By Michael Battista
A few weeks back, I wrote a piece about the boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao possibly becoming a reality after years of build up. Well, since then, not only has the fight been announced for Pay-Per-View in Las Vegas for Saturday, May 2, but NBC has announced that boxing will make its return to network cable within the next few weeks.
The Premier Boxing Champions series will make its television debut this Saturday night, March 7, on NBC in one of five primetime telecasts scheduled for the network. Both NBC and NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will combine for 20 matches overall, with a deal being worked out with CBS for up to eight afternoon fights starting Wednesday, April 8, and a few Friday night matches on Spike TV beginning in mid-March.
This effort to bring boxing back to the mainstream is one of the best ones I’ve seen in a while and looks very promising to the sports world. UFC/MMA did this a few years back – having more matches on networks like Spike and NBC Sports while still having Pay-Per-View cards — and it has increased the sport’s overall appeal from niche to a more broad group.
What sets this apart from UFC/MMA, however, is the broad set of channels on which boxing will be available. NBC and CBS are both basic cable channels and will definitely garner a good amount of viewers. Spike and NBCSN are also great to have, as each has shown in the past to hold their own when broadcasting sporting events. NBC also is staking not only the boxing cards, but the announcing one too, bringing in Marv Albert for NBC, Kenny Albert for NBC Sports, Sugar Ray Leonard as an analyst and Al Michaels to help the debut broadcast.
With the network pushing this heavily on it, boxing has a lot to live up to again, and I personally hope this sport can hit a nerve with the American sports culture and become big like it once was.