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The boxing report, plus coverage of last night's ESPN debut, Keith Thurman vs. Luis Collazo

By Jeremy Wall

PBC debuted on ESPN on Saturday night, July 11th, headlined by Keith Thurman (26-0-0, 22KO) stopping Luis Collazo (36-7, 19KO) in the eighth round as the USF Sun Dome in Tampa to retain the WBA Welterweight title. PBC on ESPN replaced Friday Night Fights, which had been a staple of boxing programming and aired on ESPN2 going back many years.

Collazo, 34, was clearly brought in as a showcase opponent for Thurman, 26, who headlined the debut PBC card on NBC back in March by beating Robert Guerrero. Thurman is thought to have major star potential in the boxing world and might be the heir apparent to the long-term pound-for-pound crown when Floyd Mayweather retires.

Thurman opened a cut over Collazo's right eye in the seventh round and the fight was stopped due to the cut right after the opening of the eighth. Thurman had a bit of a scare in the fifth round when Collazo rocked him with a left to the body, but he won the earlier rounds and was able to come back in the later rounds to open that cut on Collazo and finish the fight.

Thurman landed 119 of 348 thrown for 34-percent compared to Collazo's 76 of 244 thrown for 31-percent. When the fight was stopped Thurman led on all three scorecards with 69-64, 69-64 and 68-65. Thurman, however, didn't look that great against a fighter who had little chance of winning. Thurman may not have put the effort into preparing for this fight like he clearly did when he fought Robert Guerrero in March.

Attendance was 4,136. Thurman was the hometown favourite, living in nearby Clearwater.

Thurman called out Floyd Mayweather after the fight. "I'm a young, strong champion, Floyd. Come get it. I'm undefeated like you, baby."

If not for boxing's byzantine politics, Thurman might be the best opponent for Mayweather's next fight on September 12th. It could still happen. Thurman would have a reasonable chance of defeating Mayweather, although Mayweather would probably still be the favourite in that fight.

That Thurman has a shot of beating Mayweather may be why they don't ever fight, as Mayweather has one fight left on his Showtime deal and is talking retirement afterwards. Floyd is not about to risk his undefeated record at this stage of the game to create a new star, even though that would be better for PBC's long-term business. And even if Floyd fights again next year or the year after, a rematch with Pacquiao is the obvious bout, not a fight against Thurman.

The odd thing about Floyd not facing Thurman is that Thurman is under contract to Al Haymon, PBC's tsar who also controls Mayweather. So, there is nothing in the way from a promotional aspect that would block that fight. It's not as if Thurman fights for Top Rank and Floyd for PBC, or whatever. But Floyd is clearly at the stage of his career where he does what he wants and I doubt he wants to risk his perfect record against someone who is being touted as the next Floyd.

The other odd thing about the upcoming Floyd fight is that it is now only two months away and there has been no opponent announced. This makes no sense to me. The whole point of PBC is to use time buys on free network television to either convert the time buys into shows that the network pays for, or to hype pay per views. Haymon hasn't done a pay per view since the PBC began other than the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, which shattered all pay per view records. The amount of boxing on network TV that hyped that show most likely contributed to how successful that pay per view was. Thus, it seems like PBC programming is a good vehicle to build hype to promote pay per views.

Yet, the only other pay per view announced by PBC is Floyd's next fight in September. Right now, PBC is in the process of creating new stars and they don't really have anyone other than Floyd that they can put on pay per view yet. So, PBC ought to have had Floyd's opponent announced by now so they can use their network programming to hype the pay per view and score the biggest buy rate possible. But they haven't done that. I thought they might make the announcement on ESPN, but they didn't.

Of course, the buy rate for Floyd's fight in September will depend on the hype during the last week of the build, so maybe PBC is aware of this and they're not terribly concerned about getting Floyd's opponent announced two months out. Even if that is true, Floyd has been talking about facing fighters like Andre Berto or Karim Mayfield. Berto is an okay fighter who appeared on Spike TV for PBC a few months ago. Mayfield is nobody. The feeling in boxing is that Mayweather is pulling the media's leg with those names, but who knows until his opponent is actually announced.

