While the boxing world is on edge over the possibility that Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. will finally be signed, Mayweather's manager-adviser Al Haymon had his own news to break in a press conference in New York. Haymon and NBC Sports have agreed to a deal that will bring live boxing back to primetime network television. Per NBC's official press release:
NBC Sports Group has reached a multi-year agreement to televise the new Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) series, it was announced today.
Beginning with the first show, Saturday, March 7, at 9 p.m. ET on NBC, NBC and NBCSN will present 20 live "PBC on NBC" boxing events in 2015.
- 5 Saturday primetime shows on NBC
- 6 Saturday afternoon shows on NBC
- 9 Saturday primetime shows on NBCSN
The March 7th event, to be held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, will be headlined by interim WBA welterweight (147 lbs) champion Keith Thurman (24-0, 21 KOs) against Robert Guerrero (32-2-1, 18 KOs), who fought Mayweather to a one-sided decision loss back in 2013. In the co-main event, the talkative, controversial, confident, but talented Adrien Broner (29-1, 22 KOs) returns to the ring against John Molina Jr. (27-5, 22 KOs). Broner's best moments have been at super featherweight (130 lbs) and lightweight (135 lbs), but he currently competes at super lightweight (140 lbs)
On April 11th, also on NBC, Danny Garcia (29-0, 17 KOs) takes on Lamont Peterson (33-2-1, 17 KOs) in a venue TBD. Garcia holds the WBA and WBC super lightweight belts, while Peterson is the IBF champion.
All of the fighters on the PBC series will undergo Olympic-style and random drug testing throughout the year, with the Cleveland Clinic providing medical tracking. Fighters will also participate in a brain study led by Nevada-based neurologist Charles Bernick.
According to the New York Times, this is a multi-year agreement which will see Haymon Boxing "pay at last $20 million annually to buy time on NBC and NBCSN to show bouts that will feature Haymon fighters". While Floyd Mayweather is managed by Haymon, he's on an exclusive PPV deal with Showtime, so don't expect him to be on NBC ... ever.
NBC's full on-air talent for their various boxing cards will be announced in the coming weeks, but two big names are already. Legendary sportscaster Al Michaels, who called the memorable Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns thriller 30 years ago, will host the primetime broadcasts, while boxing great "Sugar" Ray Leonard will play the role of lead analyst.
Considering that Haymon is the one making the investment here, it's a low-risk move by NBC that could potentially change the television landscape in boxing down the line. Showtime takes the biggest hit here, as all of the fighters on the first two cards have been regulars on their channel and on some PPVs. The biggest focus is obviously going to be on those night events on NBC, as the daytime NBC shows and anything on NBC SN will likely be akin to Golden Boy's fight cards on Fox Sports 1.
Haymon has been roundly criticized for booking his top-level fighters in gross mismatches, most notably in the case of Danny Garcia's farcical match-up against the unheralded Rod Salka last year, but there's room for cautious optimism as far as these initial fight announcements. That isn't to say the squash matches won't just be shifted towards the lesser shows, but you can't really find room to complain about legitimately high-caliber boxing being on over-the-air television again.
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