It was boxing’s big moment, and the first fight card cementing the deal between Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions and major television network NBC. And while neither Keith Thurman’s decision win over Robert Guerrero nor Adrien Broner’s decision win over John Molina, Jr. Saturday will be mistaken for actual “Fight of the Year” contenders, and despite a production style unfamiliar to boxing fans, there were no travesties.
Actually, setting aside the shiny new packaging, hype and production budget, it was…boxing. The kind that you generally see, where nothing spectacular happens, and nothing terrible happens.
In the main event, Keith Thurman stayed undefeated at (25-0, 21 KO) and 1 no decision, after defeating Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero over 12 rounds in a one-sided, if occasionally suspenseful bout. Guerrero, Gilroy, Calif., showed very little in the way of speed or dexterity as Thurman used foot work and athleticism to rock his foe, then blunted Guerrero’s offensive efforts with thudding right hands to the body and head.
The only early success for Guerrero came in round 2, when an exchange ended in a headbutt that produced a hematoma on Thurman’s forehead. Thurman initially appeared tentative after the clash, but settled back into his rhythm, and Guerrero largely followed suit.
After the pace of the fight had leveled out to a predictable hum, round 9 seemed to wake up everyone involved. As Guerrero dipped to avoid a punch, a combination sunk him to the canvas. Up but bloody, Guerrero was pushed within a punch or two of being stopped as the gong sounded to end the round. It appeared as though Thurman would be making good use of this opportunity with a crunching late stoppage.
Round 10 came and Guerrero fought back against the previously foregone conclusion, surprisingly absorbing many right hands and pushing Thurman back before too long. Thurman’s energy was leaving him, and before the 10th was over, it looked like Thurman was doing the surviving.
When Thurman, Clearwater, Fla., chose to use his legs and box from a distance in rounds 11 and 12, it became obvious that he indeed was tired, and there was also very little Guerrero could do about it.
Scores of 120-107, 118-109 and 118-108 were turned in, all for “One Time” Thurman.
Missing was the “charisma” that was Thurman’s key word all week. The fight itself wound up being entertaining, much of the time, even if it wasn’t particularly competitive. But the most admirable attribute between the two was likely Guerrero’s chin. Thurman’s personality wasn’t all that visible, and the crowd in the MGM Grand Garden Arena sounded ambivalent toward the victor.
Guerrero, now (32-3-1, 18 KO) and 2 no decisions, will be a tough sell against upper echelon welterweights in the foreseeable future. Losing to Thurman and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. shouldn’t bring anyone shame, but every one of his fights above 140 lbs. has been a grinding, difficult one.
In what was referred to on the broadcast as the “first main event,” Adrien “The Problem” Broner cruised to an uneventful decision in 12 rounds over John Molina, Jr.
Broner jabbed, moved and avoided the vast majority of Molina’s wild right hand thwacks to a harmony of boos among the crowd. There were a few brief moments were Molina was able to get close, rake Broner with a right hand or two and rough the Cincinnati, Ohio native, but the fight never stayed inside long. A few times, Molina landed snapping punches that jarred Broner, but they were single shots, and rare.
As with most of his unsuccessful fights — and even a few of his wins — Molina didn’t throw enough. Trainer Joe Goossen repeatedly called for his fighter to jab or throw with Broner, but Molina, Covina, Ca., largely followed Broner, rather than using angles with his foot work, and scores of 120-108 twice and 118-110 for Broner reflected that.
Afterward, during somewhat sterile post-fight interviews, Molina, (27-6, 22 KO), complained that Broner had promised to trade with him but instead, you know, used his boxing ability and physical gifts. In other words, in layman’s terms, Molina accused Broner of running. But in what was maybe the best of the few semi-unscripted moments of the broadcast, Broner, (30-1, 22 KO) and 1 no contest, hilariously whipped out his ethnically insensitive “Can-Man” routine during his interview.
The entire broadcast felt strange, for a boxing broadcast. It was like mixing the wide-panning arena shots of American Gladiators and other network-produced shows with the insular and xenophobic world of boxing. Marv Albert’s calling of the action was often flubbed or plain incorrect, Laila Ali added very little in general, and Ray Leonard stayed his usual, non-committal self. What was almost certainly the oddest thing to hardcore fans tuning in, though, was the effort to push Broner as a New Age Ray Leonard. It felt off.
Luckily, it was the first show. From the launching of its website in conjunction with a choreographed press conference, to the micromanaging of the production, it would seem to be a safe assumption that PBC will be open to feedback, and perhaps evolve.
(Keith Thurman, left, Robert Guerrero, right; Getty Images)