This week marks the 1-year anniversary of the PBC franchise, which debuted on NBC on March 7th, 2015. And I thought this was a good opportunity to have a bit of a look back on what PBC has meant for the fighters involved.
Al Haymon's stable of fighters is the largest in boxing and was assembled all throughout 2013, 2014 and 2015 by luring fighters from other promoters by promising them better career opportunities and better paydays fighting under the PBC banner. Throughout 2014 it became apparent that some fighters were intentionally avoiding risks and some matchups were intentionally postponed, trying to preserve good fighter records and good fights for PBC programming. Fighters like Peter Quillin openly admitted refusing quality bouts in anticipation of better opportunities promised to them by Al Haymon.
So I think this is as good a time as any to have a detailed look at the most relevant 30 fighters in the PBC stable and try to rate how well their career has evolved fighting on PBC shows, with matchmaking and management by Al Haymon's team.
To be clear, for this piece I am not evaluating the overall success of the PBC franchise, I am not looking at ratings, production values, finances or overall success. I am merely interested in how they've managed and matched each individual fighter. For this purpose, I am going to grade the year for each fighter not necessarily by how they performed in the ring, but by what opportunities were provided to them by PBC.
This is Part One, looking at the first 15 fighters alphabetically. The other 15 will be covered in Part Two, to be posted shortly.
Touch 'em up, let's go!
Devon Alexander - In the 12 months prior to the launch of PBC, Devon Alexander fought for Golden Boy Promotions. He took a heavy, unexpected loss to Shawn Porter, then bounced back with a good win over Jesus Soto Karass and then was outclassed by Amir Khan in one of the last cards not officially branded as PBC. In the one year where the PBC brand was available for him to fight on, he stayed on the sidelines for over 7 months and then came back in what was supposed to be a get-well fight against Aaron Martinez, which proved to be a trap-fight as the unmotivated and possibly under-trained Alexander took a loss from the resurging Martinez. It was his only PBC fight. Grade For Alexander's year with PBC: E-
Rances Barthelemy - In the year prior to PBC, Barthelemy had won the IBF super-featherweight title. In his time with PBC, he relinquished the title to move up in weight. He fought a stay-busy fight against a journeyman in March, then a slightly higher-profile outclassing of former lightweight titlist Antonio DeMarco in June and then won the vacant IBF World lightweight title in a solid performance against contender Denis Shafikov. Grade for Barthelemy's year with PBC: B
Andre Berto - After previously having been out with an injury, Andre Berto started his PBC year with a well-matched bout against Josesito Lopez, where he managed to rally for a stoppage victory and then in September landed the mother of all paydays, a big-money bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr.. Sure, he lost that bout but for his actual real world abilities, losing to Floyd was the biggest realistic career and financial achievement he could have hoped for in 2015. Grade for Berto's year with PBC: A
Adrien Broner - Before PBC, Borner had had a weak 2014 with two get-well bouts after Maidana. With PBC, Broner fought first John Molina after which he was matched-up against Shawn Porter in a big-name bout where he was ever-so-slightly favoured but was edged out by Porter. He was then given a chance at the vacant WBA 140-pound belt against a decent foe in Khabib Allakhverdiev whom he stopped. In my book Haymon gave Broner two pretty good opportunities. He lost one but that's what happens when you're in competitive matches, I don't think that was necessarily Haymon's fault unless we condone infinite babying and easy matchups. Grade for Broner's year with PBC: B-
Lucian Bute - After a year with a thoroughly disappointing showing against Montreal rival Jean Pascal and an injury, Bute joined up with Al Haymon a bit later in 2015 and was given a headliner-spot for a get-well fight against Italian non-contender Andre Di Luisa (whom he stopped) and then an arguably undeserved title shot against James DeGale in which he performed above expectations in a valiant losing effort. Bute is surprisingly back in the super middleweight mix. Grade for Bute's year with PBC: B+
Jermall Charlo - Jermall was still a prospect before appearing on PBC shows. Under the PBC banner he had another tune-up against gatekeeper Michael Finney, then received a slightly surprising title shot against a very vulnerable titleholder in 42-year-old Cornelius Bundrage, whom he impressively destroyed. He ended up the year as a headliner in a junk title defense against undeserving Wilky Campfort which he aced. Grade for Jermall's year with PBC: B
Jermell Charlo - Charlo had had a good year under the Golden Boy banner with wins over contender Gabriel Rosado and fringe contender Charlie Ota plus another win. He started the PBC year well with a gutsy win over contender Vanes Martirosyan but then was surprisingly inactive until late in the year where he was matched with the very old and very shot Joachim Alcine. He seems to be losing momentum. Grade for Jermell's year with PBC: C-