The thing is, the obvious opponents for Mayweather are either Thurman, Amir Khan, or Shawn Porter. Khan recently beat Chris Algieri on Spike and Porter beat Adrien Broner on NBC, both fights that drew weaker ratings than one would have expected going in. But even with the disappointing ratings, these feel like the obvious names for Mayweather. Khan has been a rumoured opponent for Mayweather for years now. Thurman and Porter have both been in a couple high profile fights for PBC now.

Thurman feels like the most obvious opponent. He feels like the new Mayweather, of sorts. Khan isn't a bad choice, but both Thurman and Porter have fought on NBC in front of far more people than the audience that watched Khan beat Algieri on Spike. Porter is a super babyface and although lacking in charisma, is likeable and would put on a good fight. Mayweather is boxing’s biggest heel and even if Porter fought Mayweather lost, it would be a boost for him because he would be positioned in the babyface role of the up-and-comer out to challenge the heel champion. I think Mayweather would be favoured to beat all three, but of those three names the one with the best chance against Floyd would probably be Thurman.

Thurman and Porter may end up facing one another on the undercard of Floyd's pay per view fight in September. Thurman took the Collazo fight on the advice of Haymon, who probably wanted Thurman in a showcase fight for PBC's debut on ESPN. But Thurman has already talked about facing Porter if he doesn't get Mayweather.

Another possible opponent for Thurman is Errol Spence Jr, who is touted as the best prospect in boxing.

The WBO recently stripped Mayweather of the WBO Welterweight title that he won from Pacquiao in May. The WBO doesn't allow fighters to hold titles in multiple weight divisions. Actually, the other alphabet organizations don't allow that either, but they've made an exception for Mayweather. The WBO, which is known to be more closely affiliated with Top Rank boxing which is one of the major competitors for Floyd and the PBC, decided to disallow it and took the title away. Timothy Bradley won the interim WBO title a couple of weeks ago on HBO and will probably just be elevated to regular champion.

Mayweather issued a strange Instagram post earlier this week apologizing for the behaviour of someone close to him. The problem is that no one knows what he's talking about.

PBC's debut on ESPN also foolishly went up against the UFC pay per view headlined by Conor McGregor, which was one of the most important and best UFC shows in company history. It also went up against boxing on HBO Latino. There has been major boxing every weekend for most of this year, although last weekend was an off week due to the holiday. But why PBC decided to debut on ESPN, which is one of the last major tent pole shows before the Floyd Mayweather pay per view in September, on the same night as the most-hyped UFC show in history is bizarre.

Maybe it's hubris from people in boxing and the people at ESPN that they could put a dent in the UFC's hype train for Saturday night. Maybe it was just bad planning. Or maybe the people in boxing believe that UFC and boxing draws from different demographics and both can draw well going head-to-head. I think that's actually the case if a major boxing match went against a typical UFC show. But UFC's pay per view on Saturday night was anything but typical, being the first show in the post-Reebok, Conor McGregor-era that could historically be seen as one of the most influential events in UFC history.

If I was running PBC, I would have selected a different Saturday night for my company's debut on ESPN.

PBC's been making a lot of mistakes after their successful debuts on NBC, Spike, and CBS a few months ago. The combination of these mistakes with ratings sinking lower than what the company would clearly like to see and issues with investors pulling money out of the hedge fund that is financing the promotion, as well as matchmaking that has been mixed at best, the promotion feels like it has lost a lot of steam compared to its first few weeks of operation back in March.

