3 More Rounds

Boxing ready to take center stage on NBC

Photos: Naoki Fukuda

Photos: Naoki Fukuda

Saturday night is going to be a game-changer for boxing. Whether you’re veged out on the couch at home, or out at any sports bar, you will have the opportunity to enjoy world championship boxing on free network television. This is a big deal.

Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) series will be unveiled on NBC at 8:30pm ET/5:30pm PT. The main event will feature welterweight titlist Keith “One Time” Thurman, 24-0-0-1, 21 KOs versus former Floyd Mayweather victim, Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero, 32-2-1-2, 18 KOs. The card, live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, is the first in an ambitious venture by manager/Svengali, Al Haymon, which entails substantial time-buys, across multiple networks, totaling tens of millions of dollars. The time-buys involve Haymon and his investors paying the networks for the privilege of showcasing the vast stable of fighters he has under contract. To kick this project off, NBC is airing primetime championship boxing for the first time since 1985, when heavyweight champion, Larry Holmes, defended his strap and won a unanimous decision against Carl “The Truth” Williams. Keith Thurman, 26, out of Clearwater, Florida wasn’t even born at the time.

Guerrero-Thurman

The loquacious Thurman appreciates the opportunity to take boxing back into the mainstream. He recently told ESPN:

“It’s just a dream come true. I’ve been working hard for 19 years and it has always been my dream to be at the top of the world of boxing. And we’re here. To be kicking off NBC, I could just see my original trainer Ben Getty and it just reminds me of the words that he once said: “All you need to do is get with the major network and keep knocking them out, boy, and you’ll become a household name.” And with NBC jumping back into the world of boxing, that dream can become a reality real soon.”’

Thurman is coming off of a dominant unanimous decision victory over Italy’s Leonard Bundo this past December. “One Time” has gathered a solid resume, with most opponents succumbing to his powerful blows inside the distance, but Guerrero is clearly Thurman’s best opponent to date.

Guerrero, 31, out of Gilroy, California, began his career as a featherweight, where he eventually became a world champion in 2006. A career previously marked by inconsistency and injuries started to really take off in 2009, when Guerrero began a seemingly improbable winning streak and rise in the weight classes, that climaxed in a lottery ticket against welterweight champion, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in 2013. Guerrero took his beating in a professional manner and managed to win 3 rounds, according to all three judges.

The Ghost then vanished. He took over a year off to enjoy his earnings and resolve a promotional dispute, before returning in an exciting slugfest victory over unheralded Yoshihiro Kamegai, in June of last year. Now at the tail end of his prime, Guerrero wants boxing fans to know that he still has a lot to offer the sport. As he told ESPN:

“I’m extremely motivated to be the first fighter to bring boxing back to NBC on primetime…I want to show the world I’m an elite fighter and what better way to do it then against an undefeated world champion.”

Guerrero has been the stereotypical, face-first, Mexican slugger in recent fights. Though he did show more ability as a technical boxer-puncher in his younger days at a lower weight, those skills appear to be long discarded. On Saturday night, expect Guerrero to use his superior experience and unquestioned toughness to take it to Thurman hard and test his fortitude, by being in his chest and grill all night long. Guerrero would do well to cut off the ring, and not give Thurman any breathing room. Expect him to attempt to break Thurman’s will.

Thurman’s nickname, “One Time”, is based on his one-punch power, which can end the fight with just one punch. Thurman also has superb conditioning and offensive boxing technique, with the ability to carry his power late into the fight; as he showed in stopping true tough guys, Diego Chavez (KO 10) and Jesus Soto Karass (TKO 9), both in 2013.

Thurman is a very good athlete. He’s also very hittable and lacking in consistent defensive technique. Expect Thurman to get on his wheels to box his way from distance, if he’s unable to score an early knockout while appreciating Guerrero’s power and durability. The politics of boxing virtually dictate that Guerrero will need to score a knockout in order to beat the younger, charismatic, more marketable, champion. And that knockout is entirely feasible. This is an even pick-em fight, and an excellent main event matchup.

Broner-Molina

The co-feature which kicks off the telecast will showcase former 3-division champion, Adrian “The Problem” Broner 29-1, 22 KOs, against fearless 32 year old fringe contender, “The Gladiator” John Molina, Jr., 27-5, 22 KOs. Broner, 25, is still on the rebuild program, after his meteoric rise was ended with a crushing unanimous decision loss to Marcos Maidana, for Broner’s welterweight title in 2013. After that fight, Broner dropped down to 140, and has scored two consecutive unanimous decision victories over Carlos Molina and Emmanuel Taylor. Broner is hoping that a victory over Molina will lead to a title shot against a champion in one of boxing’s two deepest divisions: 140-147.

Molina, Jr. is expected to come in and fight hard, bleed a lot, and lose. However, “The Gladiator” has turned the tables on expectations in the past. In July of 2013, Molina, Jr. scored a very dramatic come from behind victory over the favored Mickey Bey, via a TKO in the 10th round. Last year, he was kayoed by the dangerous and highly ranked Lucas Matthysee, in the 11th round of a fight that many considered to be the best fight of the year. However, in his most recent fight, John lost a unanimous decision to what little is left of 34 year veteran, Humberto Soto.

Still, Molina Jr.—a perfect “action fighter” combination of good power and shaky chin– will test Broner’s toughness by throwing hard punches and coming to win. Broner has a good chin, and far superior technique, however. His bootleg Mayweather shoulder-roll defense and quick hands should carry him to a TKO victory over a bloody Molina Jr., sometime in the second half of the fight.

NBC has put together an all-star broadcast team for this important night. Al Michaels will be the host of the broadcast, with Marv Albert calling play-by-play and Sugar Ray Leonard as the lead color analyst. B.J. Flores and women’s boxing legend, Laila Ali, will also be involved with the show, offering their expertise and analysis throughout the evening. This is gonna be a fun night.

Leave a Reply