Earlier today, Jon Miller, President of Programming for NBC Sports and VERSUS (which will become NBC Sports Network on January 2); Kathy Duva, CEO Main Events and series promoter for the NBC Sport Network Fight Night series; and Russell Peltz, Peltz Boxing Promotions and Fight Night series matchmaker, spoke with a group of media about the NBC Sports Network and the NBCSN Fight Night series.
The opening show is slated for January 21, 2012 at Asylum Arena in Philadelphia. The main event will feature Philadelphia heavyweight contender “Fast” Eddie Chambers as he takes on former World Heavyweight Champion Sergei “White Wolf” Liakhovich. The co-feature is also a match that will resonate with Philly fans as “King” Gabriel Rosado of Philadelphia meets up with Jesus Soto-Karass of Tijuana, Mexico.
Here’s some of the discussion:
Jon Miller: “We are excited to be getting our team involved with boxing again. We had a long, rich, storied history with NBC Sports. We would do as many as 20-30 fights per year on NBC. We think that there’s an opportunity here with the right matchmaking (Peltz) and the right positioning to possibly introduce boxing back to ‘free, over the air, and in this case cable’ television. Our feeling was that boxing had been under-exposed on linear television and we thought it was a good time to jump back into the ring.”
Pres of Programming
“There’s still as many fights domestically as there was 20 years ago. We have over a dozen US world champions, but the sport clearly has become less US-centric and we thought this was an opportunity for us to see if we could make this work again.”
“We’re excited about working with a promoter (Main Events) who is looking to create crossroads fights that’ll be competitive. We didn’t want to go in a situation where the outcome might have been pre-ordained because the promoter didn’t want to put in a challenging opponent. We needed to be sure that we found reputable matchmakers and promoters to bring us quality content. Our past experience in dealing with Main Events and Peltz Boxing led us back to them. We premiere with 2 great fights on Saturday, January 21st live from Philadelphia and we’re looking forward to it.”
Russell Peltz: “We have certainly gone out of way to contact all the promoters in the business. We offer their fighters exposure on the new network. There is still a whole squad of fighters out there that don’t get exposed, that do want to fight on television and are willing to take a risk. The main thing I found over the years is if you want to make a good match you make it. If you don’t want to make a good match you just get your fighter an easy win and you move on from there. To me that’s the only difference between a good matchmaker and a bad matchmaker. There are more undefeated boxers parading around now than ever in the history of boxing. I don’t want to give a fighter a streak of wins at the expense of competitive boxing.”
Kathy Duva: “This isn’t going to be done where all the money in the budget goes to paying for the main event and then the undercard fights are a bunch of appearance fights. As a matter of fact, Russell has put together a co-feature on this show between Soto-Karass and Gabriel Rosado that would be a main event on any other cable show – a terrific pick-em fight that will be nothing but action.”
“Once the first show was announced we started getting a lot more calls from promoters, so I don’t think we are going to have any problem filling up these shows with really great fights. We’re matching fighters not records.”
Jon Miller: “Our new model is one that we are excited about. The model that has not worked is a network handing all of its fights over to a single promoter. We have repeatedly seen promoters use this just to build their own fighters. This system was great for those promoters but all too often lead to “appearance fights” that abused the system; created mismatches; and served neither the fans, nor the growth of boxing.”
“In this NBC model, you have Russell Peltz who is overseeing quality control and Main Events who helps promote and stage the bouts. While both have fighters in our first show, both of those fights are involving very competitive fights in almost “pick ’em” bouts. Lots of other promoters were offered opportunities but they didn’t want to take risks with their fighters and that’s one of the reasons we didn’t want to go down that road. So this is open to all promoters who have fighters who want to come into the ring and have Russell put together a quality match up.”
Kathy Duva: “The fighter’s purses for this first show are going to exceed the rights fee, so it’s not like we are holding back. I think that’s one of the reasons NBC chose us. I don’t have 30 or 60 fighters that I have to give wins to. We are more than happy to put anybody’s fighters on the card. Our goal here is to make great fights so that NBC is going to want us to do more of them, not just for one year. And also to prove to fighters that if you fight in a really competitive fight and lose your career is not over, as opposed to being protected and put in the ring against guys that you learn nothing from.”
Jon Miller: “I think the boxing fan has been under-served on cable and network television because so many fights have gone the Pay per View route. It’s incumbent upon us to showcase fighters in competitive fights and help to build a model that shows how great boxing is and what it can be. The best way that I would equate that is for example, when you look at the sport of golf, if Tiger (Woods) and Phil (Mickelson) only played on PPV, you’d have no way of knowing who Ricky Fowler and Rory McElroy and Bubba Watson and guys like that are. I think the same is true here. We need to showcase these other fighters and help build them up so that they become more household names and more recognizable, and if they eventually migrate to a bigger payday then that’s great.”
Russell Peltz: Boxing’s not dead. “Angelo Dundee said a few years ago that they’ve buried boxing so many times they’ve run out of shovels. Well, December the 10th they just had close to 10,000 in Washington DC of all places. The week before even though it hasn’t been printed yet, I believe that the crowd in Madison Square Garden with 21,000 for the Cotto fight was actually the largest crowd to witness a boxing match in the history of Madison Square Garden. And three weeks before that you had Pacquio drawing 15 or 16,000 people in Las Vegas. So I think that when you make the right fights at any level, whether it’s at the elite level or the upper or middle class, if you make fights that people want to see they’ll come out. I’m just not sure that enough promoters have made the kind of fights that people want to see in recent years.”
Jon Miller: “We are encouraged by what we think the audience will be. We have our second show scheduled for March 24 and we’ve got a couple other dates penciled as well later in the year, and quite honestly if it’s successful there’s nothing that says we can’t do more than 4 shows this year.”
“Our goal is to build an NBC Sports boxing brand where consumers know our fights are always going to be competitive and that they can expect exciting ‘crossroads’ fights where the fights are very evenly matched to the point where it’s tough to predict a winner in advance.”
Promoted by Main Events, Peltz Boxing Promotions and Goossen Tutor, the non-televised undercard fights will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are priced at $45 and $65 can be purchased by calling Peltz Boxing, (215) 765-0922.