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. - Chavez was, in retrospect, set up with one of the biggest trap fights of the PBC year against Fonfara, where he took a far more damaging loss than the one against Sergio Martinez. He then came back with an uninspiring win over Marcos Reyes, sat out (probably partied) a lot, was then set up to fight Badou Jack for his super middleweight title but pulled out with an alleged injury although rumours from his training camp suggested the usual lack of professionalism. Junior's fanbase is probably mostly gone, his career is on life support and Al Haymon has been unable to control him. Grade for Junior's year with PBC: F+
James DeGale - In the year prior top PBC, DeGale had started to pick up a little steam with assertive wins over fringe contenders Brandon Gonzalez and Marco Antonio Periban. Al Haymon immediately took that momentum to another level when he matched DeGale up with highly-touted American Andre Direll for a vacant title. DeGale did himself proud by winning on the road. Later in the year he was given a good-money matchup with local Montreal star Lucian Bute, a sort of well-paying / low-risk gig against a fading but still hugely popular star. DeGale had to work a lot harder then he would have expected but came out with a unanimous decision in a fight that even got some Fight Of The Year buzz. DeGale is now arguably no.1 in the weight class. Grade for DeGale's year with PBC: A
Andre Dirrell - Andre fought just once under the PBC banner, a good title chance in a good bout against the very good James DeGale. He lost and has disappeared ever since. Grade for Andre's year with PBC: D-
Anthony Dirrell - Anthony was coming off the most successful year in his career prior to PBC, fighting just once but beating Sakio Bika for the WBC World title. PBC gave him a competitive first defense against Badou Jack that he was favoured to win but didn't. He came back with a decision win against fading former middleweight contender Marco Antonio Rubio. Like Broner, I don't blame Al Haymon for putting him in a competitive bout he was supposed to win. Grade for Anthony's year with PBC: C
Omar Figueroa Jr. - The momentum of 'Panterita' had begun to slow down in 2014 as the first question marks about his vulnerabilities had surfaced. Under the PBC banner, Figueroa was given a pretty high-profile bout against recent fellow lightweight titleholder Ricky Burns, a decent name that was considered over the hill and was brought to 140 pounds, a weight more favourable to Figueroa. But in retrospect the best decision PBC made about this bout was to stage it in Texas, with Figueroa barely Texassing the win in the end. More of the same followed, with Figueroa being fed an over-the-hill former lightweight titleholder (Antonio DeMarco) at a weight faaaar above lightweight and once again having to work his ass off for even a close win. I think Al Haymon delivered for Figueroa, he fed him name opponents that were supposed to be easy work. I don't think it's his fault that Figueroa is proving to be fatally flawed. If anything, Al Haymon's matchmaking is the only thing keeping us from finding out that Figueroa is really not a top-15 anything (140-pounder or 147-pounder). Grade for Figueroa's year with PBC: B
Javier Fortuna - PBC culminated Javier Fortuna's steady rise over the past few years by delivering a quality world title bout which he won. He then made one pretty irrelevant defense Grade for Fortuna's year with PBC: B-
Andrzey Fonfara - Before PBC started, Fonfara had made a bit of a name for himself with a valiant effort losing to Adonis Stevenson. Under the PBC banner, Fonfara was given a Golden Goose of an opportunity matched with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in what was, in retrospect, a fight he was favoured to win although most people thought he was not. He made a huge statement stopping Chavez. Afterwards he was given another competitive, relatively big-name bout against former titlst Nathan Cleverly, where both fighters lit up the UIC Pavilion in Chicago with a scintillating display. Grade for Fonfara's year with PBC: A
Danny Garcia - In the year before PBC started, Garcia somehow became one of the most hated men in boxing and I won't even mention how and why because you all know. He was positioned as one of the main attractions of PBC and right off the bat was matched against Lamont Peterson in what was supposed to be an anticipated matchup. A combination of catchweight, a too-close decision win and most importantly resident hate from the previous year meant that Garcia still didn't get much credit from fans for the victory. He then moved to 147 pounds where he was fed two big-name but over the hill opponents in Paulie Malignaggi and Robert Guerrero. Purely from a name perspective Al Haymon gave Garcia pretty good victims without jeopardizing his record too much. But on the other hand they did nothing to improve his image among fans. Grade for Garcia's year with PBC: C
Please feel free to argue my ratings in the comments below and don't be afraid to let Al Haymon know how you really feel.
In Part Two we'll have a look at 15 more PBC fighters, from Robert Guerrero to Deontay Wilder and at the end we'll try to draw some conclusions.