By Michael Woods
The reports of the imminent demise of Haymon Boxing and PBC have been rampant after a quarterly report from their money backers came out, but a counter message is now out from Team Haymon: we are healthy, and getting stronger in many areas.
Tim Smith, formerly a journo with the NY Times and NY Daily News, is VP of communications with Haymon Boxing. He told me that his crew will do double the number of shows in 2016 in primetime that they did in 2015. “Does this sound like a failing company,” he asked rhetorically. “And we added two new partners, FOX and CBS.”
He pointed to a robust rating, a peak of 3.5 sets, tuned in for the PBC Fox show as proof of wellness.
What about the fact, he said, that his crew has a primetime show running March 12 on CBS, with a lead-in of NCAA hoops.
“It's one of the best matchups you can make,” he told me of the Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter. “Does that sound like a failing company to you?”
Steve Kim posted a story two days ago which talked about the burn rate of cash PBC ripped through and supposed austerity measures the company has put in place. Smith said he's equipped to talk about the fights and will leave the finance talk to finance folks. But he continued, telling me that PBC indeed is on the books with an NBC primetime card in April, and a Spike show in April (running through December) and an ESPN show in the summer. “Does that sound like a failing company?”
We spoke of a propensity for negativism in mass media. Smith said he didn't want to say folks lean negative reflexively but he does see an absence of objectivity in reporting too much. “For a long time we thought the results we saw in the ring would be enough to speak for themselves,” he said.
Smith didn't do a point by point dissection of stories out there talking about the supposed flameout descent of PBC, but he did note that historically, much of the info that has been presented in the press, sometimes as opinion, has been errant.
Talk of a less than robust first quarter PBC slate has nothing to do with an austerity crackdown, but rather an understanding that it's wiser to stagger content, Smith said.
He said it is good business to better plan in working around big sport bonanzas.
“What happens in March? There's a brand name for it, March Madness! But we can ride that wave with the CBS card.”
That will be the first one CBS does in primetime since Feb. 1978, when Muhammad Ali undertrained and under performed against Leon Spinks. “All these fights lend themselves to the good health of the sport,” Smith said, gently prodding with the notion that the harsh critiques of PBC miss a point, in that so much quality boxing is there for the watching. Also, he made clear, what about all the opportunities afforded to so many boxers, who have been getting paid well and can perform on a larger selection of platforms.
The FS1 cards have been a solid series, he reminded, giving prospects like Erickson Lubin good purses while they build towards main eventing. “We're looking for wider audiences to as many boxers as we can. Where else are they getting these opportunities if not afforded by PBC?”
Smith and I have chatted about the preoccupation with purses in the Twittersphere. Aren't people happy boxers are making decent bank? Sure, say PBC detractors, but Haymon is messing up the market by paying outsized purses for fights that traditionally didn't pay so well. “Fighters deserve everything,” said Smith. “They sometimes get not enough for something that is hard to do, and it takes a lot out of them.”
My take: the Haymon Boxing effort is still a work in progress. There have been growing pains. Many of those can and will be soothed when we see the best fighting the best.
As for the critiques on Team Haymon, part of that is simply entrenched interests staking out their turf against an invader. Envy and yes, even subconscious racial bias could be factors as well. And also, the disregard or perhaps dislike of media as a whole as part of that PBC corporate culture meant that too often the PBC product spoke for itself. Where no explanations were offered suppositions became fact. Haymon doesn't speak to press and no single point person spoke for him. This allowed perceptions to cement as reality as no cohesive counter arguments were presented to combat negative assertions. Here's hoping we get more interaction and information from the Haymon squad.