By Jeremy Wall
Premier Boxing's second show on NBC occurred April 11th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It was headlined by Danny Garcia (29-0, 17 KOs) defeating Lamont Peterson (32-2-1, 17 KOs) by majority decision (114-115, 115-113, 115-113) after twelve rounds at a catchweight of 143 pounds. In the co-main, Peter Quillin and Andy Lee went to a split-draw after twelve rounds on scores of 113-112, 112-113, and 113-113 at 160 pounds.
The show aired from 8:30pm ET to 11pm. The first hour featured Quillin-Lee and the second hour featured Garcia-Peterson. Both fights featured good action, with Quillin coming close to knocking Lee out early in the fight, but Lee coming back to bring the fight to a draw. Garcia-Peterson started slower, but picked up later in the fight when Peterson moved from defense to offense. There were, however, periods of listless inaction in each fight and they realistically could have been scored either way.
The lavish production values once again returned. All four fighters received the fancy ring entrances, again looking like something out of pro wrestling (Haymon’s version of boxing is boxing promoted like pro wrestling, similar to K-1). The 360 cam returned, although seems like a waste of money since it adds almost nothing that regular (and likely less expensive) cameras don't already add. The ref cam hasn't been back since the debut on Spike. The Hans Zimmer score wasn't used for fighter walkouts, as instead each fighter came out to a different hip hop song. The Zimmer score wasn't used for fighter entrances on last week's CBS show, either, so maybe it's out for good. All the better because it was one of the weaker aspects of Premier’s production.
Al Michaels was back as host, this time with Bob Costa. Marv Albert and Sugar Ray Leonard once again shared commentating duties. Laila Ali wasn't back to do backstage interviews, but Kenny Rice of Inside MMA was, and Rice also conducted the post-fight interviews. Throughout the broadcast they also highlighted a bit of boxing history, including mentioning that April 15th is the 30th anniversary of the famous Hagler-Hearns fight. The production and commentary on NBC is clearly geared to an older audience, which is funny when watching Premier on Spike as the commentary for that station promotes Premier as not being your father's boxing. It’s also an odd move if Premier is looking to grab the more valued 18-34 male demo, who likely don’t care that much about Marv Albert and company.
It also doesn't look like Premier has sold any additional advertising compared to the first showing on NBC. Corona was again the obvious primary sponsor. Most commercial time went to Corona, other NBC shows, or to Premier itself. It’ll be interesting if that changes going forward, as these time buys must be incredibly expensive with little money being recouped.
The show was a local success in Brooklyn, with Quillin from the area and Garcia a frequent competitor at Barclays Center. It was the eleventh boxing show at Barclays. "Signifying the magnitude of the event, tickets have sold faster than at any other boxing show Barclays Center has hosted," said Barclays CEO Brett Yormark." Lou DiBella was the promoter of record.
The show also featured personality pieces on both Garcia and Peterson before the main event. The pieces were well done, although the biggest criticism I have is that after watching 24 rounds of boxing in just over two hours, it is hard to retain much information about each individual fighter. But doing these personality segments is a must in order to get these fighters over as stars to a wider audience.
Both Garcia, 27, and Peterson, 31, are titleholders at 140 pounds, with Garcia holding the WBA and WBC Super Lightweight titles and Peterson hold the IBF Super Lightweight title. This fight, however, took place at a catchweight of 143 pounds and neither of their titles was on the line. It was an example of the de-emphasis Premier is putting on the so-called alphabet titles. Another example is when fighters were introduced on the broadcast, under their name would be something like "140 pounds champion" rather than "IBF champion". The show's commentary also featured little discussion about the various championship titles.
Garcia wants to move to the 147-pound welterweight division. After the bout when Rice asked Garcia about a potential rematch with Peterson, Garcia said he would do it, but at 147 pounds.
“I've been at 140 since I was an amateur, since 2006, and I've put a lot of strain on my body making the weight," said Garcia. "So it was best for me to fight at this weight. I mean, on my last fight I fought at the 143 catchweight and I'm not saying that I can't make 140 again, but with the time off since August, I just don't want to cheat the fans. I want to give them my best. And like I said, in order for the fight to be made, this is the weight I had to be at."
"I'm cool with it," said Peterson. "Too many titles, too many this, that, too much. At the end of the day, you have two young, top fighters willing to fight each other.” The IBF said they would strip Peterson of his title if he lost (presumably that will now happen). Peterson has also talked about moving up to compete at welterweight.
Right now in boxing welterweight is where the money is at. The division includes Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, as well as other lesser stars, many of whom are Haymon fighters. With the possible pay days for fighting a major name at welterweight, perhaps on pay per view, it is easy to see why Garcia or even Peterson are interested in moving up to welterweight.
The fight between the two nearly happened last August on Showtime, but Garcia and Peterson were kept apart by Al Haymon and booked against lesser opponents on the same card. Instead, Garcia fought Rod Salka (19-3), who he knocked out in the second, and Peterson fought Edgar Santana (29-4), who he stopped in the tenth.