It's interesting the effect PBC is having on combat sports, though. UFC and HBO actually feel like the primary beneficiaries of PBC's insurgency in boxing, as strange as that sounds. UFC has upgraded their production, at least for Saturday's pay per view. The UFC prelims looked about the same as they ever did, but the pay per view had a significantly enhanced production with great entrances for both McGregor and Chad Mendes in the main event and Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald in the co-main (the co-main being one of the best fights I've ever seen). This looks like a response to the increased production values of PBC and Bellator. Even if PBC turns out to be a bust, they've changed the industry in a way that has upped the ante at least in terms of production, maybe somewhat similar to what WCW did for pro wrestling with Monday Nitro nearly twenty years ago, forcing WWF to follow suit and making it harder for new companies to get into pro wrestling if they didn't have the budget to create a production that was as glossy as the top two.

UFC had looked like a laggard all year in terms of their production, especially after Bellator debuted their first tent pole show in November with the Tito Ortiz-Stephan Bonnar fight and then PBC debuted to a lot of hoopla in March with their supposed Olympic quality production on NBC. But Saturday night's UFC show felt like the beginning of an exciting, new era as the UFC responds correctly to the value props made by their competitors. It's now HBO that feels like the laggard in terms of production for their World Championship Boxing events, which have looked pretty much the same for many years now, although it should be noted that HBO has had much better fights on television than anything PBC has offered this year, so the in-ring product presented by HBO is still far superior to PBC even if PBC is spending more on production.

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The co-main on ESPN featured Willie Nelson (yes, that's the name he goes by) (21-1, 18KO) knocking out Tony Harrison (23-2-1, 13KO) at 2:57 of the ninth round at super welterweight.

It was a major upset, as Harrison is a 24-year-old prospect and a protégé of the late Emanuel Steward who went into the fight with an undefeated record. Nelson, 28, was brought in as a showcase for Harrison for PBC's ESPN debut.

It was also a dull fight until Nelson scored the knockout punch with a right hand in the ninth. Harrison landed 143 of 422 for 34-percent and Nelson landed 105 of 338 for 31-precent.

Scorecards at the time of the knockout were 85-85, 87-83, and 86-84, the latter two in favour of Harrison.

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On HBO Latino, Mauricio Herrera (22-5, 7KO) beat Hank Lundy (25-5, 12KO) by majority technical decision at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. The fight only went five rounds because Herrera suffered bad cuts in the first and fifth rounds and they went to the scorecards after round five. Herrera won with scores of 48-47, 48-47 and 48-48. The fight took place for the vacant NABF Light-Welterweight title and went up against both the UFC pay per view and PBC on ESPN.

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Lots of major Canadian events are upcoming in boxing. Lucian Bute (31-2, 24KO) returns for a fight on August 15th for a PBC card that will air on NBC Sportsnet. Bute will be facing an opponent TBA at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Bute is a major drawing card locally. I'm going to try and go to that fight live, mainly because it will probably be on pay per view in Quebec, where I live, and it's cheaper to just go to the Bell Centre. Bute hasn't fought since January 2014 when he lost to Jean Pascal, as Bute has been laid up with an injured back.

In Toronto, Light-Heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson will headline a PBC on Spike card on September 11th. Opponent is TBA. They don't have a venue yet. This doesn't sound like much, but it is actually a big deal because Toronto never, ever, ever gets good boxing matches, ever. Adonis might be the biggest boxing star to come to Toronto since time out of mind.

The card is being promoted by Yvon Michel, who is the major Montreal promoter and also works with PBC. This means they are expanding and looking to open new markets. I don't know if this is a big enough deal to run Air Canada Centre. Probably not, since they won't really have a big enough name for Adonis to draw. But no matter what arena they end up running, it's a big deal for boxing in Canada. Boxing's popularity in Canada is roughly non-existent outside of the boxing hotbed of Quebec.

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A few weeks ago in this column I discussed the idea that many stars of boxing's past will come out of retirement to try and capitalize on the re-emergence of the sport in the American mainstream. De La Hoya had talked about coming out of retirement to face Gennady Golovkin (which looks like it won't happen, and was probably just a comment made without thinking by De La Hoya to TMZ). Antonio Tarver wasn't retired, but hasn't been on a major televised fight in years, but will be fighting on Spike in August.

