I found myself looking for Vince McMahon.
After 30 years away from network television and collective concern from a sports crazed nation, boxing stood poised to make a dramatic return to glory with the unveiling of “PBC” on NBC.
I found myself looking for Fedor Emelianenko.
Like many of you, I was very drawn to this event, as ‘Premier Boxing Champions’ held the promise of a card which has routinely been featured on paid TV. To witness Keith Thurman vs. Robert Guerrero and Adrien Broner vs. John Molina Jr. — while throwing in action fighter Abner Mares (who swam through hell before almost drowning in defeat) — for free was a big deal, and they acted like it.
If you saw the commercials leading up to it (and just in case you didn’t, here’s one), you felt that it held the promise of a must-see event. There was a star-studded broadcast team, as we saw Sugar Ray Leonard working the red carpet with Al Michaels, Marv Albert and Laila Ali.
I was very, very excited, and found myself feeling very nostalgic.
Just watching the hype unfold filled me with memories of being a child in Madison Square Garden on one night in the 80’s. I remember leaving the house with my uncle set to go see my hero, Roberto Duran, face off against a real loudmouth in Davey Moore. He told me he was going to be jealous watching it on TV, and he had every reason to be.
There were big booty ho’s and greasy bastards everywhere, as the smell of Stetson was in greedy competition with beefy cigars and nasty cigarettes. As I looked around, following the hoopla of whatever was happening with Billy Collins Jr. and Panama Lewis; these same ho’s and greasy bastards were cussing, laughing, complaining and crying foul over what they had just seen and about to see.
I didn’t really know what was going on, but the excitement was very real and very palpable. Looking back, I know now that looks can sometimes be deceiving, even if the gigantic ashtray I smelled like when I came home was not. I know now, that that same crowd who would go on to see Duran massacre Moore, mirrored the one watching at home on free TV. They were REAL fans, who come from real circumstances, that produce real fighters.
They were fellow fighters – fringe contenders, rank amateurs or weekend warriors. They were carpenter’s and plumbers and bartenders. They were cab driver’s and retired old men who still bragged about how great Sugar Ray Robinson was. They barbers and car salesmen and guys who threw the morning paper. They were whatever they came from
They were me and you.
JUST GIVE US THE F*CKIN FIGHTS.
The event we saw the other day was nothing more than a repackaging of the same elements that got boxing in trouble in the first place. There was far too much emphasis on the commercial aspect of things, and the arena had the feel of a WWE wrestling event. The pristine, “fake”, candy-coated environment dominated by wealthy corporate stiffs in the crowd, is in stark contrast to one’s you’d see in the 80’s.
I don’t know about you, but I like traditional ring walks and shots of warm-ups in the dressing room. This isn’t MMA, and we can do without all the homogenized hyperbole of the WWE stinking up the broadcast. The imagery and build-up footage provided almost felt like the damn “Hunger Games” after awhile, and I for one can do without all of the disingenuous bells and whistles.
The reports came back today that the card on NBC did 3.13 million views, which I’m sure satisfied corporate sponsors who paid exorbitant fees for vast sponsorship, fee’s which contributed mightily to the purses the fighters were able to collect.
But that won’t continue if a few things aren’t corrected.
1. Fix the broadcast team.
The announcement team, bottom line, was subpar at best. Outside of Al Michael’s recalling the great Howard Cosell at the outset with Sugar Ray Leonard, there weren’t any magic moments.
Michael’s seemed disinterested and Leonard was well… Leonard (which isn’t very good). Marv Albert, who I loved as a kid, was just absolutely terrible, as was Laila, who is still the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen lace up a pair of gloves. Still, it proves there’s no such thing as substituting substance with merely style. There has to be a proper merging of both, and it would help if they’re actually interested in what they’re doing.
2. Its still about the fighters.
Learn from the 80’s. Adrien Broner (more on him in a minute) is no different in style or asshole quality than Hector Camacho. Hector was allowed to be himself – and so should Adrien – if his personality is going to be used to sell it shouldn’t be bottled. By featuring Broner in the very first event, its pretty clear that Al Haymon wants to get as much out of Adrien Broner as he can, and he’s looking for a viable replacement for Floyd Mayweather. For those who have a problem with Broner’s personality or real asshole qualities – get in line. The real problem with “The Problem” (besides dumb-ass statements during post-fight interviews), is I believe we’ve seen the best of him. What we haven’t seen yet is the best in Keith Thurman, and that’s a very good thing. He single-handedly carried the show (more on that in a minute) and needed no tweaking in personality. He needed a headline worthy, “A” fighter performance and he delivered. Danny Garcia will have to do the same. They’ll need play a run on Shawn Porter and his inner Jack Dempsey. Its still about the fighter.
BRONER WAS A HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT
That crowd assembled the other night was not the type of crowd you’d see at an ESPN Friday Night Fights event. It was a very impatient, corporate crowd we might find at the amusement park for the most part. To be given such a huge platform and then to miss weight was awful. And then, he gives himself the nickname “Mr. NBC” before going against a John Molina looking for war. The stage was set for Broner to wish upon a star, and he sucked.
Don’t get me wrong- he boxed well throughout, but he boxed himself in. He showed flashes of brilliant speed and technical skill, but when he did get hit by the 50 or so punches Molina struck him with, he got hit cleanly and was visibly shaken. He literally ran away from Molina for no apparent reason and totally missed an opportunity to capitalize on Lucas Matthysse’s 11th round stoppage win on network TV. He fought not to lose, which means he didn’t win anybody over after a 30 year void on TV. He should’ve consulted with Timothy Bradley in camp, who totally understood they way he needed to approach things when he faced Ruslan Provodnikov. All it did was get him bigger fights.
If Broner felt the need to run from Molina, then he’ll get run out of the ring by the likes of Provodnikov, Garcia, Peterson, Porter, Brook or anyone else Haymon might reconsider getting him in there with. Or, he could just use him as cannon-fodder for one of those fighters. In short, Paulie Malignaggi was actually right about him awhile ago.
THURMAN FOUGHT LIKE HE HAD “ONE-TIME” ONLY
When Floyd Mayweather fought Robert Guerrero, he did so knowing he had a vast hand and foot speed advantage against a limited fighter. With a guaranteed deal in place with Showtime (he made 32 million for a no-risk fight with Guerrero), Floyd could afford to turn that bout into the highest paid sparring session ever. Thurman didn’t have that luxury.
After a difficult paint job on Leonard Bundu, “One-Time” brought out the lawn mower on Guerrero and cut him down. Had he used his god-given athletic ability and talent, he could’ve turned it into a snoozer. I was asked via e-mail and social media who did better, Keith or Floyd against Guerrero?
From a pure boxing standpoint, Floyd turned in a flawless performance. But let’s say this is diving, where you get more points for degrees of difficulty. If that’s the case, then Thurman’s “dive” at Guerrero was more difficult and worthy of more points. He got a little over a million dollars to face Guerrero, and a boring decision win wasn’t going to raise his value. If Floyd got cute in there with Guerrero, Keith made it ugly, and for Premiere Boxing Champions that was a beautiful thing. His stock cannot do anything but go up from here, and he was very vocal about wanting it with Floyd before and after his last performance. If Floyd gets past Pacquiao, he would be hard pressed to overlook a burgeoning star in Thurman.
Really looking forward to the next PBC card on the 13th to see what adjustments (if any) are made.