprehensively outboxed over the 12 rounds by Broner.
There are 19 more similar shows scheduled for the rest of the year on NBC, created by promoter Al Haymon, the reclusive Harvard-educated businessman widely regarded as boxing’s most powerful figure now.
Haymon has arrangements with some of boxing’s biggest names, including Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr.
Haymon, backed by private investors, has spent $20m to purchase airtime for his shows on NBC and NBC Sports Network. He will recoup costs from TV advertising revenue and also from building the profiles of his fighters on Premier Boxing Champions, who have far greater reach than those on other media outlets.
While there have been one-off fights on free-to-air TV through the years – a Mike Tyson comeback bout on Fox in 1995, Bernard Hopkins-Glen Johnson on CBS in 1997 – this initiative is the sport’s most committed attempt since the 80s to breaking down the paywall it’s built around itself.
The next NBC prime-time telecast on April 11 will feature a long-awaited meeting between Danny Garcia and Lamont Peterson from Barclays Center in Brooklyn. That should be a terrific bout too with an absorbing undercard.
All very promising, but the only speculation is whether Haymon can maintain the standards, even though he has over 150 fighters.
Besides the NBC shows, he also has contracts with CBS, Spike TV and digital multicast network Bounce TV to broadcast other Premier Boxing Champions shows. A deal with ESPN is also in the offing.