By Cliff Rold
Fans of boxing in general had to be excited about the news. Fox is dramatically increasing their investment in the sport via the PBC side of the game. Any heavy investment that translates into revenue for fighters, more dates, and a network promising more viewer potential is a good thing for the health of the sport.
The PBC was already on Fox but this insures an enduring presence. They had already had presence and investment from Showtime, which sits under the CBS umbrella. The Showtime side has their third fight in what has become a sort of informal series in the welterweight division on Saturday night (9 PM EST).
The first fight in the series was a hit on CBS, matching WBA welterweight titlist Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KO) and Shawn Porter (28-2-1, 17 KO) in 2016 for what was an entertaining brawl that did eye opening ratings for the network.
Thurman’s win there led to a big showdown in March 2017 with the man who had been best positioned as a star alongside him from the birth of the PBC, former Jr. welterweight champion and WBC welterweight titlist Danny Garcia (34-1, 20 KO). Thurman-Garcia wasn’t as rough an affair as Thurman-Porter but it still entertained and produced even better numbers for CBS.
Thurman exited a unified titlist. Fans haven’t seen him since, injuries keeping Thurman on the shelf though he is still expected back. The layoff was long enough for Thurman to see the WBC belt vacated. Its owner will be decided this weekend when the wheel turns to Garcia-Porter.
Along the way, Thurman, Garcia, and Porter have beaten various other members of the field available under the PBC umbrella. Porter comes in off wins over Andre Berto and Adrian Granados since the Thurman loss while Garcia has knocked out Brandon Rios.
Those were fights Porter and Garcia were supposed to win. This is a fight where no one can be sure what’s coming. That makes it the right kind of fight, the kind of fight fans should be happy with and frankly expect.
Boxing’s inability to sometimes deliver fights between competing entities has been a problem for a lot longer than the Mayweather-Pacquiao saga that dominated so much of the 21stcentury. HBO and Showtime often operated in parallel universes in the 1990s as well. The winner of Porter-Garcia, or the loser, or a returning Thurman, isn’t likely to be in with Top Rank’s Terence Crawford in the immediate future.
That sucks but it can at least be countered under each promotional umbrella by making the best fights available to it. At welterweight, and indeed at Jr. middleweight, lightweight, and featherweight this year, we’ve been getting a lot of that from the PBC. Eventually, wells can run dry in any round robin.
There are only so many combinations of fighters, and rematches, that can be made before the fans get restless.
That’s a point of strength for the PBC welterweight crew right now. Round robins between well-matched fighters are never a bad thing and all the options aren’t exhausted. Rematches with Thurman for either Garcia or Porter wouldn’t be bad. New matches with one more piece of the PBC puzzle would be even better. We’ve seen a three man round robin unfolding but there is a chance to make a circle from a triangle.
No matter who wins this weekend, there is one potential superstar in the PBC stable who has yet to share a ring with Garcia, Porter, or Keith Thurman.
IBF welterweight titlist Errol Spence (24-0, 21 KO) is the tiger lying in wait.
Since stopping Kell Brook for his belt last year, Spence has defended twice and impressed both times with knockouts of Lamont Peterson and an overmatched Carlos Ocampo. The 2012 Olympian looks like he’s ready for anyone. The increase of revenue to the PBC should make anyone wondering when Spence will be fully drawn into the mix optimistic.
His time will come sooner than later and the welterweight scene will be the healthier for it. There is already a buzz about a Spence showdown with Crawford down the road but in the meantime we can root for the easiest fights to make first because that’s where the most realistic possibilities lie. Over time more names will surely emerge but there are fresh matches to be made with Spence right away coming out of this weekend. They might not happen next, but there’s no reason to think they won’t. The best thing the PBC can do for Spence is also what appears to be best for business.
This Saturday, we get chapter three in a round robin. Will Spence be there for chapter four? This is a round robin with room for one more.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]