Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions venture is a marathon, not a sprint. The latest installment of the race was run on Saturday, April 11, when NBC showcased Danny Garcia vs. Lamont Peterson and Andy Lee vs. Peter Quillin at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The ring is boxing’s traditional stage. PBC has added to that stage with a huge travelling set consisting of an entrance ramp, host desk, and enormous visual backdrop at one end of the arena. There’s also a massive piece of apparatus directly above the ring with circular lights and four large video screens, all of which is a plus for on-site fans.
There were five fights on April 11 prior to the NBC bouts and three fights afterward. The last three encounters were televised on NBCSN. With the exception of Heather Hardy, the house fighter emerged victorious in each of these supporting bouts.
Hardy entered the ring with a 12-0 (2 KOs) record. Her opponent was Renata Domsodi, a 40-year-old Hungarian who last fought at 114 pounds (two weight divisions below Heather) and was riding a two-fight losing streak. The primary difference between Domsodi and a Everlast heavy bag is that a heavy bag doesn’t bleed when it’s cut. An accidental clash of heads in round three opened an ugly gash above Renata’s right eye, at which point the fight was stopped and ruled “no contest.”
Lee came to Barclays with a 34-and-2 record, 24 KOs, and the WBO 160-pound belt by virtue of his sixth-round stoppage of Matt Korobov last December. On the negative side of the ledger, Andy has been knocked out by Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and Brian Vera and seems to have passed his prime.
Quillin (31-0, 22 KOs) has been protected for most of career, fighting opponents who either were past their prime or never had one. His signature victories were against Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam, Gabriel Rosado, and a very old Winky Wright.
Quillin failed to make weight for Lee-Quillin, following in the footsteps of too many fighters who have skirted their contractual obligations recently and, in the process, gained a competitive edge. A deal was struck whereby Peter paid $125,000 of his $500,000 purse to Team Lee, raising the latter’s total to $625,000. The fight was also reclassified as a non-title bout.
It’s not often that a “champion” enters the ring as a 3-to-1 underdog, but that was the case here. Those odds seemed short at the 2:30 mark of round one, when Quillin landed a lead right and deposited Lee on the canvas. Andy rose on shaky legs but survived the round. He visited the canvas again in round three, when Quillin scored with another lead right while standing on Andy’s right foot (which referee Steve Willis mistakenly ruled a knockdown).
Adding to Lee’s miseries, he emerged from the third stanza with a cut above his left eye. But Andy exacted a measure of revenge and scored a knockdown of his own with a crisp right hook in round seven.
After that, the action slowed considerably. The fight was there for the taking by Quillin. But Peter fought cautiously; too cautiously. And Lee showed heart. This writer gave the nod to Quillin. The judges called it a split-decision for Garcia: 113-112, 112-113, 113-113. Lee kept his title, but didn’t look particularly good doing it.
Danny Garcia (WBC and WBA) and Lamont Peterson (IBF) each held 140-pound belts but contracted to fight at 143 pounds. Those who read tea leaves might speculate here that Haymon Boxing is likely to move away from the world sanctioning organizations in favor of its own championships.
Garcia had a 29-and-0 (17 KOs) record with signature victories over Amir Khan and Lucas Matthysse. But he’d fought only twice during the preceding nineteen months, winning a dubious majority decision against Mauricio Herrera and knocking out a pathetically-overmatched Rod Salka.
Peterson entered the ring with a 33-2-1 (17 KOs) record highlighted by a razor-thin split-decision triumph over Amir Khan. But Lamont had been stopped in the third round by Lucas Matthysse and dominated by Tim Bradley en route to a near-shutout decision loss.
Like Quillin, Garcia was a 3-to-1 betting favorite.
Garcia-Peterson was a strange fight. For the first seven rounds, Lamont didn’t do much of anything except circle away (the operative word being “away”). It frustrated Garcia, who was unable to cut off the ring. And it frustrated the fans, who had come to Barclays with the expectation of seeing a fight. There was sustained booing. And worse from Peterson’s point of view, he dug himself into a hole on the judges’ scorecards that he was unable to climb out of.
In round eight, Peterson began to fight. From that point on, he was the dominant fighter. But it was too little too late. Garcia prevailed on a majority decision: 115-113, 115-113, 114-114. Lamont could have won the fight. But he gave it away by cycling for seven rounds before fighting for five.
And a few more thoughts . . .
Sports entities in 2015 are valued as businesses in significant measure based on their television contracts. Right now, Haymon Boxing’s television contracts are showing a lot of red ink.
The purses for Garcia, Peterson, Lee, and Quillin totalled $3,700,000. On top of that, Haymon Boxing paid over $500,000 in production costs (including talent) in conjunction with the April 11 telecast. Add on the cost of opening Barclays Center and line items like marketing, undercard purses, travel expenses, and insurance. Haymon Boxing also paid for two-and-a-half hours of prime time on NBC.
Yet once again, there were relatively few ads on NBC. And overnight ratings indicate that the audience (while doing well in the age 18-to-49 male demographic) dropped 23 percent from PBC’s March 7 premiere on the network. In other words, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that this “loss leader” lost several million dollars.
Richard Schaefer was at Barclays Center, looking jovial, tan, and rested. The assumption is that he will return to boxing this summer to concentrate on building the PBC brand overseas and remove some of the day-to-day micro-managing chores from Al Haymon’s shoulders. Schaefer has a big job ahead of him.
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Mike Stafford, who trains Adrien Broner and assists Barry Hunter in training Lamont Peterson, had some thoughts to share at the final pre-fight press conference for the April 11 PBC card. Referencing recent studies that document the brain damage suffered by football players at all levels of competition, Stafford observed, “In a way, it’s helping boxing. There were parents who wouldn’t let their children box because they didn’t want them getting hit in the head, but they’d let them play football. Now they see that football is just as dangerous. In fact, in football, you got guys 310 pounds smashing little guys around. In boxing, the weights are even.”
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His most recent book – Thomas Hauser on Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press.