There has been a lot of speculation in recent times pertaining to the demise of Premier Boxing Champions, a television series created to try to bring boxing back to the masses – started by American Alan Haymon in 2015. I wanted to get to the root core of what is really going on and this week after speaking exclusively to a high up PBC spokesman who works directly in the organisation, I did.
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there at the moment on the television series since it started last year. Some true, some not true at all I found out.
Speaking to a member of the Premier Boxing Champions organisation in the US this week, he put the record straight for me on a number of things – in a candid and revealing interview.
As our cross-Atlantic conversation began, it started off with quite a hearty laugh and chuckle between the both of us, when I asked was it true that there were no more PBC events for the rest of 2016 following a mid-week telecast this week:
“Haha. Yeah we’re out of business! Why are you calling me? We’re done, we’ve got nothing else – we’re finished! Jeez. It must be true, it’s on the internet!”
He told me that it is not true there will be no more PBC telecasts for the remainder of 2016:
“This is what I’ll tell you. As far as I know, in November we have two fights with Spike TV and we have some other network’s fights that month and then in December we are looking at some fights that we are looking at either doing – or moving them back to January on other networks.”
Interestingly, he then put me on the spot with a question in terms of start-up businesses, that made me think about the PBC in terms of what direction they are looking to go in now:
“You run a business right? Well let me ask you something about running your business. If you tried something last year and it didn’t exactly work out the way you thought it would, are you going to do the same thing this year as you did last year? Or, are you going to look at it and say, well, that didn’t really work out the way we thought it was going to work out, let’s try something different.”
He got me thinking and made a good point that I could relate to, granted on a much lower level but nonetheless, there’s no denying that when you’re trying to get anything off the ground from scratch from day one, no matter how big or small, teething issues will always happen early on and adjusting your sails and tweaking your plans simply come part and parcel with any form or entrepreneurship.
Unfortunately there is no manual or instructions.
The PBC official was also very keen to get across that boxing like all sports now exist in a very different time in 2016 compared to the past:
“Boxing used to be available on network television. It was never seasonal – it wasn’t like football, it wasn’t like the NBA, it wasn’t like major league baseball. It didn’t have a season so you ran it any time of the year. Now, which is what people that write solely about boxing don’t understand is, there are other sports that are out there. There are other sports that get viewership.”
The PBC spokesman then went onto dispel a few myths that are out there, one of which being they are running out of money but also touching on testing different platforms to see which work best for Premier Boxing Champions:
“People have choices about what they watch. PBC is a television series. You want it to get as many viewers as possible because what we’re trying to do is expand the sport. We are trying to bring interest in the sport to more than just boxing fans. In order to do that, you’ve got to put it on multiple networks so that people can see it. We did that and do that with our network partners. Now in the future, if we shrink the number of networks what is that going to mean? Is that going to mean – oh they are running out of money? No. At some point you determine that this platform works best on a certain number of networks to grow the audience and sport.”
“You’ve gotta continue to expand the viewership base. You’ve gotta try to grow the sport. You’ve got to continue to try to get people back interested in watching boxing on network television and making it a sport that’s available to the masses.”
This view of looking at the big picture was a theme prevalent throughout our dialogue.
Indeed, he struck me as a man very much focused and genuinely passionate on the long-term future of the sport of boxing:
“I think a lot of the time people who write about boxing are sort of boxed in and they don’t look at the big picture. They don’t look at the universe that’s out there. It’s a big universe out there. What the sport needs is for their stars to be presented to the maximum number of people possible. You don’t need to shrink the sport any more, you need to expand the sport. However you can expand the sport – you need to do it.”
As our chat continued, I pointed out how I believed there is a balance to be struck between building the star of an individual fighter’s brand with interesting story telling, as well as a focus on putting that fighter in the most competitive fights as possible to also build his name, essentially promoting the actual fights themselves and promoting the fighter’s star and name attraction in equal measure.
He brought up an interesting point then to me, on how renowned fighter Floyd Mayweather once created significant cross over appeal a few years back outside of HBO’s 24/7 series prior to his bout with Oscar De La Hoya:
“You have to remember that Floyd Mayweather went on ‘Dancing With The Stars’ which was a series that averaged close to 20 million viewers every time it was on the air. So however long his run was on the show, I think it was 6 or 7 weeks, for 7 weeks they told his story and 20 million people saw it. They learned that he’s going to be fighting somebody. Guess what? A lot of those people are going to go, okay I saw this guy on ‘Dancing With The Stars’, I saw this guy on the WWE (wrestling organisation). I might want to tune in and watch who he’s fighting. Now he has cross-over appeal.”
Speaking on criticisms levelled at PBC for matchmaking and quality of fights, he said:
“We have over 50 shows a year. People are always like, oh they are mismatches, they are horrible fights. No they are not. They are evenly matched fights with guys of equal skill level and you have various levels of guys that are on different networks. You have guys that are prospects that fight on certain networks, you have guys that are contenders that fight on certain networks and you have guys that are champions that fight on certain networks. So the guys are working to get to the championship level.”
I was also very keen to get his opinion on the whole idea that was out there in the beginning, that the PBC wanted to create on world champion per weight division in boxing, which I thought might lead to a conflict of interest down the line with the world boxing sanctioning bodies.
He told me this wasn’t true at all:
“I think you just have to work inside the parameters of what the sanctioning organisations do and we work well with the sanctioning organisations. The PBC is a television series. We’re not trying to take any bread out of anybody’s mouth or food off the table. You work within the parameters of what you have and I don’t think the sanctioning organisations will ever stand in the way of making a fight that is going to be for the better of the sport. I think there’s always a way to negotiate to get a fight that the fans want to see. They (the governing bodies) realise that their very existence is owed to the appeal of the sport, so why would they work in detriment for something that’s going to be for the better of the sport?”
As our chat wrapped up that went on for nearly an hour, I was now more than clear on what is actually going on at Premier Boxing Champions from a factual perspective.
Don’t believe everything you hear. PBC are here to stay for quite some time yet in my view.
In conclusion, I believe it is important to consider the amount of programming PBC has been putting on for boxing fans since starting around 18 months ago, close to 90 TV events.
When compared to the other broadcasters who have been putting on boxing content in the US, they stack up well, considering the significantly larger amount of shows they’ve had.
If you’re putting on a show close to once a week or every two weeks, not all of them are going to be Hagler vs Hearns.
Two fights this year in particular that appeared on PBC however, Frampton vs Santa Cruz and Thurman vs Porter, are legitimate fight of the year contenders.
Boxing being shown more on network television and to more people in general can only be a positive thing, in my humble opinion.
Photo credit: Ramiro Cairo for ESPN
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