Now, Shane Mosley is coming back. Mosley, 43, will be facing Ricardo Mayorga, 41, on August 29th on pay per view in California, with the venue TBA. The show is being promoted by Mosley Promotions, which I believe also does indie MMA. Mayorga has competed in MMA, going 0-3 with 1NC. The no-contest was in Nicaragua and originally a win by Mayorga against an opponent twenty pounds lighter that was changed to a no-contest due to an illegal knee to the spine by Mayorga.

The two fought in Carson City in 2008. Mosley knocked Mayorga out at 2:59 of the twelfth round.

Running on pay per view is probably a mistake, although if they can keep expenses down they might be able to turn a profit. That Mosley owns the promotion he is fighting for at least means his talent costs won't be too high. But Mosley's name value is probably worth something in the current boxing promotional war, particularly for mainstream fans that watch PBC on network TV and would know Mosley, if only by name. If I were PBC I would be interested in using Mosley for fights on network TV, much like they are using Tarver on Spike. If Tarver wins, he could be a big name showcase opponent for Deontay Wilder at heavyweight next year.

Mosley wanted the fight at the Staples Center, but Al Haymon pulled some tricks and reserved the arena so that Mosley couldn't use it.

Haymon is running the third PBC on ESPN card at Staples Center that night headlined by a featherweight bout between Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares.

Boxing Insider had a story a few weeks ago with a quotation from CSAC Commissioner John Frierson that Al Haymon was venue squatting in order to prevent competition from getting access to prime venues in California.

"He was holding up the dates at the Forum and the Staples Centre," said Frierson. "We took that away."

Frierson later retracted that statement and CSAC Chairman John Carvelli denied there was any commission investigation into Al Haymon or PBC.

Haymon has been holding dates on prime venues in California and other locations in the US to prevent his competition from getting dates, and then canceling those dates when the competition has already relocated elsewhere. Top Rank has filed suit against Haymon alleging this same conduct.

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Speaking of the heavyweights, Wladimir Klitschko will defend his heavyweight titles against 6'9" Tyson Furey (24-0, 18KO) on October 24th in Dusseldorf. The fight was close to going to a purse bid, but Furey's promoter Hennessy Sports signed an agreement with Klitschko's promoter K2 Promotions for the bout to take place in Germany, which is Klitschko's home base in terms of his drawing power. If the fight had gone to purse bid, it might have by won by a British promotion and taken plain in Britain, where Furey, 26, is from.

Furey is a rising star at heavyweight in Britain, but doesn't have much of a name in the US. The fight will air on HBO. They don't have a venue announced, but it will likely be at a soccer stadium.

Elsewhere, Deontay Wilder is booked to fight on September 26th on NBC. He has fought twice this year on Showtime, but Wilder has the most potential as a box office draw for PBC among any fighter Haymon has under contract. It was necessary to get him on network television.

Wilder is the WBC Heavyweight champion and has a mandatory title defense upcoming against Alexander Povetkin. But the September 26th fight will not be against Povetkin, as PBC is taking the opportunity to put Wilder on network television against a showcase fighter in order for Wilder to make a name for himself among mainstream audiences. Wilder won the WBC title from Bermaine Stiverne in a great fight in January and then defended it against showcase opponent Eric Molina in June in a fight where Wilder looked disappointing, but came away with the win.

The rumoured opponent for Wilder is Chris Arreola (36-4, 31KO), a former heavyweight title challenger under contract to PBC that is well past his prime. Arreola faces Freddy Kassi (18-3, 10KO) in the co-main on PBC on CBS card on July 18th in El Paso. Arreola will need to win that fight before facing Wilder. The CBS card on July 18th is being used to promote a Julio Cesar Chavez Jr fight on Showtime later that night. CBS and Showtime are owned by the same company.

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Miguel Cotto looks to face Canelo Alvarez on pay per view on November 21st. They don't have a venue announced, but it will be in Las Vegas at either the MGM Grand or the Thomas & Mack Center. The fight is taking place at a catchweight of 155-pounds, which is five pounds less than the 160-pound limit for middleweight.

