A few weeks ago Golden Boy Promotions announced with great fanfare–is there any other kind?–that they had signed an exclusive output deal with Fox Sports. Some of the boxing cheerleaders out there predictably shook their pom poms at the news, but does boxing really need more televised junk? And is there any doubt, given the GBP track record, that what Fox Sports will show is likely to be as interesting to a sports fan as a live webcam broadcasting photosynthesizing plants? Does Beibut Shumenov-Enrique Ornelas bring tears of joy to your eyes?
It is practically a cultural cliché that most boxing promoters are crooked, amoral, and as double-dealing as the used car salesmen in The Hot Spot, but this does not keep multi-million dollar television conglomerates from paying promoters upfront for services yet to be rendered. This is like letting the Pied Piper take a kindergarten class on a field trip. Unless there is a significant amount of money to be made, no promoter is looking for competition for his fighters, who are, after all, contractually-bound commodities whose devaluation is a business setback for those who manage them. Any output deal or exclusive agreement on the part of a network is pure folly. Or is it? On Friday night the latest installment of NBC Fight Night–a product of Kathy Duva and Main Events–aired, and it almost looks like there is an output deal in place that bucks the sad trends of recent years.
Of course, Main Events has been kicking up this kind of dust since the late 1970s when they ran club shows out of Ice World in Totowa, New Jersey, featuring Rocky Lockridge, Bobby Czyz, James “Hard Rock” Green, and Tony Ayala, Jr. A multi-billion dollar premium cable network did not swoop down on Dan Duva offering to underwrite his nascent promotional efforts for cockeyed reasons that often suspiciously resemble restraint of trade. No, they built themselves from the bottom up. Compare what Main Events is doing on the NBC Sports Network to the switcheroo Bob Arum pulled on Versus a few years ago or the trash Golden Boy routinely dumped on Fright Night Club and So-Low Boxeo (and will probably continue to dump on Fox Sports). Main Events is consistently producing competitive cards. This is what happens when a promoter takes his/her mandate seriously and when a real matchmaker–Russell Peltz–is involved making decisions based, yes, partly on furthering the career of the house fighter, but also based partly on the consumer. After all, being a matchmaker takes more than just having gone to a bunch of swap meets with Oscar De La Hoya in the early 1990s.
As for the show itself, a raucous crowd showed up at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to see two fairly even matchups take place on the televised portion of the card.
Not only did Prenice Brewer drop a unanimous decision to Ronald Cruz in the semi on NBC Fight Night, but he also managed to vie with Lateef Kayode for the stupidest post-fight interview of the year when he accused Manny Pacquiao of using steroids. Brewer was responding to the fact that ringside commentator Freddie Roach had Cruz winning the fight on his unofficial scorecard. Talk about a non-sequitur. Brewer, 16-2-1 (6), is a competent if skittish pro and will now get even more work based on being an off-topic goofball. Hometown favorite Cruz, now 17-0 (12), took the fight to Brewer from the opening bell and, although he flagged occasionally during the middle rounds, never let up. With a little more seasoning Cruz can become a solid headliner on NBC Sports and ESPN2 cards in the future.
Tough as chainmail Gabriel Rosado likely ended the career of former amateur standout Sechew Powell with a crushing 9th-round TKO over “Iron Horse” in the main event. Rosado and Powell boxed cautiously early, with Powell using southpaw counters to keep “King” Gabriel off-balance. But Rosado began to break Powell down as the rounds went by, and by the 8th, Powell was reeling around the ring. Rosado dropped Powell early in the 9th with an uppercut and battered his opponent until referee Steve Smoger stepped in to halt the carnage. Now 26-5 (15), Powell fought with the same measured approach that has marked his career from the beginning. Even during his early days at the Grand Ballroom in New York City, Powell appeared slightly aloof in the ring. At times, he seemed content on just getting by, and on Friday night he also seemed a bit too calculating despite his last-chance status and an opponent he could beat.
A solid journeyman, Rosado, now 20-5 (12), has gathered momentum the old-fashioned way—by fighting hard in rousing scraps. To think there was a time when fighters like Rosado made a good living simply by being entertaining. For the esoterica crowd–who need P-4-P lists, incense, tubular bells, and a séance featuring super journos and bloggers to enjoy a boxing match–this may be of no interest. But for those who want to see prizefights, nothing else matters. If Kathy Duva can remain content with making small profits on stand-alone events, then everyone involved will benefit, and not just the fat cats who seem to get fatter with each passing day for no apparent reason, byproducts of the old output system–official ones and unofficial ones alike.
UPDATE: The name Russell Peltz (the “real matchmaker”) was accidentally left out of this post and was inserted above.