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Saturday night's three major show boxing coverage

By Jeremy Wall

Saturday, June 20th was the latest chapter in the boxing wars between Al Haymon’s PBC and everyone else, as three major boxing cards were televised on national television at the same time. PBC returned to prime time on NBC for the first time in a few weeks for an important show at the MGM Grand that featured Shawn Porter defeating Adrien Broner via unanimous decision in the main event. On BET, Andre Ward returned to the ring for the first time in ages to compete in a glorified exhibition match by stopping Paul Smith. And on Fox Sports 2, David Lemieux beat Hassan N’Dam in a barn burner to win the IBF Middleweight title and possibly setup a future bout against Gennady Golovkin.

The fight at the MGM Grand drew 8,138. Porter (26-1-1, 16KO) went into the fight against Broner (30-2, 22KO) coming off a fifth round knockout of Erick Bone for PBC on Spike TV in March. Bone had come into the fight on short notice to replace Roberto Garcia. Prior to that bout, Porter had suffered the only loss of his career to Kell Brook by majority decision in August.

Broner was coming off a unanimous decision win over John Molina Jr at the MGM Grand in the debut PBC card on NBC in March. Prior to that he had won twice in a row after losing a unanimous decision to Marcos Maidana in December 2013. Both Porter and Broner are former welterweight title holders. Both are also originally from Ohio, with Porter from Akron and Broner from Cincinnati.

It was an ugly fight, with Broner outclassed by Porter from the opening bell. Broner was consistently resorting to holding and fouling to remain competitive. Porter landed 149 of 590 punches for 25-percent. Broner landed 88 of 309 blows for 28-percent. Broner landed at the higher connect rate, but landed almost half as many punches in total. The scorecards were 118-108, 115-111 and 114-112.

In the eleventh round, referee Tony Weeks deducted a point from Broner for holding. Weeks should have deducted a point much earlier in the fight, as Broner began constantly holding Porter basically since the fight started. By the eleventh round, though, Porter was so far ahead in the fight that the single point deduction no longer mattered.

Broner was thus way down on the scorecards when he opened the twelfth round with a clubbing left hook that knocked Porter down. It was the first knock down Porter had suffered in his career. It was a bit of a tease, because it made it clear that Broner has the talent to perform better than he did in the first eleven rounds of their bout. Porter, however, was never in danger again for the rest of the round despite the knock down.

Porter earned $1 million for the win. Broner earned $1.35 million for the loss.

"That's how you beat a great fighter intelligently," Porter said after the fight. "We did everything we needed to do in preparation for this fight, and coming out we wanted to establish our jab and establish that we are the better boxer. I think we did that over the course of the fight."

"We still can have dinner. I'll take his girl out and everything," Broner said.

"Shawn Porter has been a champion before. He only has one loss and Adrien only has one loss. So I think this is a good matchup,” said Floyd Mayweather Jr before the fight.

Junior’s father, though, had less kind things to say about Broner after the fight.

“Broner looked like nothing,” said Floyd Mayweather Sr. “All that grabbing and holding. With all that stuff he does, the women, the drinking, all that stuff. He's not going to do nothing. He looked like a bum.”

"Listen, I still will fight anybody. It don't matter, man. I'm a real animal. I'm an animal," said Broner in his post-fight interview. "This time I didn't get the decision, but it’s okay. At the end of the day, everybody in here will take my autograph and take my picture."

The fight took place at a catchweight of 144 pounds. The weight limit for the welterweight division is 147 pounds. Broner demanded the catchweight limit despite being a former welterweight champion himself.

"We were called and told that we were asked to be 144 pounds by Adrien Broner," Porter said. "That was not our decision. As soon as it was announced to me from my dad [Kenny Porter], I told him whatever we need to do to make the fight.”

Broner also wanted a rehydration clause, but Al Haymon stepped in personally and nixed that idea. Haymon is the manager for both fighters and of course the de facto promoter of PBC.

"Al [Haymon] called me and told me not to worry about that [the rehydration clause]. He said 'don't listen to what nobody says because you heard it from me,"' Kenny told BoxingScene.com.

Porter is a possible opponent for Floyd Mayweather’s September 12th pay per view fight at the MGM Grand.

Mayweather, however, denies interest in the fight. “No, I just don’t feel like it’s gonna happen,” said Floyd. “He can fight on my under-card in September.”

Mayweather is telling promoters that his opponent for September will be either Andre Berto or journeyman Karim Mayfield. Berto recently fought on Spike TV for PBC and there is some logic to the choice, especially since Berto is unlikely to beat Floyd. There is no point in doing a tough fight in September because no matter who Floyd faces, it will likely draw. But Mayfield is such an odd choice because he is a journeyman with no chance at all, to the point where many reporters assume Floyd is just leading them on.

