Boxing Returns to Its Roots

By Robert Ecksel on March 7, 2015
Boxing Returns to Its Roots
When sports fans can see boxing for free on network TV, will they return in droves?

Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman outclassed their respective opponents in the inaugural Premier Boxing Champions telecast on NBC…

Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, Adrien Broner (30-1, 22 KOs) and Keith Thurman (25-0, 21 KOs) had little trouble outclassing their respective opponents, John Molina Jr. (27-6, 22 KOs) and Robert Guerrero (32-3-1, 18 KOs), in the inaugural Premier Boxing Champions telecast on NBC.

It has been 30 years since boxing has appeared on network TV. Cable has monopolized boxing during that time and pay-per-view, an up-close-and-personal outgrowth of closed-circuit, was an indulgence many could ill afford. As a result, and helped in no small part by boxing’s unruly nature, the fan base for the sport has shrunken, only to be replaced with less inspirational forms of entertainment.

The Al Haymon endeavor that premiered Saturday night, and which will eventually extend to CBS, Spike TV, and other outlets too obscure to recall, is an attempt, and at this point only an attempt, to turn that around. By bringing boxing back to the masses, by restoring the sweet science’s working-class bona fides, the belief is, the hope is that when sports fans can again see boxing for free on a regular basis, they’ll return in droves.

But that’s assuming a lot.

Haymon Boxing spared no expense in creating a first-class production. The introductory music was composed by Hans Zimmer. The talking heads include Marv Albert, Sugar Ray Leonard, Al Michaels, Laila Ali, and B.J. Flores. While they were as professional as professional can be, they failed to equal, let alone eclipse, the standard set by Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant, and Emanuel Steward on HBO several years ago. But perhaps they’ll improve over time. The fighters’ dressing rooms, usually as uninviting as a jail cell, were painted to match the color of their boxing trunks. And the ring walks, often an opportunity for self-expression, were extremely dignified, with neither hip-hop nor clowning anywhere in sight.

However controlled the presentation, however soothing the music, however colorful the dressing rooms, it’s the quality of the fights that will make or break this enterprise, and it’s the quality of fights on the telecast that left something to be desired.

The first fight of the night between Broner and Molina was not a success. The Problem totally dominated his hapless opponent. Broner showcased his superior speed, his superior reflexes, and an arsenal of punches before which the one-dimensional Molina could only wince. The judges scored it 120-108 twice and 118-110 after 12 lopsided rounds.

Even those unfortunate souls who were watching boxing for the first time in years understood that this was a mismatch. Broner can’t be faulted for being the better fighter. The matchmaker can be faulted for starting this series with such a godawful fight.

The second fight of the night, the main event between Thurman and Guerrero, looked better on paper and in the ring. At least Guerrero, unlike Molina, came to fight. The problem was the man he was fighting was too skilled for it to be competitive.

But there was a knockdown. There was blood. There were lumps and bruises. At least it was a fight. But as the judges’ 120-107, 118-109, and 118-108 scores indicate, it was no more competitive than the fight which preceded it.

Returning boxing to its roots is an idea whose time has come. But unless the fights are competitive, with the best fighting the best, with the second best fighting the second best and so on, it’s an idea whose time will go.

Consumers may be gullible, but even they can tell the difference, somewhere deep down inside, between that which is a fair fight and that which borders on fiasco.

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  1. Kid Blast 12:41pm, 03/10/2015

    raxman , where have you been mate?

  2. raxman 04:52pm, 03/09/2015

    i think the telecast for a first up seemed alright. the broner v Molina fight was never, ever, going to be anything other than what appeared. Broner, love him or hate him is a world class fighter, Molina is a top notched club fighter, but a club fighter none the less. however what Molina usually is, is entertaining. had they been smarter with the match making they’d have put him in with someone with less ability, then john john could’ve put on a show, put him in with someone who hits as hard and fast as broner and he was always just going to try to survive.
    as for Guerrero, I feel sorry for him. he was a better fighter once. 3 rounds in and it was obvious he is shot. a tough fight with katsidis, the berto war, the ignominy of being pot shotted by Floyd for 12 rounds, coupled with several periods of inactivity have brought the bloke to a place where he can no longer pull the trigger on the left hand - and Thurman was there to be hit by it too.

