So here we are in March; hard to believe winter is nearly over. It’s even harder to imagine that Premiere Boxing Champions, Al Haymon’s supposed game changer of a series, is more than a full year old. Yup, it was a year ago when fans first saw Keith Thurman’s exciting throwdown with a still relevant Robert Guerrero. I’m not going to lie; I was excited about the whole thing. Coupled with the announcement that Mayweather vs Pacquiao was actually going to happen, it looked to me like PBC would be part of an amazing watershed year for boxing.
But now it’s 2016, and boxing seems less relevant now than it was a year ago. Not dead. Not even dying. Just less relevant. People have been burying the sport for years without it even having perished. Indeed, the odds are that better days lie ahead for The Sweet Science. Tides ebb and flow, after all. And that rings as true for boxing as it does for anything else. With that in mind, though, there’s nothing wrong with looking at PBC on the occasion of its one-year birthday with a critical eye. The operative word here, however, is “critical.” People are cynical as it is, and frankly we may have all been a bit cynical when it comes to Haymon’s ambitious baby of a series.
Then again …
Looking back, it’s hard to deny that PBC was off to a strong start. Boxing was not only back on major mainstream television, after all, but truly big fights were back on more or less free TV. Thurman vs Guerrero, Garcia vs Peterson, Khan vs Algieri, Porter vs Broner. This was good stuff. It wasn’t pay-per- view material, but it was certainly close to the next best thing. What’s more, smaller fights were peppered all over cable on various networks under the PBC banner. It was as if boxing was on all the time. And I mean day and night.
Eventually, however, things started to peter out. Truly significant fights became less common. Indeed, after Thurman vs Porter in the early summer, the next major bout came in August with Leo Santa-Cruz vs Abner Mares. And that, with the exception of the lukewarm match-up of Danny Garcia vs Guerrero stands as the last major bout aired by PBC. It took place over six months ago.
Indeed, by the end of 2015, people were whispering that PBC had become a typical Al Haymon endeavour. Haymon, for those who don’t know, is a boxing operator, for lack of a better term, who is known to focus on giving his top fighters big rewards for relatively minimal risk. His defenders argued that all of these PBC cards were steps on the way to truly competitive and compelling match-ups. But after August, it was difficult for Haymon’s defenders to convince the skeptical that PBC was a success. Though fan suspicions were the least of Haymon’s problems as 2015 worked its way into 2016.
For word arrived that the PBC enterprise was hemorrhaging money. Not just any kind of money. Hedge fund money. Hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of hedge fund money. Whether the reports of such losses were true or false was anyone’s guess. What isn’t anyone’s guess at the moment, however, is the fact that PBC is now stuck in the doldrums.
For instance, as notable fight writer Steve Kim has pointed out, the upcoming agenda for the series is incredibly thin. Fans have gone from being bombarded with PBC cards to having very little boxing at all on television for the first part of 2016 (Is it just me or has this winter been dead even by boxing standards?). What’s more, while recent announcements indicate Haymon fighters will be back in action soon, they’ll be on Showtime, not PBC. There is no – I repeat, no – major fight on the PBC agenda.
Oh, there’s some decent fights coming up, like Errol Spence vs Chris Algieri. There’s big names due to appear, too, like Adrien Broner, who will be fighting Ashley Theophane (though why, no one knows). Still, there’s no truly major matches on the horizon. Why is that? While a recent Thurman injury postponed a what promised to be an excellent fight with Shawn Porter, word now is that Thurman vs Porter was not supposed to be an exclusive PBC affair anyway. Nope, Showtime, which is owned by CBS, is to broadcast that particular card. Again, why?
The truth is that there are now more questions than answers when it comes to Haymon’s series. The fact that PBC personnel are not big on answering questions isn’t helping matters either. The bottom line is that, at the moment at least, the series is disappointing fans while the forces behind it are not even bothering to offer an explanation. Not good.
Still, I’m not going to be too quick to write the series off. Why? Because if there’s one thing I know about boxing, it’s that no one knows what’s going to happen next. Ultimately, it’s best to view Haymon’s series for what it is – a work-in-progress that at the moment is disappointing serious boxing fans. It’s also wise to entertain the possibility that rumors of financial troubles may be true – while keeping in mind that all but a select few people really know for sure. But in the end it’s all about the fights and it’s high time Haymon and company start delivering again. — Sean Crose