What has happened to Premier Boxing Champions?
When Al Haymon's series began with massive hype in March 2015, PBC rolled out one fight card after another on numerous networks as part of its extensive time buy. It was almost impossible to keep up with all the fight announcements and the networks they were on -- NBC, CBS, ESPN, NBCSN, Spike, Bounce TV, Fox, FS1. Did I miss any?
Now, it's not so hard at all. In fact, it's easy. There is but one single card on the schedule, and it is nothing to get excited about. It's a weak show on Sept. 27 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on FS1 that is headlined by welterweight Bryant Perrella against Yordenis Ugas. This is not a significant, interesting fight.
Once upon a time, there were often multiple PBC cards per week populated by name fighters; Haymon spent his investors' $500 million lavishly as though it would never run out.
Now it is plainly clear that the war chest has been badly depleted, even though PBC officials are loath to talk about it.
I regularly examine purse payout sheets from the state commissions, and the PBC fighter purses have dropped substantially from where they were last year. The production costs have also been slashed, which is why the huge stage and both the blue and red fighter holding areas are gone; it costs a lot to truck them around the country. Other bells and whistles have also been eliminated to save money, according to people involved in producing PBC telecasts.
And since there is less money being thrown around, the quality of fights has been dramatically reduced. Last year, ESPN aired big-time fights such as Leo Santa Cruz against Abner Mares at Staples Center in front of a huge Los Angeles crowd, and fights with major names such as Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia. Those fights cost millions.
This summer, ESPN got the likes of Sergey Lipinets against Walter Castillo in a quiet casino in a main event that cost a tiny fraction of the previous year's main events.
Showtime (which pays for fights as opposed to being a time buy) is planning some fall PBC cards, but there are only two more slated for Spike (none until Nov. 12). Those networks figure to have some of the better names and higher-level fights. However, one outlet that has had the most significant PBC fights is NBC, which said Wednesday that it will not televise any other cards this year, either on the main network or its NBCSN cable network. Several dates for the remainder of the year have been canceled, including two December prime-time NBC cards and at least three NBCSN cards.
"We are working with the PBC folks to move remaining shows to better dates in first two to three months of '17," an NBC spokesman told ESPN.com on Wednesday.
Since the cards on FS1 and Bounce TV are generally prospect oriented or lower-level fights, there are few outlets left this year for the slew of top PBC fighters. There are no more ESPN cards this year (and they were turned into lower-level cards anyway) nor are there any more scheduled for Fox or CBS.
Yet there are a bunch of top fighters aligned with PBC who have fought only once this year and are in need of bouts. They include Daniel Jacobs, Garcia, Thurman, Shawn Porter, Adonis Stevenson, Andre Berto, Jermall Charlo, Jermell Charlo, Julian Williams, Erislandy Lara, Vanes Martirosyan, James DeGale, Badou Jack, Anthony Dirrell, Andre Dirrell, Austin Trout, Adrien Broner, Rances Barthelemy, Gary Russell Jr., John Molina Jr., Dejan Zlaticanin, Jose Pedraza, Edner Cherry and Lee Selby, among others.
Perhaps some of the fighters have fought only once by design, but certainly not all of them or even most of them. It's hard to keep guys busy at their expected purse level when much of the money that bankrolled PBC cards is gone.
There are others who have not fought at all this year, including Peter Quillin, Devon Alexander, Lamont Peterson, Jesus Cuellar and Abner Mares.
Of course, some of these fighters will be scheduled before the end of the year. It would seem as though a fight such as the Cuellar-Mares featherweight title bout, called off in July, will be rescheduled before the sun sets on 2016. Also, for example, there is supposedly a deal between junior middleweight titlist Jermall Charlo and mandatory challenger Williams to fight this fall, which is why the purse bid was canceled. Stevenson likely will face mandatory challenger Eleider Alvarez this fall. And Jacobs, a secondary middleweight titlist and a mandatory challenger for unified titleholder Gennady Golovkin, may wind up crossing the street to HBO for the high-profile/big-money fight in late November or early December.
"Most people in TV sports programming stay away from trying to counter program college football, the NFL, MLB playoffs and the start of the NBA season in October and November," PBC spokesman Tim Smith said. "PBC is a TV boxing series, and as such, it's mindful of the sports programming around it, and it wants to maximize potential viewership among sports fans."
Of course, that was not an issue last fall, when the money was flowing and there were several PBC cards. PBC's activity level has slowed as its bank account has seemingly dwindled.