Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you’ve heard about the “Premiere Boxing Champions” series being launched by Al Haymon. The powerhouse boxing manager has recently announced contracts with NBC, CBS, Spike TV and ESPN – with rumors of upcoming deals with BET, Telemundo and possibly more networks on the way. What short, middle and long-term impact will this series have on the boxing landscape? What complications lie ahead? And how may this all affect potential super-fights that boxing fans have been clamoring for?
The PBC series officially kicks off on March 7th from Las Vegas with a co-feature between Adrien Broner and John Molina, while Keith Thurman faces Robert Guerrero in the main event.
Subsequent cards featuring Danny Garcia, Peter Quillin, Adonis Stevenson, Andre Berto and others are lined up through April. These inaugural cards are wisely scheduled around the NCAA “March Madness” tournament and before the start of the NBA playoffs. When you combine the anticipation of boxing going back to network television with solid cards full of competitive matches, things are looking very good in the short term for the Premiere Boxing Champions brand. But what happens after this exciting “Honeymoon Phase”?
With most boxing television contracts, networks like HBO and Showtime pay rights fees. But that is not the case here. Haymon, backed by a team of investment firms, is shelling out tens of millions of dollars to purchase network time (not to mention promotion, marketing and other expenses) through 2017. No doubt these investors are going to expect returns on said investment over the coming years. Meanwhile, the executives and NBC, CBS, etc. will be paying close to attention to the ratings as Haymon attempts to build his brand. If the ratings are there perhaps one of the big networks will go all in after this “probationary” phase and invest in an exclusive contract with PBC, much like the UFC’s mega-deal with Fox. This is a massive undertaking with many moving parts, but if anyone in boxing can pull it off, it’s Al Haymon.
While the long-term success of PBC would certainly be a major positive for boxing, there are some potential negatives. Haymon is not a licensed broker, he’s a manager, which allows him certain privileges and legal workarounds with his fighters that promoters do not have (look up “The Ali Act” if you are unaware of the differences between a promoter and a manager). However, this also means that he has to work with promoters to put on his cards, and he has been reluctant to work with “the big 2”, Top Rank and Golden Boy, for several years now. This situation could go from bad to worse as the PBC essentially turns into the “Al Haymon boxing league” going up against the “HBO boxing league”, with the top fighters in each league never facing one another. For bouts like Klitschko-Wilder, Stevenson-Ward, Quillin-Golovkin and others to take place, the promoters and networks will have to be willing to compromise and work together.
For now, let’s sit back and enjoy the show. Boxing back on network TV with so many possibilities lying ahead; it’s a great time to be a boxing fan. Questions, comments, hate mail? You know what to do.