September 21, 2015
September 21, 2015
Floyd Mayweather

Action Images/Reuters/Steve Marcus

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F SCOTT FITZGERALD, who skyrocketed to riches by chronicling the Jazz Age in novels such as This Side of Paradise, made his spendthrift philosophy clear to the libertine era that reflected it: “All big men have spent money freely. I hate avarice or even caution.”

On March 7, 2015, managerial kingmaker Al Haymon, backed by $425 million in capital from an investment firm, opened a new frontier in boxing under the banner of Premier Boxing Champions.

In the main event – the first card aired in prime time on US network television in nearly 30 years – power-punching Keith Thurman outpointed veteran Robert Guerrero at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. That the inaugural PBC bill took place in Sin City, the gaming capital of the United States, seems only fitting. After all, Haymon is gambling that he can revolutionise boxing with a spin of a roulette wheel of his own design. It is an audacious, daunting, and, in keeping with Fitzgerald, extravagant undertaking, and one that may spark a full-scale war among boxing super-powers.

What, exactly, is PBC?  To put it as simply as possible, Premier Boxing Champions is a start-up league – consisting of fighters managed exclusively by Haymon – looking to establish itself as the Premiership or NFL of prizefighting. Founded by Haymon and underwritten by Waddell & Reed Financial, Inc., an asset management firm with ties to Formula One, PBC is trying to develop a unified brand strong enough to attract long-term contracts from television networks across the board. To that end, Haymon decided to pay several networks to air PBC cards in hopes of proving the sustainability of his concept directly to programming executives.

Like something out of the board game Monopoly, Haymon brokered agreements with NBC, CBS, Spike TV, ABC, ESPN, BET, and Bounce TV (Haymon also remains the sole provider of fights to Showtime Championship Boxing). Part of the time-buy structure includes active marketing by each channel across multi-platforms. Having several networks advertising PBC events creates a public relations synergy unusual for boxing.

For years, boxing has teetered on the brink of irrelevancy in America, undercut by promoters and the ruthless demands of prestige cable giants such as HBO. A sport with lawless roots is now being corporatised by a single man apparently acting as manager, matchmaker, promoter, and CEO simultaneously. What was once, for better or worse, a free-market pursuit may now become just another Wall Street enterprise. It will also become, regardless of the outcome, a watershed moment in boxing.

How did PBC come about? And what does this bold move mean for boxing in the United States and beyond? Boxing News delves into the specifics.

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