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Report Card: Premier Boxing Champions debut

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Boxing finally made its long overdue return to primetime network TV on Saturday night as Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions made its debut on NBC.

There was a lot to be excited about, mainly due to seeing boxing on a new platform, and we had also gotten glimpses of the setup that fans would get to see at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  When the final fight of the evening was all set and done, there were many positives, but still a few things that could be worked on moving forward. In this inaugural edition of ‘Report Card,’ we examine PBC on NBC and give our final grade.

First let’s talk about the positives.  The overall presentation of the event was pretty impressive – in particular the overhead LED display, the entrance ramp and the video packages that were used throughout the night, were excellent.  That ramp gave the entrance a WWE-style feel, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing since it put the emphasis on the fighters, without their entourages and it gets the casual fans to better identify with them. I also liked the introduction of the fighters before they made their way out, and also the huge LED screen behind the ramp, which displayed the fighters’ names and their images even during the fight, so anyone, regardless of boxing knowledge, could see who they were.

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I could also appreciate the disregard for one of the alphabet titles that Keith Thurman was defending, as the broadcast barely mentioned it and wasn’t even shown off after the fight was over.  It’s not just that the belt Thurman came with isn’t really legit, since Floyd Mayweather holds the real one, but deemphasizing the titles at a time when there are just too many, is a good thing. If a fighter is a lineal champion or an undisputed champion fine, otherwise, there’s no need to confuse fans with interim and ‘super’ titles.

As for the broadcast team, it was a mixed bag, but I thoroughly enjoyed Sugar Ray Leonard’s commentating and his obvious enjoyment of the fights.  BJ Flores also did a good job and Al Michaels and Marv Albert have those ‘big event’ voices.  Finally the main event between Keith Thurman and Robert Guerrero was a good one, particularly the 10th round that is an early Round of the Year candidate.

Now onto the bad. The ring announcing did nothing for me as the gentleman’s voice sounds more like something you’d hear at a club fight rather than primetime.  Also Marv Albert needed quite a bit of help from Leonard in explaining things going on in the fight and the fighters’ styles. He showed some excitement during both bouts, but he seemed lost a few times as well. I also felt that overall, there were just too many people involved with commentating, with Leonard, Albert, Ali, Flores discussing the fight, while the guys like Kenny Rice, Al Michaels and even referee Steve Smoger getting time to speak. Then there was the dud fight between Adrien Broner and John Molina Jr. that surely did nothing to keep fans tuned in.

Overall though, the debut of Premier Boxing Champions was still exciting as a whole and it certainly shows promise. The production value was there and the main event was great, but I’d like to see some tweaks done to the on-camera talent and they need a better ring announcer. PBC still has debuts coming up on both Spike TV and CBS, which will be interesting to see with different networks behind them and the 3.13 million viewers that tuned in to NBC, according to Nielsen, was a decent sign.

Final Grade: C+

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