Another week, another television deal for boxing manager and adviser Al Haymon, who has the deepest stable of fighters in the sport and now has another outlet on which to have them televised.
On Thursday came the formal announcement of the second Haymon television deal in two weeks, as basic cable channel Spike TV unveiled plans to air Haymon's "Premier Boxing Champions" series.
Spike TV, which has been involved in combat sports as a television home to Bellator MMA and Glory kickboxing, will air boxing for the first time as part of Haymon's deal to purchase time on the network. Spike TV will carry a minimum of 33 monthly cards on Friday nights -- nine this year with 12 more apiece in 2016 and 2017. The network also said that if all goes well, additional cards might be added.
The first card will take place March 13 (9 p.m. ET/PT) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, and be headlined by former welterweight titleholder Andre Berto (29-3, 22 KOs) against Josesito Lopez (33-6, 19 KOs). Former welterweight titleholder Shawn Porter (24-1-1, 15 KOs) and Roberto Garcia (36-3, 23 KOs) will meet in the co-feature.
"We share the vision of the 'Premier Boxing Champions' series to put the fighters first," Spike TV president Kevin Kay said. "The fighters are the stars, and we will give them a platform to demonstrate why they are among greatest and most exciting athletes in the world."
The broadcast team will be announced later, Kay said.
The announcement came one week after Haymon and NBC unveiled plans for 20 "Premier Boxing Champions" cards this year in a multiyear deal. The NBC deal, also a time buy, includes five cards on NBC on Saturday nights, six on NBC on Saturday afternoons and the remaining nine in prime time on NBC Sports Network.
That series begins March 7 in NBC prime time at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with welterweight titlist Keith Thurman (24-0, 21 KOs) facing former two-division titleholder Robert Guerrero (32-2-1, 18 KOs) and former three-division titleholder Adrien Broner (29-1, 22 KOs) facing John Molina (27-5, 22 KOs) in the junior welterweight co-feature.
The second card, slated for April 11 at an East Coast site to be determined and also on NBC in prime time, will pit junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia (29-0, 17 KOs) against titleholder Lamont Peterson (33-2-1, 17 KOs) in a nontitle bout at 143 pounds.
Kay said he is a "legendary [Muhammad] Ali fan" and has wanted to bring boxing to Spike TV.
"I love that [Ali] era of boxing, and I have always felt that if somebody came along and could put together great fights and great cards and market and promote it in the right way, and do it on cable TV on a regular basis and be committed to it, that we could bring that back and kind of get boxing the comeback it deserves," Kay said. "Boxing needs a comeback right now. Right now I think you look at boxing and it's just a handful of guys that you know.
"I think that's because nobody is committed to a consistent place on [basic] cable TV where you can promote, market, and develop boxers and their brands. That's what I'm excited about. I have wanted to do it for a long time."
Haymon does not speak to the media, but Kay said he decided to throw in with Haymon after looking at various entities in the boxing business.
"Haymon has big names. What I wasn't hearing [from others] was that the fighters come first because I believe the fighters need to come first," Kay said. "It's not about the manager, the promoter -- that's what I think is actually not good for the sport. We're not talking about any of that [with Haymon]. Al's thing is that, and I always say, he's like a ghost, man. His spirit is with us. But the thing that I heard was he wants to innovate and wants to change the presentation of the sport because he feels, like I feel, which is what I had wanted to hear, is that I don't want to see a red, white and blue ring when I turn on a fight and feel like I'm still in 1975. I want to bring a presentation to this, and this is what we at the network do.
"We want to update the level of production and put a broadcast team out there that is young, diverse, that feels like the audience. We want to tell stories about fighters and build them as stars. Commit to shoulder programming for every single fight and run it a whole bunch of times on the channel so that we get to a place where the audience knows who these guys are and gets invested in them. We look at these kids today, and they are so charismatic and they have great smiles and winning personalities. Let's tell their stories and invest the audience in them, and I think if we do that, we have something really special here."
Berto, who has been featured for years on premium cable networks HBO and Showtime, said he believes bringing top-level fights (in which the fighters will earn similar purses) to basic cable is great for boxing.
"This series is something that the sport has been needing and yearning for," he said. "I believe this is a huge message from Al Haymon. He has always been a man behind the scenes, but he is making huge power moves, and this right here is one where he is definitely sending out his message to everyone in general. For everyone that has been trying to find out what he really is about or who has doubted what he is able to do, this right here is a huge platform for his fighters. We are going to be in about 90 or 100 million homes. It doesn't get any better than that. This is taking it back to the days of Sugar Ray Leonard, [Roberto] Duran and Marvin Hagler. They were stars, and now we are getting a taste of that now. It's an exciting moment."
Besides the opportunity to make good money against a quality opponent, Porter said he is excited the fighters will have their stories and personalities exposed to a wide audience.
"I think they just want everyone out in the world to be aware of what the talent is in boxing now," Porter said. "It's talent that hasn't been seen by everyone. I think with launching this on Spike TV, and also NBC, it's going to show people out in the world that boxing has great talent and excitement that everyone can tune in to.
"For me personally, it's very cool because people know me from a boxing standpoint, but to cross over, touch so many more people and have them get to know you, I'm built for that. I'm excited for that and I'm ready for it. It's very exciting for me personally and all the boxers coming to do this as well. I think we will all have something to look forward to."