(Al Haymon, via)
NBC. NBC Sports. Showtime. Spike. ESPN, probably. And as of today, CBS, too. Al Haymon’s “Premier Boxing Champions” has spread its tendrils into every major U.S. network — save one — that has broadcast boxing in the last several years, plus some new channels, too. We’re talking an almost full-scale revolution in a very short time, and yes, it’s scary.
The coup by the powerful boxing adviser doesn’t look half-bad, if you judge it by the product. There are some solid-to-excellent fights on the ledger via PBC. The best of the new batch is Jhonny Gonzalez-Gary Russell, Jr. (featherweight) and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.-Andrzej Fonfara (light heavyweight), both airing on Showtime, oddly. It looked like, with Haymon sharing his fighters so far and wide, that Showtime would be the one to suffer most. It still isn’t flush with fight cards, that’s for sure, and it’s doubtful that Showtime boss Stephen Espinoza’s prediction that Showtime would come out ahead somehow will end up being true. That said, it’s not getting TOTALLY screwed.
The CBS bouts are more “meh,” three “big/up-and-coming names vs. faded oldies” match-ups. This is where we get to the part that is closer to half-bad. If there’s something good that can come of all of Haymon’s power, it’s that he could, if he chose, expose new would-be fans to the best boxing has to offer on bigger stages than it usually gets. Omar Figueroa-Ricky Burns (lightweight), Adonis Stevenson-Sakio Bika and Artur Beterbiev-Gabriel Campillo (both light heavyweight) ain’t the best boxing has to offer.
For the most part, Haymon has seemed like he wants to make a tremendous first impression. Apparently he’s already comfortable with “so-so first impression.” This is as close as we’ve come to having one boxing boss to rule over the sport, at least in America, and the downside of that approach has always been that any one head of boxing better be damn good at his job, and simultaneously motivated by the betterment of the whole enterprise. Haymon, as we’ve seen, only is interested in putting out a top product when he believes he must.
The last two fronts are the international television picture, where Haymon has made in-roads but is nowhere near this level, and at HBO, where he’s virtually invisible after a stretch where he was very influential. HBO is no slouch, of course, and has been upping its own game of late. The question becomes, can it keep being a power when it’s surrounded on all sides, and its fighters see their peers appearing on the likes of NBC and CBS?
The potential and ramifications of all of Haymon’s maneuvering — which might not even be done! — and the sheer sweep of it all is just breathtaking. It’s here and its BIG. All we can do is hope it either goes well more often than not, or that it suffocates trying to feed its massive oxygen intake if it doesn’t.