Is the PBC still on ESPN?
Tonight was originally scheduled to be the season premiere of “PBC on ESPN” – which was announced with great fanfare in 2015 as the PBC launched time-buys on various networks – but while it still might be on your cable guide (as it is on mine), the date has been scrubbed clean.
This ESPN press release which was sent out on May 21, 2015:
“In March, ESPN announced a multi-year agreement to televise Premier Boxing Champions, a series created for television by Haymon Boxing, featuring top-level fights between many of boxing’s biggest names. PBC on ESPN will air 12, two-hour live shows annually on ESPN and ABC. ESPN Deportes, ESPN’s Spanish-language network, will also televise all PBC on ESPN fights as part of its Noche de Combates series and ESPN International will present coverage across its networks in Latin America, Brazil, the Caribbean and Pacific Rim. Live coverage will also be available through WatchESPN on computers, smartphones, tablets, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360 and Xbox One via an affiliated video provider.”
The initial card on “The Worldwide Leader” took place on July 11, 2015 from the USF Sundome in Tampa, Florida, and featured Keith Thurman against Luis Collazo. Then, on Aug. 1, they aired a card from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, that had Daniel Jacobs vs. Sergio Mora and Danny Garcia vs. Paulie Malignaggi. They finished out the summer on Aug. 29 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles as Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares put forth 12 hard rounds.
On Oct. 14, the ESPN2 broadcast featured Devon Alexander vs. Aron Martinez (with a co-main of Lee Selby-Fernando Montiel) and they concluded the year on Nov. 25 with Erislandy Lara taking on Jan Zaveck.
Based on the original press release, it was expected that PBC on ESPN would continue with monthly cards and, given the stature of this network – which scrapped its long-running “Friday Night Fights” series for the PBC – this platform would be provide significant match-ups.
But they didn’t start their 2016 campaign till July 9 and it featured a fight between Mario Barrios and Devis Boschiero on a card that quite frankly was reminiscent of the Friday Night Fights series but without the atmosphere and fun. In 2016, PBC on ESPN only aired five cards – all of them during the summer months.
(July 15: Sergey Lipinets- Walter Castillo, July 21: Sergey Derevyanchenko-Sam Soliman, Aug. 5: David Benavidez-Denis Douglin and Aug. 12: Miguel Flores-Ryan Kielczweski filled the remaining slots).
No cards ever took place on ABC.
There was a steep decline in quality and magnitude during Year Two with ESPN and certainly nowhere close to the number of shows that were announced originally. Multiple sources in the industry tell UCNLive.com that, at the beginning of 2016, Brian Kweder (who was actually in charge of ESPN’s boxing programming till the end of Friday Night Fights and helped facilitate Al Haymon’s entry into the network) was sent to Bristol, Connecticut, by the PBC (with whom he was hired as a consultant after being laid off by ESPN) to have conversations about making adjustments on the deal.
Word is the network basically rebuffed such a request, believing, ironically, that Kweder had made such a good deal on their behalf.
So just what happened to the current dates? On the ESPN.com boxing schedule, while there is a plethora of boxing on the calendar from all across the world on various networks, there are no PBC on ESPN dates currently listed. The April 14 PBC card on ESPN, which was listed only as “Venue-TBA,” was taken down last week. PBC does have broadcasts listed for Showtime, FS1/FOX Deportes and Bounce TV.
But that doesn’t mean ESPN is out of the boxing business. Late last year, it was announced that Golden Boy Promotions had entered a deal with ESPN to show fights on their various platforms and those slots are being filled in accordingly.
The scuttlebutt is Haymon owes several millions to the network and litigation could be pending.
When contacted by UCNLive.com about the status of their relationship with ESPN, Tim Smith, the Director of Communications for the PBC, said (via email), “We still have a great relationship with ESPN, as we do with all our television partners. We’re in the process of determining how best to position certain fights on certain networks, as we move forward with the Premier Boxing Champions series.”
There are televised cards tonight on Estrella TV/RingTV from the Belasco Theater and another edition of “ShoBox,” from the MGM National Harbor, featuring Dmitry Bivol-Samuel Clarkson…Robert Easter Jr.-Denis Shafikov is gonna be a good one…Things are getting real deep on Season Two of NBC’s “Shades of Blue.” Who can anyone trust?…I still say Cleveland comes out of the Eastern Conference. I mean, LeBron being well-rested and all…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.