Roc Nation Stages First Card at MSG

To much fanfare, Jay Z’s Roc Nation held its first ever boxing card last night. Staged at New York’s Madison Square Garden, it was headlined by Dusty Hernandez-Harrison‘s one-sided and perfunctory win over Tommy Rainone, while on the undercard middleweight Tureano Johnson easily stopped Alex Theron in the fifth round of their middleweight fight.

The event was noteworthy insofar as it was a Roc Nation production, and we paid attention to witness the  show Jay Z would stage. Of course, there were Roc Nation-associated celebrities on hand, like Rihanna, but occasional glimpses of musicians and actors can’t sustain an entire broadcast.  Ultimately, there must be action.

None of the fights were very entertaining, and for me the show’s highlight was watching lip-licking Andre Ward declare in his interview with Michael Woods that he would gladly fight Gennady Golovkin. Also noteworthy was Fabulous’ three-song set before the main event, in which he rapped his way around the ring, which came off awkwardly on television because of the unresponsive crowd.

Hernandez-harrison rainone
Hernandez-Harrison easily beat Rainone in a lackluster main event.

This being its first card, Roc Nation needs to gain experience with televising live boxing shows. This will take time. Small things, like the oppressively long wait before last night’s first bout, don’t make for good TV. There were also some awkward moments on the mic from New York radio personality Angie Martinez, who mumbled asides during her official announcing duties.  One of the most surprising aspects of the production was how subdued Gus Johnson was as Fox’s blow-by-blow man. I will treat this not as an indictment of the show’s lack of action but as evidence of  Gus’ maturity.

It would be unfair to criticize the production too harshly because this was Roc Nation’s first event and it went off fairly well. They will need to learn the pacing required to put on a good boxing show. The incorporation of music is fun but not if it disrupts the flow of fights.

Promoters need stars to succeed in boxing. Yesterday Roc Nation announced the signing of Andre Ward and there are rumours of a Rigondeaux acquisition. Only by signing and showcasing boxing talent, and not microphone prowess, will Roc Nation make its mark.

But in the age of Al Haymon, talent is hard to come by. Adrian Broner recently appeared on a TMZ video in which he said that Jay Z’s offer to him of 5 years and $40 million was “bullshit”. Broner is a man as delusional as he is mouthy. He hasn’t beaten anyone and isn’t entitled to Floyd Mayweather money. I credit Jay Z for aggressively going after young fighters like this, and Broner’s ignorance reconfirms my suspicion that he’s a grandiose halfwit who still hasn’t figured out exactly how boxing works.

Anyway, good luck to Jay Z and Roc Nation. Theirs is a project that will take time to realize its ambitions, but that shouldn’t matter because  it’s a company “with a hustler’s spirit, period”. Boxing is better off for Roc Nation’s involvement.

— Eliott McCormick

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