“Either Karim Mayfield or Andre Berto, that’s who Floyd Mayweather will be facing in September,” claims Mayweather. “I mean, every fighter, you know. One of those guys could upset Floyd Mayweather, you never know. It’s the Mayweather sweepstakes, who’s gonna hit the lottery. It all depends on how I feel.”

Mayweather denies that he will be fighting Amir Khan, who has been the long rumoured opponent and recently beat Chris Algieri on Spike.

“I don’t want him [Khan] to get a payday against my son,” said Floyd Sr. “He’s a [expletive]. Give me enough time to get in shape. I’ll beat the [expletive] out of him as well and stop him. I’ll make sure he’s stopped.”

“I’m not looking for any more Mayweather undercards,” said Porter. “We were looking to get on the Mayweather-Pacquiao undercard. That didn’t happen. Now I’m not looking at watching him fight after I fight. I’m looking at fighting him.”

“We’re going to do the battle for Las Vegas,” said Ken Porter, Shawn’s trainer. “We live on the same street, right down the street from Floyd — about a mile and a half. Don’t ignore us. Don’t act like the elephant’s not in the room.”

Porter makes sense as a logical opponent because he just scored a high profile win over Broner on NBC and also has a recent win over Bone on Spike. NBC executives have openly talked about having a fighter who wins on NBC face Mayweather on pay per view. The NBC deal is the key to PBC and convincing the NBC people that they are making new stars that can fight Mayweather would probably be in PBC’s best interest.

Mayweather is still claiming he will retire after September, even though a rematch with Pacquiao next year is still the biggest money fight in boxing.

Both the Saturday night card at MGM Grand and the Sunday afternoon card that aired on CBS from MGM Grand were promoted by Mayweather Promotions. Leonard Ellerbe is the official promoter, although it is well known that Haymon is actually the one that calls the shots.

Mayweather himself, though, was walking around all weekend like the public face of the promotion, playing the role of Dana White for PBC. “I like being on this side of it,” Mayweather said of being promoter. “This is fun.”

PBC usually works with a slew of different promoters that handle the live event aspect of their cards. I’m surprised they haven’t just worked with Ellerbe and Mayweather Promotions. Maybe it is to avoid the obvious violation of the Ali Act with Haymon acting as both promoter and manager, although that violation has been so obvious anyway. But once Mayweather retires, there is an obvious role for him as the public face of PBC.

The show drew a 1.86 overnight rating, down 4-percent from the 1.94 overnight PBC drew on NBC on April 11th in primetime. It is down 26-percent from the 2.53 overnight that PBC drew for their debut on NBC in March.

I doubted the rating would match the debut in March, but considering the show featured two fighters in Porter and Broner who had already won matches for PBC on Spike and NBC respectively, the rating should have been up from the April 11th broadcast. Four percent down isn’t terribly down. Maybe around a 1.9 is the best they can get out of NBC in primetime. And with all of the boxing on television, the audience would have been somewhat split.

The NBC broadcast also featured two undercard fights. Errol Spence Jr (17-0, 14KO) beat Phil Lo Greco (26-2, 1KO) by third round TKO. Lo Greco came in on short notice replacing Roberto Garcia. It is the second time of three fights with PBC that Garcia has dropped on short notice due to being unable to make weight. The fight was at a catchweight of 150 pounds since Lo Greco came into the fight on short notice. Lo Greco had only fought once in the last 22 months. Both fighters were paid $150,000.

Spence, 25, is one of the top prospects in boxing. Mayweather said he would like to see Spence fight Keith Thurman or Porter on the undercard of his September pay per view.

"[Spence is] fighting for sure in September on my undercard. He's fighting on pay-per-view,” said Mayweather. “Now if one of those guys want to step up and fight him for one of my belts they can do that.”

Also, Terrell Gausha (15-0, 8KO) beat Luis Grajeda (18-5-2, 14KO) by unanimous decision after eight rounds. The fight was at middleweight and took place after the opening bout featuring Spence and before the main event.

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There was also some major news reported in a couple of outlets concerning PBC this past week. Dan Rafael of ESPN reported that PBC had signed with Fox Sports 1 to replace Golden Boy Boxing, which had been airing on the station for a couple of years.

Golden Boy has two shows left with Fox, airing June 26th and June 30th before their contract expires.

“We have had interest from a number of English-language television stations -- beyond our existing extensive work with HBO -- to put on Golden Boy fights,” Golden Boy spokesman Stefan Friedman told ESPN.

There aren’t a lot of details about PBC’s deal with Fox available, whether it is a time buy, whether it includes shows on the main Fox network, or when the deal even starts.

