One strong feature of Showtime events at Barclays Center is the thought and execution in bringing in salient talent to watch the fights and stir the pots.
Saturday night in Brooklyn was no exception. 13,058 patrons took in the pugilistic exploits of Adam Kownacki, the doughy Pole whose “you gotta kill me to beat me” style resulted in a sloppy but compelling scrap with Charles Martin, and also enjoyed the violent chess-match between Shawn Porter, who made stylistic adjustments which made him less accessible to the counterpunching expert Danny Garcia.
And periodically, up on the jumbotron, fans would see video of pugs like Adrien Broner (“Boooooo”), the Charlos, also playing up their status as love or hate sorts, Jarrett Hurd, Gervonta Davis, Keith Thurman (who also drew a bevy of boos), Mikey Garcia and Errol Spence, who is an ascending fan favorite.
The appearances are smart business. Yes, the airfare costs and lodging bills do a hit on a budget. But the boxers’ presence stirs those pots, and gives the promoters and programmers a better idea of what the masses are wanting. It also makes the in-building experience better, the buzz factor is upped considerably.
It’s a bit of a high-wire dance, however. The Charlos draw buzz and also passion. Detractors will hoot at them, and they will bark back. Friend of boxing Dr. Johnny Lops attends every Barclays show, and recently seems to get involved in some scrum or another featuring a Charlo or two.
Media at the post-fight presser, which ran in the 1 am hour to the 2 am span, because this was a 13-bout card that kicked off at 5 pm, also ran up against the Showtime tactic. Adrien Broner, Robert Easter, Davis and Spence had and held the floor, and spent a good deal of that time advancing agendas. That meant, in this case, lobbing shots at the ace on the other side of the street, Terence Crawford.
The Nebraska boxer was not in the house. He’s a Top Rank/ESPN fighter, and the others mentioned before are decidedly not. They are Showtime/PBC guys. And the way of the boxing world is this: much of the action is intramural, with guys fighting insider their own “league,” until the public and fan demand forces the two sides of the street to meet in the middle. I’m thinking specifically of a desired showdown between Spence and Crawford. It would be a welterweight superfight now, to us, the die-hards. But wait a year or what have you, and then it is more likely that Spence and Crawford, having had four or six fights between them, will be that much better known to a wider array of watchers.
And that means more eyeballs, and more money.
Reminder time — this is the boxing business, and you would be sage to filter most everything through that certainty.
Spence said, “Me and Terence Crawford are on different sides of the street,” and some of his crew shouted “Al Haymon!” at that Sunday AM presser.
“I’m a way better fighter than Terence Crawford,” Spence stated. “A lot of stuff is smoke and mirrors, that’s what Bob Arum do, a lot of smoke and mirrors,” he continued, noting that he thinks Crawford has a weak résumé. “Bob Arum is a great promoter, smoke and mirrors.”
Spence didn’t stop, he was in prosecutor mode. “Like I said he’s on the wrong side of the street. I’m not going to ESPN,” he said, saying the big money is to be made on Showtime and FOX. “He gotta leave ESPN and come to Showtime and FOX.”
My three cents: Some media don’t like this sort of takeover. I dig it, because in this age, people aren’t as keen to look back and dissect wins and losses. They want to know what’s coming next, and Showtime gets that.