It will be the third biggest boxing pay per view this year, behind Mayweather-Pacquiao and Mayweather's fight in September. If promoted correctly, Cotto-Canelo could actually do a surprising buy rate. They don't have a retail price announced yet for the pay per view. It would be co-promoted by Golden Boy and Roc Nation.

The winner will probably have to face Gennady Golovkin. No one wants to fight Golovkin. Golovkin has offered a 50-50 split on revenue with Andre Ward and is willing to come down and face Ward, who returned to boxing this year with a pathetic fight on BET for Jay-Z's lame Roc Nation promotion. Ward doesn't seem to be biting. Cotto and Canelo have also been accused of dodging a fight with Golovkin, who is a powerhouse at middleweight, but doesn't necessarily bring the box office power to make fighting him worthwhile.

Bernard Hopkins isn't impressed. He has challenged Golovkin to fight him at light-heavyweight. The weight increase would be tougher for Golovkin, although he is a huge middleweight. But a win over Hopkins might be what Golovkin needs in order to boost his box office potential and force a fight with one of the stars at middleweight.

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For upcoming fights, Showtime has a smaller show on July 17th from Bethlehem, PA. The next day CBS has a PBC card on Saturday afternoon leading into the Showtime card that night.

July 25th Sergey Kovalev defends his Light-Heavyweight belt against Nadjib Mohammedi in Las Vegas on HBO. It goes up against a PBC show on NBC Sportsnet with Beibut Shumenov vs. B.J. Flores.

PBC returns to ESPN on August 1st with Danny Garcia vs. Paulie Malignaggi and Daniel Jacobs vs. Sergio Mora. They debut on Bounce TV on August 2nd with Juan Carlos Payano vs. Rau'shee Warren for Payano's Bantamweight belt.

August 7th Showtime has a card from Atlantic City and August 8th HBO Latino has a card from Indio, CA.

August 14th Showtime has another card that strangely goes up against PBC on Spike TV. The start times must be different, although both would figure to air in prime time. That’s an odd one since Showtime and Spike are owned by the same group of people. The Spike show has Antonio Tarver vs. Steve Cunningham and Marco Huck vs. Krzysztof Glowacki for Huck's Cruiserweight title.

August 15th Lucian Bute fights in Montreal against TBA for PBC on NBC Sportsnet. PBC is running more shows on NBC Sportsnet over the summer than on NBC, which might not be a good sign, although maybe they are laying off a bit for the summer.

August 22nd Badou Jack defends his Middleweight belt against George Groves in Las Vegas on Showtime. This is a Haymon card, even though the Haymon cards on Showtime are not branded as PBC for whatever reason. I think Showtime likes to do their own thing.

August 28th Showtime has another smaller ShoBox card.

August 29th PBC is on ESPN in LA with Leo Santa Cruz vs. Abner Mares at featherweight, which runs against the Shane Mosley fight against Ricardo Mayorga on pay per view elsewhere in California. Oddly, Roy Jones Jr also fights a club fighter in Philipsburg, Saint Maarten, that night. Jones fights bums all over the world now, but it's just odd seeing Jones and Mosley both fighting on the same night on different shows. That would have been a deal in another era.

September 6th PBC on CBS with Peter Quillin facing an opponent TBA at middleweight.

September 11th Adonis Stevenson debuts in Toronto for PBC on Spike, which goes up against Top Rank boxing on truTV. The Spike show will obviously be used to hype the Floyd fight the next night.

September 12th Floyd fights on pay per view. PBC has a show scheduled on NBC for the same day, which is clearly going to be an afternoon show to hype the Floyd fight that night. Smart. Probably would have been better to be on NBC in prime time the week before, though.

September 26th PBC on NBC with Deontay Wilder defending his heavyweight title. I'm assuming this is a prime time show and will be the first time PBC is on NBC in prime time in months.

And that takes us to the end of September, more or less.

Jeremy Wall can be contacted at jeremywall1984@gmail.com and found on Twitter @jeremydalewall.