Al Haymon and his crew put together a pretty stunning display in some respects with last night's PBC on NBC premiere, but the show fell short in other ways. Let's review what worked, what didn't, and some things that really need to change.
- The production was off the charts for boxing, and it immediately felt more like watching a true mainstream sports show than just another boxing show. More than HBO or Showtime, PBC on NBC felt very modern and slick. That's not to say anything is really wrong with HBO or Showtime production-wise, because they do a great job. But this was different.
- Al Michaels lent a lot of credibility as the host, and did a fine job as the center of the broadcast.
- The short features on the fighters were well-done. It's well-worn territory for the initiated, but PBC is an attempt to expand boxing from a core audience of unwelcoming diehards who watch whatever.
- The main event between Keith Thurman and Robert Guerrero was a good -- not great -- fight. For eight rounds, it was decent. For the last four, it was pretty exciting. From the in-ring standpoint, they saved the show after a lousy first fight.
- They don't mention sanctioning bodies! I don't really care, but it's nice, I guess. It doesn't actually change anything yet, but maybe if the whole thing takes off, it will make some impact.
- BJ Flores is a good color commentator and analyst, and did a strong job relaying information from the corners during the fights. Along with Michaels, Flores was a highlight of an overall shaky broadcast team.
- Sugar Ray Leonard was decent -- neither good nor bad. Had moments where he was very good, moments where he was not very good at all. He was also working with a guy who was really struggling, so we'll put Ray up here for now. More on the other dude in a moment.
- Steve Smoger was good as the rules expert, particularly when he criticized Robert Byrd's performance in the Broner-Molina fight, doing so logically and without being overly dramatic. The best moment of that was when Marv Albert asked him if the fight was difficult to officiate, and Smoger flatly replied, "No."
- At first, I found the entrances interesting. Just the fighter, no entourage or cornermen, making his way out of a grand stage setup. But by the second fight, I didn't care for it anymore. Maybe I'm just a fuddy-duddy resistant to change, and I don't mind the WWE-like aspects of it at all, but it didn't work for me. Though the stage was expensive, surely, it made everything feel cheap, like a show not exactly confident in its product so they went all out trying to draw attention to different things. That's fine for, like, "The Contender." It's overkill here.
- On that same token, I really don't like the Hans Zimmer music that leads the fighters to the ring. Older, fuddier-duddier people hate fighters who rap their way to the ring or have that blasted danged rap music at all. Some just hate music. What happened to when it was 1963 and a man just walked to the ring or whatever? And he wore tiny shorts and nobody heard of Crossfit? But the Zimmer music felt generic and robbed fighters of their own personalities. I also groan every time combat sports does that whole GLADIATOR WARRIOR shtick, because it's corny.
- Marv Albert may have just been rusty from not calling boxing in decades, but yeesh, he was not good. He was missing a lot of the action. It seemed beyond him, basically. Marv didn't add anything other than a name, and really, is his name that important here? You already have Al Michaels. Marv might need to be replaced before we have to endure years of him. But if the replacement idea turns into Gus Johnson, let's keep Marv.
- Laila Ali was working a mumblecore version of the job BJ Flores was doing in the opposite corners. She did perk up during the NBCSN fight when they brought up Muhammad Ali's Twitter.
- When the ring announcer -- who was never in the ring, so is he really the ring announcer? -- called for the fans to give an ovation to "these two valiant warriors!" after the Broner-Molina fight, the crowd booed. I mean, you know, obviously. When he called for the same after Thurman-Guerrero, it was deserved but felt phony. You can't do it after every fight. You don't have to try to convince people they saw a great fight if they didn't. In fact, you really shouldn't. People hate being lied to and aren't so stupid that they'll just believe it was great because you have some magic voice telling them it was over the PA.
- Steve Farhood was there scoring the fights, but never got to speak. Considering he was the best commentator this show had, that seems like a waste. He should at least get the Lederman-style moments to explain his score.
- Adrien Broner and John Molina stunk out the joint, mostly due to Molina not challenging Broner in any way. AB was there putting his combinations together and boxing smart. It was up to Molina to press him and make him do more than that. Molina did nothing. After a couple of strong right hands in the third round, Molina pretty much disappeared the rest of the way. If that was the game plan, he had no hope of beating Broner. It didn't work for him against Humberto Soto, and it worked even less this time out. Is Molina "shot" following the Matthysse fight? Maybe. It seems to have taken something from him.
- Did they have any actual sponsors for this show other than Corona? Almost every commercial break was filled with spots for NBC shows, #MayPac, or the 4/11 PBC on NBC show. Corona got in there. I saw a lot of local ads. There was one for VisitMyrtleBeach.com that really sucked, i don't know if that was local or not.
- The hype is that these are going to be competitive matchups, but on paper, Broner was the massive favorite against Molina, Mares the massive favorite in his fight, and Thurman-Guerrero was a pretty even matchup, with Thurman the solid but not overwhelming favorite. With Molina not really showing up at all, that fight was a bomb and anything but competitive. Thurman-Guerrero was wide for Thurman, but Guerrero thankfully came to win and threw everything he had into the fight to make for a little drama. The Mares fight was a mediocre performance for Abner and he got through it, but since that was on NBCSN we can't really rail on it that much.
This show was an experiment of sorts, to figure out what works and what doesn't. But it's important to note that several things didn't work. It wasn't a bad show -- with one of two fights being good, it beat a lot of shows we're used to -- and there were a lot of positives to take from the event. There are, however, definitely some things that need attention and need to be changed or tweaked.
What did you think of the show? What did you like? What did you dislike? Are you still excited going forward, and do you expect the shows to get better?