  3. Kid Blast 08:22am, 03/09/2015

    ‘’‘ could you NOT support the idea of trying to get boxing back to the mainstream? This is what we ALL said we wanted…Now, it’s here”

  4. Kid Blast 05:51pm, 03/08/2015

    “According to preliminary TV ratings issued by TV blog TV by the Numbers, NBC’s debut presentation of Premier Boxing Champions finished third in its time slot with a total average viewership of 3.13 million.

    “PBC on NBC was the highest rated sports program in the nation in that time slot and, most importantly, was number one in delivering the key 18-49 male demographic.

    “These numbers are very preliminary, but the overnights (as they are called) are often good indications of how well a program will perform when the final ratings are issued.”

  5. dave 03:36pm, 03/08/2015

    Is it the best vs the best or a competitive match you want? Seems you aren’t sure. I doubt the average fan that is targeted by this network TV push can tell the difference between a #1 and a #20 if the fight is competitive.  What would you do? Pay fighters to make it closer? It’s not just the fight fan base that has withered, it’s the number of good fighters.

    Also, Lampley, Stewart and Merchant were somewhere between ok and average, at best. But you, along with many others, got used to them. There are candidates out there now that could do better. But somehow the same warn out candidates seem to show up. Cough, Albert & Michaels, cough.

  6. Travis Roste 12:25pm, 03/08/2015

    they forgot about mike tyson versus buster mathis jr. on fox about 20 years ago, so the 30 years of no boxing on etwork tv isnt technically correct.

  7. Eric 11:22am, 03/08/2015

    If you really want to see boxing turn back to its roots, lets start having some top fights on Saturday and Sunday afternoons like back in the ‘70’s & 80’s.

  8. Artichoke 10:16am, 03/08/2015

    agree that these fights were lopsided &  that referee Byrd didn’t help the first match, in which Broner’s skill and speed so overwhelmed his opponent that the opening bout was dull & not helped by his commentary
    I found the second fight entertaining both for the skill of the winner & the courage of the loser, who while out classed made a fight of it
    NBC resurrected broadcast boxing, but for it to succeed, it must heed Robert Ecksel’s admonition:
    “However controlled the presentation, however soothing the music, however colorful the dressing rooms, it’s the quality of the fights that will make or break this enterprise, and it’s the quality of fights on the telecast that left something to be desired.”

  9. NYIrish 09:27am, 03/08/2015

    I agree with ch. Broner / Molina was a terrible opener. It made a confirmed boxing fan go elsewhere. Thurman / Guerrero was an action packed mismatch. Guerrero has a lot more courage than ability. And speaking of courage, his father has the most. That caricature would push his son out for one more round with his eyeball resting on his cheek. Not interviewing Guerrero after his brave stand showed no class. But hey, the price was right.

  10. Kid Blast 09:07am, 03/08/2015

    An incredible contrast in refereeing. Byrd was overly intrusive and restrictive. Bayless was superb.

    Should be used as a training film for referee seminars.

  11. FrankinDallas 08:52am, 03/08/2015

    Ffs some people make me laugh. NBC hasn’t had a live boxing match
    in 30 years and you want the show to be perfect? Champs get tuneups why
    not a Tv network? I thought they all did a helluva job considering this was their first show together.

    The main thing is to get competitive exciting matchups. Get that job done and really nothing else matters.

  12. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:44am, 03/08/2015

    The more things change ....the more they stay the same….Thurman should have been in with Broner and Guerrero with Molina. They need to keep Broner off their telecasts ....he’s just way too Godammed ugly…..this fuker is a major shock to the senses….he’s even uglier than Adonis Stevenson….no, really they need to stop that shit that right this minute!

  13. Ted Spoon 06:37am, 03/08/2015

    The new décor was very swish. The bouts fell short of the mark. Molina’s boxing ability was nowhere. Waiting and waiting only to pitch an overhand right, rinse and repeat…ugly stuff. You’d have to say Thurman looked pretty impressive, and there’s room for improvement, but while that 10th was entertaining fans are not brain dead - listing the bout as an “instant classic” on their website is overkill.

  14. Jim Crue 05:47am, 03/08/2015

    Haymons production values were far better than the fights. It was like WEE.
    I think Marv Albert and Leonard were far better than the HBO crew especially now that Emanuel Steward is gone from HBO. There were actually moments of silence and they did not talk over each other. Leonards “homer” commentary is not much different than the HBO team when they have a favored fighter. The Thurman fight is another reason for same day weigh in’s. He made The Ghost look like the lightweight he really is.
    This is what most of us expected from Hayman. Mismatches.. Boxing did not get any new fans after last night. If anything it lost fans.

  15. ch. 04:04am, 03/08/2015

    Boxing on network TV may have died before it even got off the ground, I believe many casual sports fans might have bailed after the fifth round of the Broner-Molina snoozer and went looking for the nearest MMA event. They needed to open the show with an action battle to hold non-boxing viewers and they didn’t do it. Michaels, Albert and Leonard were atrocious, afraid to criticize Hayman’s event. Leonard was even “impressed” with Molina early in the fight (huh?). Then in the last round he finally gave Broner a little criticism saying ‘he should try to close the show.” Ray I don’t know if you were looking but Broner never even “opened the show.”  Fight # 2 was a pretty fair match but too one-sided and the outclassed Guerrero showed a lot of heart after being dropped to make it finally interesting but I wonder how many “casuals” were still watching. And the casuals fans are what is needed to strengthen the sport and build a fan base….All that being said I salute Hayman for offering a potential exciting package and allowing his show to be seen for free on TV but the first show just didn’t work out to what I was hoping for.

  16. Clarence George 03:41am, 03/08/2015

    Underwhelming, and that’s a generous assessment.  In fact, describing Broner-Molina as “godawful” is exactly right.  Broner, as much a jackass as ever, did the bare minimum to win (not even coming close to giving money’s worth in the 12th), while Molina’s performance as an ambulatory punching bag was worthy of an Oscar.  I don’t know what he came to do, but it wasn’t to fight.  And cynicism took on a whole new meaning when Broner thanked God during the post-fight interview.  Thurman-Guerrero was better, but only because it couldn’t possibly have been worse.  Like Broner, Thurman got the job done, end of story, while Guerrero, however tough, was ineffective and just plain inactive throughout most of the fight.  There were some outstanding moments, yes, but that adjective certainly can’t be applied to the fight in general.  Last and least, the commenting left a lot to be desired, what with Sugar Ray Leonard endlessly repeating how impressed he was with Molina surviving Broner’s supposed onslaught.  Huh?  Who’s Broner all of a sudden, George Foreman?

    Bordering on fiasco?  Yep, and more fiasco than bordering.

  17. nicolas 10:48pm, 03/07/2015

    that arena looked packed, had to be a lot of freebees. Until the 9th round, the Thurman-Guerrero fight was kind of boring, but after that, Guerrero really looked like he came to fight. Thought he could have won the last three rounds.

  18. Bea 10:21pm, 03/07/2015

    I agree the commentary by Jim Lampley, Harold can’t help but notice the big difference. Then with them being so disrespectful after such a fight between Thurman and Guerrero they didn’t even interview Guerrero after the fight. BS from Hayman, just shows what is to come. I’m not impressed. Manners, what the hell were they thinking? Really wrong.

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