Maestro Al Haymon’s PBC on NBC could use a few things. While the glossy production values and oft excellent camera work effectively lends an “event” feeling to the program, the substance of the show could use some refining. While it’s conceptually exciting to think of broadcast legends like Al Michaels and Marv Albert respectively hosting and calling the fights, it’s stronger in theory than in execution. While Michaels skates by—to a degree-on presence and reputation, Albert has fared very poorly. To put it simply, he’s obviously not a “boxing guy,” something that being a play-by-play landmark can’t mask.
In a way, it’s hard to blame Albert for not having paid a lot of attention to the sport. With Albert being employed largely by the major networks for other sports and being the voice of the New York Knicks for nearly 40 years–coupled with the demise of boxing on free TV–he simply hasn’t had a reason to. That part is forgivable. What is less so is the apparent truth that he just hasn’t boned up on the sport and at times doesn’t even seem understand the type of punches being thrown and often resorts to cliché. Perhaps with repetition and a renewed commitment this can be fixed.
It’s possible these issues are only a factor for the hardcore boxing fans who tune in. I’m not sure if the casual types whom the sport needs to pull in know Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero from any other apparition. As well, it may not matter all that much if an uppercut or a straight right are referred to as such. What matters most—not just to long-time fight fans, but to all concerned–is that the fights are entertaining.
This is where the luck part comes in.
On paper, the match ups of Broner/Molina Jr., Thurman/Guerrero, Lee/Quillin, and Garcia/Peterson were all pretty solid. Unfortunately, overall, the actual fights have been a notch below that. It’s impossible to expect every fight to be a hotly contested all-out war, or a dominant star-making performance, but when hoping to introduce the sport to a wider audience, it sure would help.
The first fight out of the chute was surprisingly bad. Adrien Broner may have an obvious skill advantage on John Molina Jr., but the latter’s well-known aggressive style could have pushed Broner, and at least made him uncomfortable. Marcos Maidana provided the template for beating Broner, but Molina was so lacking in apparent will and fury, it would be fair to question how much he has left.
Almost as unlikely, Keith Thurman largely dominated Robert Guerrero, scoring a 9th round knockdown and nearly pitching a shutout against the formidable former title holder in four different weight classes. For a moment, it looked as if Thurman was on the verge of a coming out party when he sent Guerrero to the canvas. However, the former champion showed true grit and made the last three rounds competitive.
Still, at the end of the night, neither fight was close nor did Broner or Thurman appear to ever be in any real jeopardy.
This past weekend produced closer fights, but lacked the sort of vim and vigor one might hope for as well.
In the opening bout, Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin must have enjoyed a bit too much of his namesake and missed weight. When his big right hand put WBO Middleweight Champion Andy Lee on the deck in the first, Quillin was on the verge of at least scoring a dramatic knockout. Instead, he lacked the consistency and the stamina to put away the one-dimensional Irishman. Quillin is an incredibly frustrating boxer. He possesses the skill and weaponry to be something special, yet seems to have settled for less.
Lee, made up of mostly guts and a big right hook, is the very definition of “unlikely champion.” Quillin put Lee down a second time in the fight, but inactivity and a 7th round trip to the canvas allowed the fight to be scored as a split draw. A disappointing result for the fighters, but also for viewers. As a friend of mine said as the judges results came in, “Americans don’t like ties.”
The headliner between Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia did not likely inspire the masses either. Both fighters came into the bout with something to prove. Peterson’s greatest claim was a much disputed win over Amir Khan that was further tainted by the results of a failed pre-fight drug test. A 3rd round TKO loss to Lucas Matthysse in May of 2013 only furthered the question of Peterson’s bona fides.
Garcia was on the verge of stardom after a series of quality wins, culminating with a strong unanimous decision victory over the aforementioned Matthysse in September of 2013. Unfortunately, Garcia followed up that victory with a highly disputed majority decision over Mauricio Herrera, a fighter who should just change his name to Hard Luck and be done with it. Garcia’s 2nd round KO over the way out of his league Rod Salka did nothing to recover his status.
With so much on the line, the performance of the two fighters was more than curious. Peterson, in particular, gave away far too many rounds by not doing the thing that most boxers need to do to win fights. Namely, “throw punches.” While some took issue with the majority decision awarded to Garcia, it was hard to take great umbrage, as neither fighter distinguished himself.
Of course, it’s not necessarily the responsibility of any of these fighters to make electrifying fights to “save boxing.” It’s merely their job to try to win. I’m sure the four victors on NBC’s two broadcasts would rather win looking decent to mediocre than they would lose while putting on a great show. The problem is a “great show” is what the PBC needs.
The good news is Haymon’s PBC has a multi-year contract with the network and there are many more bouts to come. The law of averages will come into play and that great fight will happen. It’s just that if you’re Al Haymon, or a fight fan who wants to see the sport expand and thrive, sooner would be better than later. For this, we don’t need major network gloss or fight night expertise—although both are appreciated. What we need is luck. It would be best if it did not tarry.
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