The deal is notable because Fox was the only major network that hadn’t signed to air PBC fights. It looked as if Fox had stayed out because of its deal with UFC, as it wouldn’t make as much sense for Fox to sign another combat sports brand. But even though PBC ratings have at times been shaky, the promotion still has tremendous momentum. If PBC takes off and becomes a part of Fox for a while, it will be interesting what this means when it comes time for Fox to renegotiate with UFC.

Also on June 10th, the Wall Street Journal reported that investors withdrew $12 billion from Waddell & Reed’s two largest mutual funds this past year over fear of the firm’s loose investing policy. Waddell & Reed is the primary financial backer of PBC, investing a rumoured $425 million in the brand.

Kevin Iole broke the story in the boxing media this past week. “Haymon is one of the most astute businessmen in the country, but whether the money runs out before he can get the PBC on the right track is still to be determined,” wrote Iole. “He is in a similar situation with the PBC now that the UFC was in around 2005. At that point, the UFC was hemorrhaging money and was roughly $40 million in the hole.”

No matter what happens at this point, PBC will completely change the face of combat sports. If it succeeds, it will change boxing and bring boxing back into the mainstream. If it fails, no one is going to try this again with boxing for a very long time, if even again. That would be good news for the UFC.

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PBC began airing on NBC at 8:30pm ET, running until 11. At 10pm ET, the BET broadcast of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation time buy began. It opened with a split-draw between two undefeated fighters in Antonio Nieves (12-0-1, 6KO) and Stephon Young (13-0-2, 5KO). Michael Buffer was the ring announcer for Roc Nation and his opening line for the bout, “Someone’s oh has got to go”, proved less than prophetic.

Andre Ward (28-0, 15KO) didn’t enter the ring to face Paul Smith (35-6, 20KO) until after the Porter-Broner fight was over. The BET broadcast included a rap concert by a band that I have no idea who they were, which was on the air when the NBC broadcast concluded. After that was over, they did the introductions for Ward-Smith.

It was a pathetic fight, reminiscent of Mike Tyson’s return to face Peter McNeeley in 1995, but on a much smaller scale. Ward, 31, hadn’t fought since beating mediocre Edwin Rodriguez by unanimous decision on November 16th, 2013. Ward’s last win against a major opponent was a tenth round TKO of Chad Dawson on September 8th, 2012. Smith, 32, was coming off back-to-back unanimous decision losses against Arthur Abraham in Germany this past February and last September.

The fight took place at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Ward’s hometown. Ward has a reputation for being an incredibly talented yet boring fighter along the lines of Mayweather. This fight was no different, as Smith was slowly battered by Ward until Smith’s corner mercifully threw the towel into the ring in the ninth round. Smith had a cut opened over his eye earlier in the fight.

Ward landed 231 of 586 punches for 38-percent. Smith landed merely 47 punches of 266 punches for 18-percent. Smith barely threw anything. It was a total blowout and simply an exhibition tune-up to get Ward back in the ring and shake off the rust after so many months away.

"I know there's another level I can be at where I'm not thinking about anything. There's another level of sharpness and being crisp that I have. ... I felt like I did good tonight but I know I have better," said Ward, who was paid $2 million for the fight.

It was obvious from before the fight even started that Smith had no chance. The contract weight was 172 pounds. Ward was at 171.8 pounds. Smith weighed at 176.5 pounds. Smith was fined 20-percent of his $225,000 purse, which came out to $45,000. Half of the fine went to Ward and the other half to California. The 176.5 pounds was the heaviest Smith ever came in for a fight.

The two sides worked out a deal where Smith would be weighed again the next morning and would be fined $5,000 for every pound that he came in over 181 pounds. Well, he weighed in at 184 pounds for the second weigh-in. Some commentators thought maybe the extra weight was a tactic by Smith, but once he stepped in the ring it was clear he hadn’t put any effort into training. The fight end up being contested at cruiserweight.

Ward is the WBA Super Super-Middleweight champion, a former Olympic gold medalist, and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in boxing. He was heavily criticized for taking this bout, and rightly so. Ward had been out of action for so long due to a contract dispute with Dan Goossen. Ward tried to get out of his contract just shortly after resigning with Goossen. Ward lost in court and chose to sit the contract out rather than fight. Goossen, however, died last year, which opened the door for Ward to sign with Jay-Z’s new Roc Nation promotion.

Roc Nation debuted with a time buy in January in Fox Sports 1. They had another time buy on FS1 a few weeks ago, both shows featuring mostly unknowns. They also promoted Miguel Cotto’s return on HBO against Daniel Geale. Ward and Cotto are the two biggest names the promotion has under contract. The idea with the promotion is to market boxing to black and latino youth, with the combination of boxing and rap concerts promoted by Jay-Z.

