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HBO’s Jim Lampley weighs in on the possibility of Premier Boxing Champions’ demise

Jim Lampley
Jim Lampley in 2008
(NBC)

Indications that spending by boxing manager Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions has been clamped inspired HBO’s Jim Lampley to address the issue in his closing essay on “The Fight Game.”

Not only has NBC given signals that two planned December PBC cards will be scrapped, an Oct. 15 card at Staples Center that might have included welterweight champion Danny Garcia, former lightweight champion Mikey Garcia and former four-division champion Abner Mares was iced.

And several of the 200 boxers on Haymon’s stable are in need of fight dates that have not been announced on Showtime or anywhere beyond a one-sided, stay-busy assignment for Danny Garcia coming on Spike TV.

Haymon has been strained from HBO for four years, placing only obscure mandatory challenger Dominic Wade on the network in April against unbeaten middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.

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Otherwise, PBC fighters are on cards televised by Showtime, CBS, NBC, Spike TV or ESPN, which just completed its deal with PBC.

Negotiations are in progress between Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler and Haymon to make a fight against Haymon’s World Boxing Assn. co-champion Danny Jacobs Dec. 10 on HBO at Madison Square Garden. 

Here’s what Lampley said on his HBO show:

“Nineteen months ago, the whole boxing community looked forward to the arrival of a powerful new enterprise which promised a chance to restore boxing to broader exposure and greater sports world prominence, more in keeping with its glorious past.

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“More than $500 million in venture capital was stockpiled, to be put to use it in a daring plan to buy prime time on a wide variety of television networks. The series would be called Premier Boxing Champions. The goal was to demonstrate there was an unobserved audience that would erupt to ultimately incentivize those television networks to reverse the equation and pay for the fights. As many as 200 fighters bought in, among them some of the most accomplished young fighters on the planet. Keith Thurman, Adrien Broner, Danny Garcia, Adonis Stevenson and Mikey Garcia were all potential top-10 pound-for-pound guys who had been given main event exposure here on HBO. Deontay Wilder had already won a heavyweight belt. The piece de resistance, [welterweight] Errol Spence, came off the 2012 United States Olympic team.

“Could it really only have been a year and a half? Seems longer, and maybe because despite the extraordinary accumulation of talent and the seeming abundance of money, competitive fights, like Leo Santa Cruz vs. Abner Mares and Keith Thurman vs. Shawn Porter, have been few and far between. For the most part, PBC stars have been given faint-hearted matchups against lackluster opponents, followed by long layoffs, with predictable results in TV ratings and advertising sales. You might have thought Spence’s windfall audience of more than 6 million viewers in the NBC time slot just prior to Rio’s closing ceremony would have given PBC a rejuvenative bounce. But in late September NBC announced that two prime time PBC cards in December were dropped for now, and along with them three shows on NBC Sports Network.

“If PBC disappears, there will be an urge to see that as a devastating loss. In truth, it was predictable. Nearly 40 years of delivery via subscription channels like this one and our primary competitor [Showtime] have accustomed boxing’s audience to seeing a continuous story uninterrupted by commercials. On commercial television, the mini-dramas in the corners between rounds are visible only as tape flashbacks. As live entertainment, it’s not the same thing.

“Boxing’s next shot in the arm will emerge gradually, as the high-profile and highly skilled fighters on the PBC roster begin to achieve free agency and re-integrate into the upper landscape.

“In the best of all possible worlds, someday Thurman and Spence will match up with Terence Crawford, Deontay Wilder will fight Anthony Joshua, and Adonis Stevenson will at long last face Sergey Kovalev. The path to that goal will require the unique brand of ingenuity, bravery and passion that fuels real boxing promoters, people who are capable of doing one of the world’s hardest jobs. As we can now see, there’s a great deal more to it than merely raising and spending $500 million.”


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