"I'm a fighter and of course I would rather be active and keep fighting," Garcia told Kevin Iole at Yahoo Sports. "But I understand the business aspect of it, too. There is a lot at stake for us at this stage of our careers and so I know that sometimes I need to be patient and wait for the business side to take care of itself."
The Garcia-Peterson fight started slow, but gained steam as Peterson started coming on strong in the later rounds. This was a question of who won the fight as opposed to who won the match, as Peterson was easily winning the later rounds and if the fight continued for an endless number of rounds, probably would have eventually beaten Garcia. But Garcia won enough early rounds on the judges' scorecards to win the decision.
The early rounds were slow. The most notable aspect of those rounds was probably the neon yellow shoes Garcia was wearing, which looked ridiculous and were incredibly distracting on television.
Some of the early rounds could have been judged either way, although Garcia probably won most of them. Peterson did a lot of elusive dancing in and away from Garcia, running away for much of the early part of the fight. In the middle rounds Garcia became frustrated and started to taunt Peterson. Peterson would then taunt him back.
Peterson has a reputation as a fighter that comes on strong later in his fights. Garcia seemed like he started to tire. That opened the door for Peterson to score, winning the later rounds. The crowd was heavily behind Garcia, who is from Philadelphia, but is a regular marquee fighter at the Barclays Center and did a backstage promo with Rice before the fight saying that Barclays Center was his turf.
Even though Garcia finished the fight with a bloody face and Peterson looked relatively unscathed, the 114-114, 115-113, and 115-113 scores were fair. If Peterson had been less cautious in the early rounds, he might have won a couple more of them and won the fight and if a rematch did happen, Peterson would probably be the favourite. The 114-114 score was read first and there was a brief moment when it looked like Premier would have two draws in one night, but ring announcer Michael Williams (who is also the announcer for Bellator and had a busy weekend) immediately told the audience the judges had picked a winner.
It was a close fight that Garcia easily could have lost, though. It was the second close decision in recent time for Garcia. Garcia also won a split against Mauricio Herrera in Puerto Rico in March 2014. The win over Herrera was a disappointing outing for Garcia as he was considered the better fighter going into that bout and managed to only squeak by with a split-decision in a fight that could have been judged either way. The Garcia-Peterson fight could be described much the same way. With Garcia winning a couple of shaky outings, particularly this one on network television, there are going to be those questioning how well he can fight at a heavier weight class.
So far, Premier has been about matching up name fighters (or fighters they are trying to make into names) against lesser quality opposition. The Garcia-Peterson fight was the closest thing to a real contest rather than a squash match that Premier has promoted, and not coincidentally it was the closest the favourite has come to losing. It can be challenging to get the right result in combat sports, to say the least, and although there has yet to be a truly memorable fight on a Premier broadcast, there has also yet to be any fight where the result was the wrong one for business.
The co-main from the first hour featured a split-decision draw between Peter Quillin (31-0-1, 22 KOs) and Andy Lee (34-2-1, 24 KOs). Lee, 30, was originally set to defend the WBO Middleweight title against Quillin, but Quillin, 31, failed to make weight. On his first attempt he weighed 161.4 pounds. Quillin had two hours to try again, but only slimmed down to 160.6 pounds on his second attempt. Quillin paid Lee $125,000 of his $500,000 purse as a penalty, which wasn't stipulated by the New York State Athletic Commission, but something the two sides agreed upon.
Quillin is the former WBO Middleweight champion, but vacated the title in September when he refused to accept a mandatory defense. “I had way too much going on in my life at the time,” said Quillin. “I had a baby on the way and an uncle that I loved dearly dying of pancreatic cancer. I was changing my management team and I just wasn’t ready to fight.”
Quillin's mandatory title defense was supposed to be against Matvey Korobev (24-1, 14KOs). The purse bid for the fight was won by Roc Nation, Jay-Z's boxing promotion. Jay-Z and Al Haymon have bad blood dating back to the days when Haymon was the country's top R&B concert promoter and promoted tours by Jay-Z and wife Beyonce, a relationship that disintegrated into at least one lawsuit involving all three.
Jay-Z is now in a boxing promotional war with Haymon’s Premier Boxing. Roc Nation debuted in January doing a time buy on Fox Sports 1 and they have their next time buy on that station this Friday, the second of three. They are also doing a time buy on BET and have announced expensive deals with Andre Ward and Miguel Cotto, two of the top pound-for-pound fighters in boxing.
Haymon, as Quillin’s manager, advised Quillin to walk away from the Korobev fight. Andy Lee took his place and knocked Korobev out in the sixth round in December in Las Vegas, which set up Lee versus Quillin for the title that Quillin never lost on, taking place on a Haymon show instead of a Jay-Z show.
"Can I tell you what the most tough shit I had to deal with is? People asking me why did I vacate the belt," said Quillin. "They think so much about the money, the $1.4 million that I turned down. And I keep telling them I had family issues going on.”
Lee, born in Britain but living in Ireland since he was a child, was a member of the 2004 Irish Olympic team. He was trained by Emanuel Steward and considered retiring after Steward died in 2012. Lee was also coming off a seventh round TKO loss in June 2012 to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. After the loss he had won six in a row, including the win over Korobev.
