By Sean Crose
There once was a time when boxing was a staple of network sports on the weekends. Three decades or so ago, names like Ray Mancini, Hector Camacho, Michael Nunn and Donald Curry were sprinkled across the network sport’s landscape. That isn’t so much the case anymore. Boxing, as most fans know, has been pushed to societies’ margins.
That’s why it was such a pleasure to see fights being broadcast on NBC smack dab on a Saturday afternoon. Not the NBC Sports Network, mind you – the flagship NBC channel. One could only hope the ratings were solid, for the one thing that can bring boxing back into the craniums of mainstream sport’s fans is more exposure on network broadcasts.
Of course there are those who argue that network exposure can no longer save boxing, that the television landscape is now far too compartmentalized, that live network airings just won’t do the trick here in the 21st century. I disagree. Sports fans go to the big four networks on the weekends. College football and baseball fans were a lot more apt to flick to boxing on Saturday than they would have been if the fights had been shown on a cable outlet.
Fortunately, the first part of Saturday’s broadcast was a success. The opening bout, between lightweights Angino Perez and Karl Dargan, was a hard hitting thriller that ended with Dagan blasting his way to a fifth round victory. The fact that both fighters ended up on the mat at some point in the bout added to its dramatic nature. In short, it was good television.
The second bout (which was the main event) was a cruiserweight throwdown between Thabsio McHunu and Garrett Wilson. This fight, too, was a slugfest – at least at first. McHunu hit his man hard in the second round. In fact, he nearly polished Wilson off. The pace slowed down in the third, but one got the feeling it was only a matter of time before Wilson found himself in trouble again.
As the fight continued on, however, there was little doubt that Wilson was tough. He didn’t seem to have the skills, though. He just wasn’t throwing enough to be effective. This made the bout become a bit of a disappointment. For McHunu, although he tried mightily, couldn’t take Wilson out. The South African had to settle for a decision win.
Some might think that bigger names were needed in order for NBC to have brought in viewers on Saturday. Once again, however, I would disagree. With all due respect to my fellow fight fans, most people know of only two active boxers – Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. That’s it. Whether it was Thabiso McHunu or Gennady Golovkin who fought on Saturday, it wouldn’t have made all that much difference. For most people don’t know who either man is.
What the sport needed, more than anything else, were good fights. What it was got one good fight and one not-bad fight. The card may not have shaken up like fans might have hoped it would, but it was far from a dismal failure. At least there were no snoozers. That would have spelled disaster.
The bottom line is this: any type of entertainment – and sports are most certainly a form of entertainment – needs exposure in order to succeed. Boxing got some good exposure on Saturday. Scratch that, it got some great exposure. And if NBC execs find that the numbers were good, they will do what’s right for business at put boxing back on its flagship network again. It’s really that simple.
NBC broadcast some good fights on Saturday. Let’s hope they drew in a good number of eyeballs.