Does Saturday’s PBC Card Have Boxing Primed for a New Broadcast Era?

Boxing Scene

A card bejeweled with four world-championship belts on the line marks the Saturday night launch of Premier Boxing Champions’ debut card on Amazon Prime Video.

The occasion represents the latest – and perhaps most telling – reach to collect boxing fans outside the sport’s most fervent viewing population. It’s an immense opportunity to package the sport in its glossiest form yet, distributing action that resonates beyond language barriers to 170-million-plus Prime subscribers in the U.S., and 230 million worldwide who can view gripping competition from athletes based all over the globe.

The main event is Tim Tszyu’s bid to unify the WBO and WBC junior middleweight titles against 6-feet-5½ Sebastian Fundora, and the co-main is a stirring battle between talkative 140-pound champion Rolando Romero and the gritty Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz.

This starting point – featuring boxers from Australia (Tszyu), Cuba (middleweight champion Erislandy Lara), Mexico (Cruz), Venezuela and Ukraine, in addition to the U.S. – is a domestic pay-per-view showcase only, as Premier Boxing Champions’ existing agreements with foreign broadcast distributors have yet to lapse.

Still, longtime boxing watchers view it as an encouraging step that PBC was intent in its creation of a deep card that promises intense action and powerful ramifications across multiple weight classes.

Former welterweight world champion Shawn Porter said on Tuesday’s episode of ProBox TV’s “Deep Waters” that the “trinkets” – in reference to the belts ranging from flyweight to middleweight on the card – are an essential stroke to prove where this effort is going.

“This makes sense. This is what we should expect to see,” Porter said.

Former 140-pound world champion (and Porter’s fellow ProBox TV analyst) Chris Algieri went as far as labeling Saturday’s card from Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena as “more of a UFC model.

“We’ll get some eyes from people who aren’t used to the old format,” of top-heavy pay-per-views, Algieri said. “It’s a good idea – fights that are good and competitive is important,” leading new or casual fans to assess, “‘Let me give this a shot … .’ It lays the groundwork for the rest of the year.”

PBC on Prime Video will return May 4 with the face of boxing, undisputed super middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, defending his belts against Mexican countryman and former 154-pound titleholder Jaime Munguia on Cinco de Mayo weekend.

Although not yet formally announced, multiple boxing officials have reported that a June 15 pay-per-view featuring unbeaten Gervonta “Tank” Davis against unbeaten Frank Martin and a light heavyweight meeting between David Benavidez (28-0, 24 KOs) and former titlist Oleksandr Gvozdyk is also bound for PBC on Prime Video.

The past decade has witnessed the collapse of HBO and Showtime boxing programming. At the same time, streaming service DAZN has backed off the anti-pay-per-view policy it held at implementation while also withdrawing from its free-spending push to land an abundance of American talent.

Amid this sobering climate, boxing continues to be plagued by one-sided bouts that allow promoters and managers to protect an aspiring prospect’s unbeaten record, promotional/broadcast firewalls that deprive fans of anticipated clashes and sanctioning-body shenanigans that further complicate a champion’s or contender’s standing.

Asking for all of this cancerous institutional behavior to cease because of a new broadcast deal is obviously too great a stretch.

Yet in a landscape where Saudi Arabian boxing power broker Turki Alalshikh is spending lavishly to shatter the business’ old ways by bankrolling the undisputed heavyweight championship between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk, and the undisputed light heavyweight bout pitting Russian titleholders Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol within a two-week span starting May 18, perhaps this new platform and first-step forward by PBC indicates part of a paradigm shift.

“This is a boxing fan’s card … a quality card,” said ProBox TV’s Paulie Malignaggi while comparing it to DAZN’s April 20 pay-per-view featuring WBC 140-pound titleholder Devin Haney against the popular Ryan Garcia, whose PBC pay-per-view against Davis last April generated 1.2 million buys.

“Haney-Garcia will see more [buys], but I don’t think the two cards are comparable,” said Malignaggi, pointing to the top-heavy star power of Saturday’s card. “Does star power always reflect the quality? Not necessarily. The numbers can, in fact, lie.”

Algieri paid notice to the fact that Prime Video will offer a subscriber-only appetizer of two (separate) fights featuring unbeaten Phoenix middleweight Elijah Garcia and Ukraine’s top-10 junior middleweight contender Serhii Bohachuk. With a victory, Garcia will gain a title shot at the winner of Lara-Michael Zerafa.

“The matchmakers did a great job on this card,” Algieri said. “There’s a lot of fights that have the ability to create new stars.”

Porter agreed, as Tszyu, the son of former world champion Kostya Tszyu, can position himself for a title defense against recently undisputed welterweight champion Terence Crawford later this year while the Romero-Cruz winner will be poised to earn a rematch with Davis.

“The main and co-main will not be letdowns,” Porter said.

Many would argue boxing can’t afford many more letdowns if it hopes to stop its slip toward niche-sport status and regain the footing that made it a household, mainstream presence in the youths of many of its power brokers.

Astute matchmaking, widespread exposure and the showcasing of pure talent are the sport’s best hopes.

Of course, the cause requires a substantial financial investment, as well, and the Saudi Arabian model, for now, is big-footing what everybody else is doing.

Asked hypothetically, for instance, if PBC would yield to Alalshikh and Saudi Arabia in their bid to create the Alvarez-Benavidez megafight in the U.S. (amid whispers that the Middle East wants Benavidez to fight the Beterbiev-Bivol winner in December to perhaps set up a meeting of two undisputed champions in 2025), one powerful North American promoter said it best:

“Yes, they would, because everybody would be getting paid,” the promoter said. “Every man has his price.”

The same goes for Joe Fan, who mulls whether or not to buy a pay-per-view on Saturday nights.

If enough of them green-light that purchase this week, a new era is off and running.

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