When it comes to boxing on Showtime and the Premier Boxing Champions network, we know who’s in charge, right? It’s Uncle Al! The reclusive, camera-shy operator with so many fighters under contract he could form his own personal army to invade small countries is, we are led to believe, the man in charge of what matches happen and don’t happen. And for a while now, it’s been heavy on the “don’t happen” side, as so many elite boxers sit around scratching their butts instead of getting ready for their next fight.
What is going on with PBC and Haymon? The answer depends on who you listen to and what facts you decide to either ignore or emphasize. Looking at things from a certain angle, the future of Uncle Al boxing doesn’t look great. Our own Rafael Garcia broke down some of the numbers and it sure sounded grim: some $450 million dollars gone, not a whole lot to show for it, and at least one impending lawsuit that could bring the whole operation to a grinding halt.
But from the perspective of a boxing fan, the main concern was this: Haymon has all these pugilists under contract, but no one is fighting. And nothing is scheduled. And no one seems to know why.
Thus, there was a lot of fist-pumping and jumping for joy a few days ago when it was announced that Haymon and company were moving forward with several high-profile matches. Finally, Uncle Al was making things happen again! It was enough to make long-suffering fight fans start screaming in the streets, “It’s alive! IT’S ALIVE!”
And while the PBC website says these are PBC fights, and Showtime says these are Showtime fights, in the end I just wanna see some high-level fisticuffs and I’m happy we finally have some good stuff to look forward to. I’m ignoring all the weirdness and all the money that was lost, and letting my man Rafael worry about that. Sure, it pisses me off that Shawn Porter and a bunch of other guys are only fighting once a year, but right now, I’m a glass half-full man.
So let’s break it down:
December 10: Jesus Cuellar (28-1) defends his 126-pound title against former three-division champion Abner Mares (29-2-1) and Jermall Charlo (24-0) faces unbeaten contender Julian Williams (22-0-1). These are two very good matches, pick ’em fights really, though I like Cuellar and Charlo to win and establish themselves as truly elite players in their divisions. Between these two fights, Cuellar vs Mares is the one that has the potential to be a genuine thriller. Mares will be in the ring for the first time since August of last year so I expect the hard-hitting “El Jinete” to try and ambush the former champion and see if he can get him out of there early, which, as we know from Abner’s first round KO loss to Jhonny Gonzalez, is a possibility. Could be a great brawl.
January 14: It’s a title-unification battle between super middleweights James DeGale (23-1) and Badou Jack (20-1-2) and, on paper at least, a terrific match. But I can easily see this being a stinker; both fighters tend to be negative, reacting instead of looking to impose their will. Not much separates these two, and their respective battles with Lucian Bute didn’t highlight any particular flaws. That said, I like Badou Jack in this one. He’s a bit smarter, more confident, technically a little sharper. DeGale didn’t look so hot against Rogelio Medina. Jack by decision.
January 28: A rematch between Carl Frampton (23-0) and Leo Santa Cruz (32-1-1), and as their first fight was highly competitive and entertaining, we’re all happy to see them do battle again. And what makes this rematch extra interesting is that the winner could end up facing the winner of Cuellar vs Mares. I like Frampton again, and I think it will be by a wider margin, unless Cruz can find a way to put some serious hurt on “The Jackal.” On the undercard, it’s Dejan Zlaticanin (22-0) vs Mikey Garcia (35-0) for Dejan’s WBC lightweight title. I’m a believer when it comes to Garcia and I suspect we have yet to see the best of him. Garcia by decision or late round stoppage.
February 11: Adrien “The Problem” Broner (32-2) vs Adrian Granados (18-4-2). Most are going to look at this match and think Broner should win no problem (pun intended). Let me be the first to say they are dead wrong. Granados is young, hungry and relentless and I see him taking the fight to Broner and out-working him. Granados by one-sided decision.
March 4: Count me as one of those who’s a bit disappointed we’re not getting Thurman vs Porter II, but Keith Thurman (27-0) vs Danny Garcia (32-0) is not exactly chopped liver, though I honestly find it difficult to imagine a scenario where Garcia wins. Thurman is sharper, smarter, not to mention naturally bigger. But, hey, this fight might never happen, because Garcia has to take care of Sammy Vargas (25-2-1) on November 12 first. Yeah, Vargas is a long shot, but Garcia is looking past him and we all know how dangerous that can be.
This is a decent roster of matches and when one considers we have Kovalev vs Ward, Walters vs Lomachenko, and Pacquiao vs Vargas all happening very soon, things are shaping up not too badly for serious fights fans. There’s been a lot of hand-wringing about both the lack of action and so many elite fighters not staying active, and rightfully so, but at least things are moving in the right direction. Bottom line: Uncle Al boxing, PBC, and/or Showtime — whatever you wanna call it — it’s still alive and hopefully these new matches are just the start. — Robert Portis