Neither Quillin nor Lee threw a lot of volume, as both were content to headhunt, throwing few jabs and looking for the knockdown off a single punch. The early rounds were exciting. It looked like it was going to end quickly when Quillin knocked Lee down in the first with an overhand right, but Lee got back and up and plugged along.
The next few rounds were more of the same, with little action as both fighters avoided jabbing. Most of these rounds saw little action until a flurry of punches from one or the other, but it was exciting because it felt like each flurry could lead to a knockout. Quillin knocked Lee down again, this time in the third round with a short right hand. Lee argued it was a trip and on replay it looked like Quillin stepped on Lee's foot and tripped him while at the same time landing the right.
Lee began to come back in the middle rounds, as Quillin became more passive. The fight slowed badly at this point, but Lee was starting to win rounds by outscoring Quillin. The excitement picked up again near the end of the fight when it was obvious this was going to the judges and the scores would be all over the place, so no one knew what was going to happen. The final scores of 113-112, 112-113, and 113-113 were fair, although apparently many people live in Brooklyn felt Quillin won. That may have been the effect of the crowd, since Quillin is from Brooklyn and lives close to the Barclays Center. Both fighters said afterwards they would be open to a rematch. It will be interesting to see how Premier handles the situation.
Premier debuted on NBC on March 7th, drawing 3.4 million average viewers and a 1.08 rating in the 18-49 adult demographic (not including DVR+ numbers) and peaked at 4.2 million. That was the highest rating in that demo that night. It was also the most watched boxing broadcast since 1998, when a Fox special titled "Oscar de la Hoya's Fight Night" (which Oscar didn't compete on) drew 5.9 million viewers.
They returned on March 13th, debuting on Spike to 869,000 average viewers and a 0.3 in the 18-34 adult demographic. Premier's debut on CBS on April 4th for an afternoon show drew 1.272 million average viewers and a 1.1 overnight rating going against record ratings by college basketball, as well as the last hour of a UFC Fight Night on Fox Sports 1.
The April 11th show should draw in the range of 3.4 million viewers, same as Premier's debut on NBC last month. The rating could be down a bit if Premier has lost steam with so many shows, or if the hype of boxing's return to network TV artificially bolstered Premier's debut on NBC and that hype has died down. On the other hand, the rating could be up if Premier is attracting more attention for putting on lavish shows featuring star athletes. Whatever the rating is, it won’t determine the long-term success of the promotion, as it will take a few shows on each network to see how well the promotion is drawing. But a major move in the rating either up or down would give a clearer picture of Premier’s viability.
"You're going to see these guys fight two, three times a year, which I think is great for the sport and is certainly good for them," said Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports. "We had Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman win on our air in March; we'd love to see both of those guys fight again on our air, whether it's in June or whenever it is. And eventually one of those welterweights is going to emerge — whether it's Keith Thurman or Danny Garcia or Adrien Broner — and will likely fight the Mayweather-Pacquiao winner at some point. That really is how this thing becomes successful."
"We've got a couple years to really build this thing up," continued Miller. "Nothing would make us happier, to be honest with you, than at the end of the current term that this thing had become so valuable and such a dependable deliverable that we would step up and change the dynamic."
It also feels like every week Premier Boxing announces another new broadcast agreement. Premier has time buy deals with NBC, CBS, and ABC, as well as on NBC Sportsnet and CBS Sportsnet. Really, the only major network they aren't working with is Fox, which has UFC. Premier also has a deal with Spike, which may be a time buy, as well a deal to replace Friday Night Fights on ESPN. They announced this week that the April 11th card would air on SiriusXM satellite radio, the first of ten Premier events that SiriusXM will broadcast in 2015.
Premier returns on April 24th on Spike with Anthony Dirrell vs Badou Jack and Daniel Jacobs vs Caleb Truax at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. The NBC show featured promos and personality pieces hyping Dirrell. After, they return to CBS on May 9th for a 4pm ET start time with Omar Figueora vs Ricky Burns at the State Farm Arena in Chicago. Premier returns to NBC on May 23rd in Boston for Andre Dirrell vs James De Gale. Dirrell was featured in a number of personality hype segments on the April 11th NBC broadcast.
Outside of Premier, other major fights in boxing during April include the second Jay-Z Roc Nation card on Fox Sports 1 on April 17th with Murat Gassiev vs. Felix Cora Jr (which goes up against ESPN's Friday Night Fights and a lesser Premier Boxing card on CBS Sportsnet); Ruslan Provodonikov vs. Lucas Matthysse andT erence Crawford vs. Thomas Dulorme on HBO on April 18th; Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Andrzej Fonfara, also on April 18th (which I believe is promoted, or at least co-promoted by Premier, although this fight is not listed on their schedule on their official site, even though Chavez and Fonfara are both Haymon fighters); and, Wladimir Klitschko vs. Bryant Jennings on April 25th in New York on HBO. HBO and Showtime also debut shoulder programming for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight on April 18th, with the HBO show focusing on Pacquiao and the Showtime show focusing on Mayweather. There will be more shoulder programming building the fight throughout the month. So clear your schedule.