"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."
~Mike Tyson

Monday, April 17, 2017

Priemier Boxing Champions - A Boxing Coup D'etat

Too Big To Fail?

Photo: premierboxingchampions.com
Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions is an entity that has it's foundations rooted in hyperbole, misnomers, misinformation, and hubris. Designed from the ground up to appeal to the lowest common denominator of television viewers as well the incredulous boxing fan, the fight series promised high quality fights between the best in the sport and was heralded as the sport's long overdue return to "free" television. The series aimed to be the antithesis of modern boxing models, promising to break the mold networks like HBO and even Showtime had been successful with for decades. The powers behind the PBC made some big promises and with Waddell & Reed's half a billion dollar financial backing how could it possibly fail?

Dead On Arrival

Despite the PBC's promises most whom follow the sport with any sort of regularity were wary from the start. Reclusive PBC brain child Al Haymon had demonstrated in years previous that he had little talent not only for matchmaking but boxing promotion as well. Evidently earning a MBA from Harvard doesn't necessarily endow one with the talents, experience, nor the acumen one needs to be a successful boxing promoter, excuse me, "adviser". Not only were the fights he staged on pay networks underwhelming and often mismatches but the fighters themselves were almost always...well let's just say they weren't the sports greatest talents.

If the writing hadn't been scribbled on the wall by Haymon while he and his fighters/fights were on both HBO and Showtime it certainly was when the boxing series dropped its first promotional video. In case you've either never seen that promo or been one of the lucky ones who've forgotten about it I've included it here.

"The Champ Is Here"

To the uneducated, casual, or new boxing fan, this promo could easily be construed in a positive light. To those with a flare for the critical, boxing cynics, and long time fans however this promo raises some red flags... six to be exact. When the following fighters are being sold by any entity as it's premier talent one has every reason to be skeptical of that entity delivering on any of it's promises.
None of the aforementioned boxers are bad fighters but they are mediocre and critically flawed; embarrassingly so for an outfit that refers to itself as "Premier". Is it possible that savvy boxing fans might have watched this promo and walked away confident in what was coming? Hyperbole and rhetoric are powerful marketing tools used to drive specific points home but in the PBC's case these tools were used egregiously. Sure the PBC had a small vocal and intellectually vapid minority supporting its efforts at launch but to everyone outside of that minority the PBC was essentially dead on arrival.

Quality Over Quantity

Photo: boxinginsider.com
Fans have plenty to complain about when it comes to the PBC. Whether it's meaningful fights never materializing, fighters being protected, long layoffs etc.; it is perhaps Haymon's focus on quantity over quality that is the sharpest thorn poking fans in their sides. At the series peak PBC fights aired on a variety of "free" networks. PBC fights could be found on Spike, ESPN, Bounce TV, CBS, and NBC Sports, sometimes airing at odd days and times during the week as well. Flooding the market isn't always a bad way to draw attention to a new product but when quantity takes a precedent over quality its not exactly going to inspire interest or loyalty in that product.

"Premier" Boxing Champions?

Without having signed the likes of Sergey Kovalev, Gennady Golovkin, Wladimir Klitschko, and the sport's other elite talents in 2015, Haymon could have and should have chosen a better name for his now failing boxing series. Nearly his entire stable of fighters is made up of mediocre talent; you know those guys that, without protection, will never come close to reaching the pinnacle of the sport but that can be used to test those that will on their way up? Outside of the PBC's bubble these types of fighters are referred to as journeymen and gatekeepers. Within the PBC universe however they are considered  "Premier" talent. Ask yourself, is it really just a coincidence that the sports elite fighters still haven't signed with Haymon?

Premier Boxing Champions is more than a misnomer, it's a blatant attempt to pander to people who don't know any better and it's an insult to those that do. It's an attempt to create a market that doesn't exist and manage a business model that is unsustainable. Haymon and company aimed low in their attempt to monopolize and reform boxing. Business 101 says "find a niche and exploit it" which is exactly what boxing had done successfully over a century before Mr. Haymon came along. Al Haymon either didn't care about boxing's core audience or he was arrogant enough believe the people who live and breathe the sport wouldn't see through the bullshit. When one overlooks their core audience and patronizes them it's nearly impossible to be successful.

Change Is Good Right?

Change can certainly be a force for good in business but that's not always the case. Apparently Al Haymon never got the memo that reads "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Of course it's entirely possible that he got it, read it, and then promptly threw it into a shredder thinking he knew better but who knows. There are many areas of the sport that need fixing or updating and anyone whom attempts to address those in a manner in which makes sense should be admired. Gutting and omitting time honored and popular boxing traditions in order to replace them with sterile presentations however has proven to be an unpopular move among the very people Haymon needs tuning in. In his attempt to capture a new audience it's appears as though Al Haymon looked to the likes of MMA and the WWE for inspiration and was so excited about what he saw that he forgot what actually works in boxing. Smart business says that you improve on what is already working within a business model and nix what doesn't. With his PBC series Haymon has done away with grand ring walks and fighter entourages instead choosing to send fighters out alone to Hans Zimmer tunes that feel generic inside of a lifeless promotion. Gone too are in ring announcers and his announcing team functions more like a PR team who proactively damage controls his business. The PBC is boxing minus it's personality, it's pomp, and it's excitement.

Lowering The Bar

Photo: renegadetribune.com
The PBC is a toxic entity that has killed, stalled, and detoured a number of careers. It's biggest stars fight anywhere from just once every 8 months to once or twice a year. This alone clearly demonstrates that Al Haymon doesn't understand momentum nor how to build a boxer's career. Then again maybe activity isn't part of Haymon's business plan. Inactive fighters aren't exclusive to the PBC but it appears as though its fighters purposefully sit out for long stretches while they wait for politics to drop big fights into their laps. PBC promoted fights are, for the most part, disappointing affairs and are often mismatches to boot. It's biggest fights feature 2nd tier talent in bouts where there's more activity than achievement, although it's spokespersons would have you believe you've just watched something that makes Hagler/Hearns look like a boring affair. Despite it's current problems the PBC has succeeded in doing one thing. Across all lines and in all areas, the PBC has substantially lowered the bar. Even worse and like a virus, its business model has infected other areas of the sport and other promoters and networks are now playing copycat. Be it quality of fights, recycled fighters, what passes as a great fighter, drama and story lines, and even its presentation you can be sure you'll walk away from a night with with the PBC disappointed and frustrated 95% of the time.

Scott Jarvis is a boxing writer for Split Decision Boxing. He can be reached on Twitter or by email at splitdecisionbox@gmail.com.


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