Today's Premier Boxing debut on CBS

By Jeremy Wall

Premier Boxing made its debut on CBS on April 4th, headlined by WBC Light-Heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson beating Sakio Bika via unanimous decision after twelve rounds at the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City. It was the third show held by Premier Boxing after the promotion debuted on NBC on March 7th and then returned for an event on Spike on March 13th.

The show aired on CBS from 3pm ET to 5pm. The first hour of the show, which included a fourth-round knockout victory for Artur Beterbiyev (8-0) against Gabriel Campillo (25-7-1, 1NC) at light-heavyweight as well as a ton of hype for Mayweather-Pacquiao, went up against the final hour of the UFC Fight Night from Fairfax on Fox Sports 1. The co-main event of Al Iaquinta vs Jorge Masvidal on the UFC card began a few minutes after Premier Boxing’s broadcast opened.

Premier’s main event of Stevenson beating Bika in a one-sided decision went on at 4pm, just as the UFC event was ending. Stevenson (26-1) was able to knock Bika down in the sixth and the ninth rounds, but was unable to finish Bika (32-6-3) and had to settle for a unanimous decision victory on scores of 115-111, 116-110, and 115-110.

Bika, 35, was making his debut at 175 pounds and was clearly a fighter brought in to showcase Adonis, as Bika was coming off a unanimous decision loss to Anthony Dirrell (26-0-1) last August.

The first few rounds were competitive, although Adonis was clearly winning each round. Adonis appeared to knock Bika down in the fifth, but it was ruled a trip after Bika pulled Adonis down to the mat with him. Adonis then started landing hard straight lefts from his southpaw position and was showboating for the crowd once he had a few winning rounds under his belt.

Adonis knocked Bika down with a straight left in the sixth, although Bika argued with the ref that it was a trip, as he got right back up. In the ninth round, however, there was no dispute as Adonis knocked Bika down again in the closing seconds of the round and might have been able to finish Bika if not for the bell. Adonis really started to showboat for the crowd at this point, although Bika came back and landed some hard shots in the twelfth round.

Adonis said little of note in his post-fight interview, saying only that Bika was tough and that people should no longer question his own chin. Adonis wasn’t asked about Sergey Kovalev, who is the mandatory challenger to Adonis’ WBC Light-Heavyweight title and who holds all the other major belts at light-heavyweight. Adonis, 37, has been accused of ducking Kovalev as well as Bernard Hopkins, taking easier fights to protect his title and drawing power.

A purse bid has been ordered for Kovalev vs Adonis on April 17th. Kovalev (27-0-1) last fought on HBO a few weeks ago and is scheduled to face Nadjib Mohammedi (37-3) in either June or July. If the fight between Adonis and Kovalev were to happen this year, it would likely happen after that, with Kovalev, 32, as the heavy favourite going in.

“I’d love to unify the belts eventually, but I’ll let my manager, Al Haymon, take care of that. My dream is to unify all the titles and become the first fighter from Quebec to do so,” said Stevenson in the week before the fight against Bika. Stevenson’s fights normally air on pay per view in Quebec, even when they are on Showtime elsewhere, but this match aired on CBS in the province, same as everywhere else, making it one of the few times in recent memory that a major fight in Quebec was also broadcast in the province free.

In the co-main on CBS, Beterbiyev destroyed an overmatched Campillo, with the former looking like a new star in the process. Beterbiyev scored a knockdown less than a minute into the fight with a jab and right hook combination. Beterbiyev controlled the second and third rounds before scoring another knockdown in the fourth that resulted in the knockout win. Beterbiyev, who is from Russia but fights out of Montreal, was interviewed through a translator after the fight and was asked about a title match, but didn’t commit to anything and said nothing of note.

Although Beterbiyev has only eight pro fights, debuting in June 2013 and fighting exclusively in Quebec, he has finished all eight of his opponents and looks more seasoned than his record indicates. He was clearly a fighter that Premier Boxing was looking to build into a name with this fight and should face someone with more marquee value next time out.

With the Beterbiyev fight going so short, CBS also aired the final two rounds of Julian Williams (19-0-1) beating Joey Hernandez (24-3-1) by unanimous decision after ten rounds at welterweight. Williams, 24, is a rising contender, but other than trying to get Williams some air time, there wasn’t much point to airing the ending of this fight as it certainly wasn’t exciting.

The show also featured a ton of hype for Mayweather-Pacquiao, including an excellent video package on Mayweather that included footage of Floyd being interviewed by Mauro Ranallo to hype the pay per view on May 2nd that is expected to bring in $400 million in revenue.

Premier also used much of its advertising time to show personality features of its major stars, including Danny Garcia, Lamont Peterson, Omar Figueora, Anthony Dirrell, Peter Quillen, Deontay Wilder, Leo Santa Cruz, Errol Spence, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. At first this was neat, but these pieces, which were about 30 to 60 seconds long each, aired repetitively, as Premier didn’t seem to have many advertisers for this show. In fact, most of the other commercial space was dedicated to TV shows on CBS, making it seem unlikely that Premier came anywhere near break even on this show considering how much they must have spent for the time on CBS.

