By Ivan G. Goldman
The first Premier Boxing Champions show on NBC Saturday night was so lavishly produced that all the extravagance threatened to upstage the fights themselves.
It featured creative graphics and staging complemented by a star-studded roster of employees. It seemed no expense was spared in transmitting the message that prime-time prizefighting is back on the over-the-air networks and that this is a very big deal.
As Keith “One Time” Thurman and Adrien “The Problem” Broner won two convincing, mostly one-sided, action-filled victories over respective opponents Robert Guerrero and John Molina, the producers slammed home their point: viewers were seeing a turning point in boxing history. On this night the sweet science shoved its way back into the big-time line-up of major sports.
As Charles Jay noted on this site recently, monstrous pay-per-view shows can’t do that. What’s required is the opportunity for casual viewers to switch on the tube, see something they like and come back for more without any billing hassles. And they don’t even need cable.
Because PBC is spread across networks and apparently controls its own purchased space on the schedule, we saw some peculiar phenomena, such as NBC showing promotional material for an upcoming PBC show on the CBS network – with the well-known CBS logo in full view.
Preliminary numbers from Television by Numbers showed the PBC show drew 3.13 million viewers among adults 18-49, coming in second to CBS’s “48 Hours,” which drew 4.65 million. NBC trumpeted it was the most-watched sporting event in its time slot.
The production was so showered with dollars that producers flew Steve Farhood all the way from New York to Las Vegas just to keep score. They brought in referee Steve Smoger, a New Jerseyite, in case of any rules or regulations complications. Marv Albert, Al Michaels, Laila Ali, and Sugar Ray Leonard, all contributed their expertise and talents along with lesser-knowns such as B.J. Flores and Kenny Rice. There was no shortage of crew members.
All this came courtesy of mysterious boxing Godfather Al Haymon, who pulled in the investors, put it all together and made sure the show made a big splash. For example, fighters didn’t just walk down an aisle from the dressing room. They proceeded down colorful, specially built ramps installed inside the MGM Grand Arena that were awash with special lighting and digital effects.
The New York Times presented an interesting piece on Haymon in December 2011 that continued spreading the myth that he has no office or answering machine. Try producing a show like Saturday’s with no office. It can’t all be done out of a smart phone. But the myth persists.
Back before the turn of this century, Don King was the most powerful man in boxing, and he wasn’t the most scrupulous of men. Federal law prevented him from managing and promoting the same fighters, so he claimed the manager was his son Carl. Fighter after fighter had to sue him for their rightful purse money. When anyone tried questioning him about his methods he’d trample the inquiry with the world’s most powerful speaking voice and never seemed to take a breath.
Haymon takes the opposite tack. Utter media silence. No interviews, no photos. His client Floyd Mayweather calls him “The Ghost.” Did he even attend the show Saturday? You tell me. According to the Times he’s a former music promoter and holds a Harvard MBA.
Haymon seems to call himself an advisor or manager, depending on the contract, and we learn nothing about the details of those contracts. Sometimes he has someone announce it when he signs a fighter. Sometimes he doesn’t. Consequently, we don’t have a list of his fighters, but it’s long and imposing.
In the promotional messages for the May 2 super-fight between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, everything was centered on Floyd, who, as the Haymon client, did all the talking in the background. Look for other such improprieties in the future and no opportunity to question Haymon or any of his flunkies about them.
Yes, Haymon is the Godfather of boxing, but he’s also the sport’s Howard Hughes – a puzzling recluse. That’s not good in an industry that needs to communicate with the public, but yes, showcasing boxing on NBC and CBS again is a very big deal. The next PBC show is Friday. It will be on Spike and comes out of Ontario, California: Andre Berto versus Josesito Lopez, Shawn Porter versus Robert Garcia. Chris Arreola is on the card against a to-be-announced opponent.
New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman’s Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag was released in 2013 by Potomac Books. Watch for The Debtor Class: A Novel from Permanent Press in spring, 2015. More information here.