As promoters were scrambling quickly to “bring boxing back” during the COVID-19 pandemic, Premier Boxing Champions took a different approach. It…waited. This wasn’t the Kentucky Derby, after all.
“We didn’t want to come back just for the sake of being the first ones out of the gate,” said Tim Smith, PBC’s vice president of communications, on the Boxing Esq. Podcast.
“(We were) hanging back,” Smith said, “but also working.”
Safety, obviously, was of paramount concern, so the PBC, which boasts one of the largest fight rosters in the sport and has network deals with Showtime and Fox, was willing to bide its time as it checked out what promoters and other sports entities were doing to create their own safe working environment.
“(We were) working on the safety protocols, just taking a page from the book of everybody that’s come back in sports and taking all the the advice of the healthcare experts and the governmental authorities that are overseeing the protocol,” Smith said. “So that was part of the delay in coming back because you have to take all those variables into consideration.”
As Top Rank, the first boxing promoter to return to the sport, has shown, no matter how stringent your safeguards are, fighters are inevitably going to be testing positive for Covid-19. Which is why the PBC is making sure it has several backups prepared (“a backup of the backup”), in case a fighter or two has to drop out of a card.
“It’s a matter of having those people (the replacement fighters) in place so you don’t lose the quality of the matchup,” Smith said.
The PBC didn’t have to wait long for their contingency plans to kick into high gear. Featherweight contender Stephen Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) was originally supposed to take on Angelo Leo (19-0, 9 KOs) for a vacant 122-pound title on August 1 in a Showtime main event, but he was nixed from the card after he tested positive for the virus. His replacement was undefeated featherweight Tramaine Williams (19-0, 6 KOs, 1 NC), who was already scheduled to fight on the undercard against Raeese Aleem. Aleem will now instead face Marcus Bates in a 10-round bout.
It was a relatively smooth process, something that can’t be said for everyone.
As promoter Golden Boy has shown, ill-preparation can lead to disastrous effects. According to The Ring, when Seniesa Estrada’s original opponent, Jacky Calvo, dropped out of their projected fight on July 24 on the Vergil Ortiz-Samuel Vargas card due to an injury, her promoter struggled to find a suitable opponent in such a short frame of time. Instead, Estrada ended up facing with Miranda Adkins, an undefeated fighter plucked from the midwest who turned out to have a shoddier record than a police blotter. Adkins was knocked out clean in seven seconds. A proper contingency plan would have likely prevented such a risible matchup from taking place to begin with.
The PBC also wanted to make sure it didn’t skimp out on quality, and competitive fights, like any good product, take time to make. So far this strategy seems to have born fruit. Earlier this month, the PBC presented a stacked Showtime fall schedule, which includes, among others, a pay-per-view doubleheader featuring a middleweight title fight between Jermall Charlo (30-0, 22 KOs) against Sergiy Derevyanchenko (13-2, 10 KOs)and a junior middleweight title fight between Jermell Charlo (33-1, 17 KOs) and Jeison Rosario (20-1-1, 14 KOs), and another pay-per-view showdown between Gervonta Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) and Leo Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs). PBC is expected to announce their fall schedule with Fox during its FS1 broadcast of the Jamal James-Thomas Dulorme on August 8.
“You don’t want to do a disservice to your network partner and leave them high and dry and have an inferior product to put on the air and you don’t have to disappoint the fans and at the end of the day it is an entertainment,” Smith said.
“You want the people who tune in to be entertained so you don’t want a lot of showcase fights or a lot of mismatches,” Smith added. “You want championship matches. Matches where there’s something on the line, so that both the participants are going at it fairly hard. I say all of that to say that we took a measured approach and came back with a product that we think everybody is going to enjoy and that we would be proud to put the PBC label on.”