By Jake Donovan
The Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) continues to take shape, in spite of rumors (perhaps born of wishes) of the series meeting its eventual demise long before year’s end.
Free-to-air Fox saw its flagship network officially enter the fold, launching on January 23 after its cable affiliate network Fox Sports 1 aired its first PBC card last September. The card on Fox – topped by Danny Garcia claiming a vacant welterweight belt with a 12-round win over Robert Guerrero – was the first of 10 shows due to air live in primetime on free network TV.
CBS will make its primetime debut on March 12, after having previously aired on Saturday and Sunday afternoons in 2015. The card is topped by an intriguing welterweight showdown between Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter, coming just five days after the one-year anniversary of the first PBC show, which aired March 7, 2015.
The official series launch was also headlined by Thurman, who outpointed Guerrero in their NBC-televised main event. NBC was the only free-to-air network to run in primetime in 2015, but now has plenty of company. It still remains – for the moment – as the go-to network for PBC in 2016, with the first of six scheduled primetime dates due to run April 16.
The exact dynamics of the show have yet to be finalized, although separate parts have been leaked in the form of rumors.
Promoter Lou DiBella – who declined comment and is not at liberty to speak on the card as it has yet to be formally announced - has already placed a hold at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The only risk there is whether the New York Islanders will host a National Hockey League (NHL) playoff game, as they are presently the #5 seed in the Eastern Conference heading into the final 1/3 of the regular season.
Assuming the venue holds true, its occupants for the evening allow PBC on NBC to kick off with a bang,
Two such bouts being discussed for the card are:
a welterweight crossroads bout between rising prospect Errol Spence and former 140 lb. titlist Chris Algieri;
a cruiserweight title fight between unbeaten Krzysztof Glowacki and former champ Steve Cunningham
A showdown between Spence and Algieri has been discussed for the past couple of months, picking up steam after both posted home state wins one week apart.
Spence – a 26-year old southpaw from Desoto, Texas who represented the United States in the 2012 London Olympics – enjoyed a hometown showcase in the form of a 5th round blitzing of Alejandro Barrera last November in nearby Dallas. The bout aired live on a Saturday afternoon edition of PBC on NBC, with the proposed bout with Algieri marking his fourth such appearance on an NBC-affiliated telecast.
His previous showings also resulted in knockout wins, which has been the case for each of his last six starts. Spence made his primetime NBC debut in June, stopping late replacement Phil Lo Greco in three rounds. The feat came two months after making his first career appearance at Barclays Center, stopping Samuel Vargas in the 4th round of an NBC Sports Network-televised affair, offered as bonus coverage in support of a PBC on NBC primetime telecast.
In this particular proposed matchup, Spence (19-0, 16KOs) would not only face his first former, current or future champion, but also concede home field advantage.
Algieri (21-2, 8KOs) has proven to be a popular attraction in the New York region, with all but one career fight taking place in his home state.
The Huntington (Long Island)-based boxer – who is also a licensed and professional sports nutritionist – was built up as a major ticket seller in his hometown before venturing back to New York City for his first world title shot. He came up aces, claiming an upset (albeit disputed) split decision win over Ruslan Provodnikov to win a super lightweight title in June ’14.
The title win also took place at Barclays Center, where he has fought three times in all, including his two ring appearances in 2015. A competitive decision loss to fellow former 140 lb. titlist Amir Khan last May was Algieri’s first under new trainer John David Jackson – a move that was made following his lopsided 12-round defeat to Manny Pacquiao the previous November in Macau, China, his lone career road trip to date.
Algieri has since returned to the win column, scoring a 10-round decision win over Erick Bone last December at Barclays. The feat came just one week after Spence’s aforementioned win over Barrera, which served as a semifinal eliminator for the number-two ranking in the International Boxing Federation (IBF) welterweight ratings.
Spence’s goal for 2016 is to win his first major title. A win over Algieri – especially if he became the first to stop the former titlist – would go a long way in the court of public opinion.
However, it would remain status quo as it relates to official positioning. Algieri is not presently rated in the IBF Top 15, which would disallow any such sanctioning as a final eliminator. The point was brought up in discussing Spence’s future, although not believed to be a dealbreaker assuming all other points are agreed upon in finalizing this matchup.
Not quite as complicated is the proposed title fight between recently crowned titlist Glowacki and former champ Cunningham, who will be moving back down from the heavyweight division.
Both fighters have been out of the ring for the same exact amount of time, though for vastly different reasons. They appeared in separate legs of a PBC on Spike TV doubleheader last August, a night that provided the very best and the very worst the sport has to offer.
Glowacki enjoyed a breakout win few in the sport can only dream of accomplishing. The unbeaten cruiserweight miraculously recovered from a vicious 6th round knockdown to twice drop and eventually stop long-reigning titlist Marco Huck in the 11th round of their unforgettable thriller. The bout was universally hailed as no worse than as one of the two best fights of 2015, right alongside Francisco Vargas’ own off-the-canvas title-winning 9th round knockout of Takashi Miura in their super featherweight title fight last November.
As for Glowacki’s feat, not only did he claim a cruiserweight title, but denied Huck a piece of boxing glory in the process. A win would have given Huck the most successful defenses in cruiserweight history. Instead, he’s left tied for the mark and his career suddenly in tatters.
Glowacki’s stock has never been higher, although injuries have slowed his career progress. He’s now fully healed and prepared to return to the ring, where he potentially has two fights ahead.
While the cruiserweight title fight made for an unforgettable affair, boxing fans would love to have forgotten all about the evening’s main event. So too would have Cunningham, who not only fought Antonio Tarver to a 12-round draw in a dull affair, but was forced to live through the disgraceful aftermath.
The draw verdict has since been converted to a No-Decision after Tarver tested positive for a banned substance. The matter was in litigation for several months – a surprise move since both the “A” and “B” sample produced conclusive results – before finally appearing before the New Jersey State Athletic Commission Board during a hearing earlier this month.
Prior to the fight, Cunningham –a devout Christian and as clean an athlete as they come – claimed he would file criminal charges on the grounds of attempted murder against any opponent who was found to be using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). He still plans to proceed with such plans against Tarver, who has claimed the test results to be part of a mass conspiracy against him.
Meanwhile. Cunningham has since returned to the division where he twice reigned as a champion. Each run was shortlived, claiming a belt and making one successful defense during each reign before losing the title. His Dec. ’08 loss to Adamek was one for the ages, whereas back-to-back losses to Yoan Pablo Hernandez served as his final fights as a cruiserweight.
Eight straight bouts have taken place in the heavyweight division. Included among the lot were disputed losses to Adamek (Dec. ’12 rematch) and Vyacheslav Glazkov in their final title eliminator last March, in addition to the aforementioned debacle with Tarver.
Whenever Glazkov-Cunnigham takes place – whether on the April 16 show or elsewhere – the winner will be tasked with a dangerous assignment. Waiting in the wings is mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk, an unbeaten contender and two-time Olympian for his native Ukraine. The 27-year old southpaw claimed a Gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics, though did not turn turn pro until Nov. ’13.
Once finalized, the aforementioned doubleheader will serve as part of an active month for the PBC series. Just eight dates are on the schedule for the 1st quarter of 2016 – not including any Showtime telecasts featuring PBC boxers (read: clients advised by series founder Al Haymon). Things are due to pick up in April, as BoxingScene.com has learned of no fewer than six dates scheduled – including the 2016 debut of PBC on Spike as well as the next installment of PBC on Fox in primetime.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox