March 8, 2015
NBC scores a knockout with its debut broadcast of Premier Boxing Champions, bringing the sport back to national primetime television.
From the very beginning of the 8:30 broadcast, NBC made it abundantly clear how serious the network is about its decision to invest in boxing. NBC’s broadcast achieved its goal of generating interest in its Saturday night programing.
For NBC, the premier episode of the series could not have come at a better time for the network. Interest was surely peaked with news that the sports two biggest stars agreed to fight on May 2nd.
The broadcast started with an opening credits in the mold of NBC’s very successful Sunday Night Football. The opening video was successful in communicating to viewers exactly who the boxers were and that they are in fact stars in a sport that desperately needs more.
NBC and the MGM Grand made an interesting decision to have Al Michaels, the multiple time winning Emmy broadcaster’s mic live throughout the arena generating crowd reactions to his every word. Michaels provided the show with instant credibility to tell casual viewers that NBC’s venture into boxing is a big deal that you need to watch.
After a video promoting one of the events two main events, Michaels brought out boxing Hall of Famer Sugar Ray Leonard. Leonard was eager to promote the important of boxing being on network television primetime for the first time in 30 years. Leonard articulated to the audience how important for the sport of boxing being on primetime is. The point is even more essential with the commonly held believe among people who are not fans of the sport that boxing is a dying form of competition.
Michaels and Leonard would go onto discussion the first bout featuring former three division champion, and cocky loud mouth Adrien “The Problem” Broner. Before throwing to Laila Ali in a pre-recorded interview with the challenger John Molina Jr. Ali, the daughter of boxing legend Mohammed, came off as a star instant. The charisma and knowledge of Ali jumped of the screen whenever she was on camera. In her interview with Molina, the boxer promised a slugfest and again promoted the importance of network television.
Calling the action for NBC was Marv Albert. The network choose to introduce him by showing the last call Albert made of boxing on network television. The decision to do so, aged Albert badly. However, Albert’s performance was solid throughout the broadcast. Albert successfully called the action within the squared circle while displaying great chemistry with his colour analyst Leonard. The ability of Albert and Leonard to successfully navigate and articulate relevant questions and answers to the viewers, greatly improved the broadcast’s informative nature to casual boxing fans who may have been tuning into to view the sport for the first time in years. However, Albert did show some rust calling boxing as his calls of the action inside the ring were lacking at times throughout the night.
Broner and Molina opened the action in the ring. Both fighters came down a rather ugly and seemingly unnecessary catwalk on their way to the ring. NBC seemed to dictate that neither fighter come out with any member of their corner or entourage. While also tuning down the entrance music subduing the effect of the entrance. Broner entered the ring the heavy favourite. While Molina promised to “Bring the Problem.” Molina was the heavy crowd favourite as the antics of the younger Broner have turned off many fans making him one of the sport’s biggest villains.
As the bell rung to signal the start of the bout, Broner, usually a slow starter got off to an impressive start. Broner decisively took the first two rounds with a very cautious Molina, who could only land a single punch in round one. Broner’s trainer Mike Stafford had little respect for Molina. “Molina is a one punch fighter. We aren’t going to lose to a one punch fighter.” Said Stafford.
Molina won his only round of the night according to unofficial scorer Steve Farhood in the third as he put together a powerful combination. The three punch combo proved to be one of the few outburst of offense that Molina had on the night. The most impressive part of Molina’s game Saturday night was his trunks. On each leg, Molina had an airbrushed picture of the face of one of his friends who recently passed away.
From round four onward till the conclusion of the 12th and final round, Broner completely outclassed his opponent. It appeared Broner had toned down his in ring antics until the eighth round while tied up with Molina on the ropes, Broner stuck out his tongue began to dance in a clownish fashion and continued to trash talk Molina. In the 10th round Albert questioned former referee Steve Smoger about referee’s Robert Byrd’s performance in the fight. Smoger replied, “It’s not a tough fight to officiate. It’s a tough fight for Molina.”
The fight proved to be disappointing for both the audience and the network who were surely both hoping for a knockout. The bout proved to be rather boring as two of the three scored all 12 rounds for Broner. In a post-fight interview, Broner discussed the crowd who booed him the entire night. “Last time I fought for the crowd I lost.” Broner was quickly cut off before he could get the network into any trouble with a live mic in front of him.
Between fights, NBC showed another phenomenal video promoting the next episode of PBC on April 11th featuring Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia. The video outlined the rise from humble beginnings of both fighters.
The main event featured two fighters looking to lay claim to the title or at least enter the conversation of top welterweight not named Floyd Mayweather Jr or Manny Pacquiao. NBC billed Robert Guerrero as a fighter who had only lost once in the past nine years. That one loss to Mayweather. While Thurman was depicted as an up and coming power punching star, who is stepping up in class from his former opponents to face Guerrero.
As with the first fight, vignettes ran telling the story behind each fighter. Guerrero’s video package was based on his family as much as it was his career as a boxer. The video outlined how fighting is a Guerero family tradition as Robert is a third generation fighter with his father training him. But Robert was quick to praise his wife Casey as the best fighter within the family. Casey is in her fifth year of being cancer free following her victory over leukemia. Casey required a bone marrow transplant during which time Robert took a hiatus from his boxing career.
The video of Thurman was used to demonstrate both the speed and power Thurman poses. After the video concluded B.J. Flores, who was used well the entire night interviewed Thurman about how the fighter uses visualization. Thurman gave an excellent, well-articulated description of exactly how he saw the fight going. Thurman visualized himself knocking Guerrero out, however said he did visualize a plan b, in which he would use his skills as a boxer to lead him to victory.
The introduction of both fighters left the viewer knowing that the crowd was going to be behind Thurman. Kenny Bayless was the third man in the ring and was given a strong review by Smoger for his refereeing throughout the bout. Albert continued to note how Thurman was very inexperienced when it came to fighting left handed fighters.
Thurman got out to a quick start winning the opening two rounds. The early rounds featured fast paced action where both fighters landed powerful punches. In the second round, Leonard noted how it appeared Thurman had hurt Guerrero with one of his powerful right hands. In the third round, Thurman and Guerrero’s head collided accidentally and left Thurman with a large welt on his forehead.
Throughout the bout, Thurman displayed both the speed, strength and defense that has made him such a highly touted prospect. The head movement of Thurman made him a difficult target to land punches on throughout the first half of the fight.
As the fight entered the seventh round the action had noticeably slowed from the earlier rounds. However, in the ninth round with his welt noticeably increased in size, Thurman was able to send Guerrero to the canvas. As the cameras began to zoom in and focus on the face of Guerrero as Bayless gave him the ten count, blood was streaming down from his eye. Guerrero beat the count before being saved by the bell before Thurman had a chance to finish the fight.
The knockdown seemed to energize Guerrero who seemed out of the fight following the knockout. Despite taking a powerful combination from Thurman, Guerrero was able to respond back with his own power punches. As Guerrero continued to fight and refused to back down the crowd turned it allegiances and loudly backed Guerrero.
However, it was all too late for Guerrero. Guerrero kept coming in the eleventh and twelfth rounds. As he was too far behind to win the fight by decision. Guerrero did stun Thurman in the final round but could not score the knockout he needed to win the fight.
As the bell rang to conclude the action on NBC, the judgers presented their scorecards. Thurman won unanimously by the scores of 120-107, 118-109 and 118-108. The victory cemented Thurman as a top contender within the 147lb division.
Some quick notes. I scored the first fight 119-109 in favour of Broner. With the victory, Broner would appear to be in line for the winner of one of two fights. Broner could challenge either winner in the April 11th PBC main event featuring Danny Garcia and Lamont Peterson. Or Broner could challenge the winner of Ruslan Provodnikov and Lucas Matthysse.
In the second fight I was generous and gave the last two rounds to Guerrero. I had Thurman winning 116-111. For Guerrero getting a next big fight will be an interesting proposition. Guerrero is positioned as an entertaining fighter but not an elite caliber fighter. A matchup with former Mayweather opponent Marcos Maidana could provide boxing fans with the most entertaining matchup.
For Thurman, his next opponent will likely be a fighter considered to be in the top five rating of The Ring Magazine’s welterweight division. A matchup with another young up and coming such as Kell Brook or Shawn Porter would be an excellent matchup. However both fighters are currently signed for upcoming fights. Two fighters who are not signed for a fight that would be interested in a fight with Thurman include Juan Manuel Marquez and Amir Khan. With Thurman receiving mainstream exposure, a Marquez matchup could headline a pay-per view and generate 300-400 thousand buys. But with pay-per view considered a business on the decline, Thurman may angle for another PBC fight with Amir Khan to build his profile before angling for a bigger pay-per view fight and payday.
The night can be considered successful by NBC as the network won the night generating a 2.53 rating and 3.13 million viewers. The results are interesting as they outdrew the last UFC on Fox card featuring Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson.