Is Haymon’s “PBC” Series Set for Failure Before it Begins?


Al HaymonThe day is here, and Al Haymon’s grand scheme is finally coming to fruition as the first “PBC” series event will broadcast live on prime time NBC in just a few hours.

This move was expected for some time, but the actual planning that went into this decision took much longer than most assume. Haymon didn’t just wake up one day and consider the possibilities of “taking boxing back to pop culture’s forefront” and he certainly couldn’t have arranged all of the little intricacies that are going into this first broadcast without careful deliberation over time.

It is nice to see Marv Albert and Al Michaels part of the broadcast team. I’m happy for “Sugar” Ray Leonard and it will be nice to see him back in the boxing mix as a part of the sport and not just as an unofficial ambassador at pricey plate dinner charity nights.

And yes, I admit it is pretty cool to see Hans Zimmer do some production work as a composer of the opening score and I believe he will have a hand in future “lead up” type shows, as well.

There is an awful lot of fancy going into this series and “PBC” is sure to be a force in the boxing world with its stable alone, but there is one key piece missing that could have a negative impact on Haymon’s chances at success.

The fact is the “PBC” series is virtually unrecognizable right now, and I admit that Haymon is doing everything he can to build this brand the right way, but I can’t help but feel he has missed some chances.

As of the last 2-3 days, we’ve seen HEAVY promotion on various networks, promoting today’s card and the fact that boxing is “coming back to network TV.” However, where was all of this promotion two months ago and why is it so short sided?

In an era of media that gives us virtual connection at any moment’s notice, why does it feel like this promotion was done with the purpose of exclusivity? The actual commercial was pretentious, but that was a directorial decision, and I understand the idea. But the lack of genuine content over the course of 2-3 months is purposeful, but for what purpose.

Haymon’s initial press conference to announce the “PBC” series took place almost 2 months ago, yet the promotion never really kicked off in the traditional sense.

The presser was a curious event as well. First, the media list was invite only, which was incredibly stupid. I’m not challenging that decision because I wasn’t on the list, I make no mistake in judging my own esteem as a “boxing writer.” I think it was a mistake to make the presser invite only because the best workers on the boxing beat weren’t present. The writers and videographers that make us pay attention to a single event or fighter were missing, which didn’t do the announcement any favors.

I’m not a huge Gabriel Montoya fan, in fact I’m not one at all, but I admit that I would’ve been excited to read something from him regarding the drug testing policy implemented by Haymon on his fighters competing under the “PBC” banner. I don’t know if Montoya would’ve covered the event, I don’t really care, but that is just one example of the regular scribes missing in action that could’ve done the announcement justice.

Instead, what we got, for the most part, was the same “old” coverage that we expect from the traditional “inches conscious” writers. There was some great coverage from the pros that always bring their A-game, but a lot of the coverage was the same down the line.

So what do we have from a boxing fan’s standpoint? We have a couple of legends in broadcasting in Marv Albert and Al Michaels, who once covered the sport thoroughly but haven’t been really associated with the sport in years and I doubt they ever watched Broner’s destruction of Eloy Perez or Robert Guerrero fight on Unimas. Does that mean they can’t do a great job: of course not. Does it matter from a “boxing coverage” standpoint, of course it does.

And what about Ray Leonard, I’m glad he’s got a gig, but he hasn’t been an active voice in boxing in years. Things have changed since Leonard was a champion in boxing and a champion for boxing. Will he toe the party line and give his take with a Haymon bias in mind, or will he speak the truth in the moments that call for it?

I say all of this to say it doesn’t matter. Hardcore fans will show up for the fights, and casual fans won’t know any better to question those moments when the broadcast team gets it wrong.

So what could’ve been overlooked by Haymon that could make this a less than successful venture?

All of my points tie into one major point. The biggest issue is the “PBC” brand does not have a face behind it. It is a longstanding tradition for a promotion to have a mainstay fighter or cash cow, just as it is practical business sense for a company to get a top athlete to endorse their product.

“PBC” needs a fighter to hoist its flag the way Pacquiao does Top Rank’s or the way Canelo Alvarez does Golden Boy Promotions.

Even if they don’t have that fighter right now, they can build one, and they certainly have the talent to do so. But it doesn’t take away from not having a face for the company. For years, Al Haymon has avoided any and all media. As far as the commercial market goes Haymon is not a recluse because that would insinuate he was once in the spotlight. Instead, Haymon is a ghost.

But whether Haymon likes it or not, whether he accepts it or not, he has become the face of the “PBC” series. I’ve seen every press release that has come through for “PBC” and Haymon’s name has never been on one of them. And, from what I’m told, Haymon’s name was never even mentioned at the presser.

Haymon doesn’t want to be a figurehead in boxing, but it’s far too late for that. His allusiveness has worked against him, and all the secrecy has made him more appealing to those that have only ever gathered whispers about the powerful advisor.

Haymon needs to be a part of the promotion, if not he needs to find a suitable replacement. The situation is comparable to Oscar De La Hoya’s own promotional enterprise. When De La Hoya started Golden Boy Promotions, he was the figurehead, and he put his popularity at the forefront.

De La Hoya promoted the first several GBP cards by showing up to the town in which they were promoting an event and signed autographs, took pictures, and gave interviews to the media. He used his brand to help jumpstart GBP.

Then, De La Hoya used his in-ring popularity to parlay an output deal with HBO, who would buy GBP shows to keep De La Hoya fighting on their network. It is a proven method in boxing.

For “PBC” to become a powerhouse they need to adapt to the current state of boxing, but they can’t forget the tested methods that have worked for decades in the sport

I know the counterargument to my point, and that is Haymon can be successful without being a symbolic figure or the face of the company, so long as he provides exciting, competitive matchups like the ones today.

However, who says that is true? I admit that the lack of competitive matchups in boxing helped to destroy the commercial appeal, but who’s to say that the damage isn’t irreparable and that boxing has been out of the limelight for so long that it won’t be saved by some great matchups on paper.

That’s the other thing that people seemed confused on because everyone mentions the potential success for “PBC” based on a series of interesting matchups, but we can’t say that these matchups will provide the necessary fireworks the casual fan needs to become enthralled in boxing’s permanent landscape.

Sure, Danny Garcia versus Adrien Broner would be huge, but not to the people that have never heard of them, and before those casual fans by into a Garcia-Broner matchup both men have to make entertaining fights in their respective “PBC” on NBC debuts.

I feel like too much emphasis is being placed on the general interests of two men fighting and not enough on the pop culture influence fighters have had over the years.

I’m not saying that “PBC” will fail, I’m just saying if it does it will be partly because OZ decided against coming out from behind the curtain.