Jay-Z has a longstanding feud with Al Haymon that dates back to the days when Haymon was the biggest R&B concert promoter worldwide and handled concerts by Jay-Z and wife Beyonce. That Jay-Z counter-programmed Haymon’s important night for PBC on NBC thus isn’t surprising. Roc Nation, however, had to do a time buy with BET to get this fight on television because HBO allegedly wasn’t interested in broadcasting a glorified exhibition bout featuring Andre Ward. The idea, though, is clearly that Ward will return to HBO for his next fight against a much more stellar opponent.

The problem is that there really doesn’t seem to be any big name opponents available for Ward to make his expensive deal with Roc Nation worthwhile for the promoter. Ward holds the WBA “super” title, but Fedor Chudinov holds the regular version. He is scheduled to defend it against Frank Buglioni at Wembley Arena in July. Chudinov has no name value in the US, though. Badou Jack holds the WBC title, but fights for PBC. Arthur Abraham has the WBO title, but Ward beat him in 2011. James DeGale has the IBF title, and he fought for PBC, but is under contract to Matchroom Boxing of Britain.

The biggest name opponents for Ward are at either light-heavyweight, or middleweight. Cotto is also under contract to Roc Nation and it would seem to make business sense to have the two fight, but Cotto is way too small for Ward and Cotto’s money fight is against Canelo anyway. Gennady Golovkin is out there and is a big middleweight, but Ward seems reluctant to fight him as Golovkin would be a tough opponent, but wouldn’t quite bring the box office power to be worth the risk for Ward, especially when Ward is getting paid $2 million to spar on BET.

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Golovkin, nevertheless, seems destined for a showdown with David Lemieux (34-2, 31KO), who defeated Hassan N’Dam (31-2, 18KO) Saturday night to win the vacant IBF Middleweight title at the Bell Centre in Montreal. It was probably the best fight of the night and probably the least watched of all the main events, as it aired on Fox Sports 2 going up against the Andre Ward fight. The promoter was Golden Boy, who secured the deal to air the fight on FS2 only a few weeks before it happened.

Lemieux has tremendous charisma and is a powerful boxer, knocking N’Dam down four times during the bout. N’Dam was knocked down in the second round, twice in the fifth, and against in the seventh. Lemieux wasn’t able to keep him down, though, and lost stamina late in the fight, which allowed N’Dam a minor comeback to steal some rounds away, even though it was too little, too late.

Scores were 115-109, 115-109, and 114-110.

The fight received extensive coverage in the mainstream media here in Canada. I saw Lemieux live on the undercard of the Adonis-Fonfara fight last year in Montreal. He has tremendous star potential, particularly in the Montreal market, which has stayed hot for boxing even though it seems down on MMA.

Lemieux’s punching power draws comparisons to Golovkin’s fighting style. It seems like a great match, except Golden Boy may be wanting to match Lemieux against their star attraction, Canelo Alvarez. Lemieux, 26, has power, but Alvarez is overall the more skilled of the two and would be favoured to win what would likely be an exciting match.

Canelo, however, looks to be facing Miguel Cotto in a major pay per view fight this fall. That would mean if Golden Boy wanted to save Lemieux, they would have to put him in against someone other than Golovkin in the meantime because Golovkin would be favoured to win that fight. It would subsequently be hard to match Lemieux against Canelo with Lemieux coming off a loss to Golovkin. And Golden Boy doesn’t have such a strong stable of boxers right now that they can afford a loss by Lemieux against Golovkin. Lemieux signed with Golden Boy in January.

Despite the holdups, Golovkin’s promoter Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions is optimistic. “I think it's very realistic, I think it would be a great fight and it is two of the two biggest punchers in the middleweight division fighting each other,” said Loeffler.

After Lemieux beat N’Dam, Golovkin tweeted, “Golovkin vs Lemieux - Let's make it NOW! Not "in the future" or "down the road"!”

"My name has been in people's ears. So [Saturday] will signify earning the right to have my name out there with the top of the world,” said Lemieux. “It's extremely important. Of course, every fight is extremely important, but especially this one [against N’Dam].”

There was also a strange issue with the purse bid for Lemieux-N’Dam. Golden Boy won the purse bid for merely $102,000 in April. Each fighter received half. Golden Boy, however, paid Lemieux an undisclosed extra amount for the fight. N’Dam had turned down a $300,000 offer from promoter King Sports for the fight, wanting it to go to purse bid. King Sports didn’t bid and Golden Boy ended up being the only bidder, which is how they got the fight so cheap.

"I know everyone is talking about the fact that I am unhappy with the purse that I am getting for the fight. Of course, I am not very happy because I've heard several comments coming from my opponent's camp saying that he's going to have the largest purse in his career," said N'Dam. "I would like the rules for the purse to be respected, and that is the purse must be split at 50-50, and there's no additional money. I don't want to talk about that anymore."

Jeremy Wall can be contacted at jeremywall1984@gmail.com