All of the expensive set pieces and production values were back, for the most part. Beterbiyev didn’t get a fancy entrance, but there was an elaborate stage setup and both Adonis and Bika got the star entrances. The 360 cam was back, but the ref cam wasn’t. The broadcast team was much different compared to NBC, with much less name value compared to Premier on NBC or even Spike. The broadcast team consisted of Brent Stover of CBS Sports and Paulie Malignaggi, as well as Virgil Hunter and Kevin Harlan, the latter having done NFL play-by-play.

They also announced shoulder programming called Inside Mayweather-Pacquiao would air on April 18th on Showtime after the Chavez Jr vs Andrzej Fonfara fight on the same station. It is the first of four episodes, with subsequent episodes airing April 25th, April 29th, and the final episode taking place after the fight on May 9th. It will focus primarily on Mayweather.

“’Inside Mayweather vs. Pacquiao’ will not only welcome viewers into Mayweather’s camp before the fight but also give viewers a window into those dramatic and often poignant moments immediately before and after this historic fight,” said Stephen Espinoza, Showtime Sports executive vice president and general manager, last week.

HBO is producing their own shoulder programming to hype the fight called “Mayweather/Pacquiao: At Last”, which will focus primarily on Pacquiao. What is interesting is that HBO’s show also debuts on April 18th. HBO has a “Boxing After Dark” card headlined by Lucas Matthysse vs Ruslan Provodnikov on that night, with their hype show on Pacquiao airing afterwards at approximately 11:45pm ET. The Showtime hype show airs 45 minutes later at 12:30am ET.

These fights and hype shows on HBO and Showtime air one day after Jay Z’s Roc Nation promotion holds their second show on April 17th, which is taking place at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut and airing on Fox Sports 1.

This is notable in relation to Premier Boxing for a couple of reasons. Roc Nation debuted in New York on FS1 on January 17th with the idea of updating boxing for modern audiences, similar to what Premier Boxing is attempting, the latter on a much larger scale. Jay Z has signed Andre Ward and Miguel Cotto, two of the top boxers in pound-for-pound rankings, the latter who signed for a $5 million signing bonus.

Jay Z and Al Haymon also apparently despise one another, as Haymon, who used to be the most powerful promoter of R&B music in the United States, is the former promoter of Jay Z and Beyonce, Jay Z’s wife. Haymon’s promotion of Beyonce disintegrated badly and led to a lawsuit involving Beyonce, Haymon, Live Nation (Beyonce’s promoter and the company Haymon sold his original music promotion to), and Matthew Knowles, Beyonce’s father.

The April 17th Roc Nation card is headlined by Murat Gassiev (20-0) vs Felix Cora Jr. (25-6-2) at cruiserweight. Roc Nation is also rumoured to be close to announcing a monthly series on Fox Sports 1, as well as a show on BET. Roc Nation has a three-show time buy with Fox Sports 1 and after April 17th will have one more show left on that deal. The plan right now seems to be to do another time buy with BET, beginning with a June 20th show in Oakland headlined by Andre Ward. It will be Ward’s first fight off HBO since 2009.

A video package featuring Julio Cesar Chavez Jr talking about his upcoming fight against Fonfara also aired later in Premier’s CBS broadcast. Chavez is a major ratings draw based on his father’s name. Fonfara is an underrated fighter who gave Adonis a good fight in Montreal last year. It should be a good match. Both fighters are under contract to Al Haymon, promoter of Premier Boxing. The fight takes place on Showtime.

Haymon and Jay Z aren’t the only promoters bringing boxing to free television. Top Rank, owned by Bob Arum, recently announced they had signed a deal in conjunction with HBO to air fights on truTV, which is a Turner station that is available in 89.7 million homes. The debut of Top Rank on truTV takes place on May 1st, with subsequent episodes on May 1st, May 8th, and May 15th, with the idea clearly to use these shows to build hype for bigger fights on HBO.

Premier’s debut on NBC in March drew 3.4 million viewers. Premier’s second show on Spike drew 869,000 viewers. But neither of those figures is indicative of what the third event on CBS might have drawn. Spike is cable and CBS is network, and while the NBC show was also network, it aired on a Saturday night instead of a Saturday afternoon. The CBS show also went against the UFC broadcast on Fox Sports 1.

Premier also recently announced that they would be replacing Friday Night Fights on ESPN beginning on July 11th. Instead of a weekly broadcast of fights on ESPN2, Premier would air a monthly show on the primary ESPN. It is a two year deal that goes to July 2017 and includes two Saturday afternoon shows on ABC, similar to the show that aired on CBS. The deal includes 24 events on ESPN with an option by Premier to hold six additional events. Premier already has a deal to air 40 shows on NBC and NBC Sports through 2016; at least eight shows with CBS in a multi-year deal; 33 monthly shows with Spike through 2017; and monthly prospect shows on Bounce TV, which is a network Haymon helped create in 2011.

Premier is back on April 11th at 8:30pm ET on NBC. It is Premier’s second event on NBC and third overall on a major network. The show is headlined by Danny Garcia vs Lamont Peterson with a co-main of Peter Quillen vs Andy Lee, taking place at the Barclays Cewnter in Brooklyn.

Premier is also scheduled for Spike on April 24th at 9pm ET with Dirrell vs Jack and Jacobs vs Truax frm the UIC Pavilion in Chicago; and, May 9th on CBS at 4:30pm ET with Figueroa vs Burns at the State Farm Arena in Hidalgo.