The much-anticipated news that NBC is getting into the boxing business on a grand scale was unveiled Wednesday with the announcement that the network will partner with manager-adviser Al Haymon on a series of cards beginning March 7 at the MGM Grand Garden.
Plans call for 20 events, 11 of which will be aired on NBC, with the other nine to be shown on the NBC Sports Network. The series, which will be branded “Premier Boxing Champions,” will feature former world champions Robert Guerrero and Adrien Broner in separate 12-round bouts on the debut card.
NBC Sports Network has been televising boxing since its rebranding in 2012. It recently concluded a deal with Main Events.
Guerrero, the former world lightweight and junior welterweight champion, will meet Keith Thurman, the World Boxing Association interim welterweight champion. Broner, a former world champ in super featherweight, lightweight and welterweight, will meet John Molina Jr. in a junior welterweight bout.
Veteran sports announcer Al Michaels will call the fights, with Hall of Famer Sugar Ray Leonard serving as the color analyst. Five of the 11 NBC telecasts will be in prime time, including the March 7 show from the Grand Garden.
Haymon, who manages and advises more than 150 fighters, including pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr., does not have a promoter’s license in Nevada. Goossen Promotions will serve as the promoter of record for the March 7 card.
NBC also announced that WBA junior welterweight champ Danny Garcia will face Lamont Peterson in the headline event of an April 11 card. The venue was not announced, but the fight most likely will be on the East Coast. Garcia is from Philadelphia and Peterson from Washington, D.C.
The debut card features the quality one would expect from an HBO or Showtime event. And the fact that it’s on free TV will undoubtedly put pressure on the two cable networks to match the star power NBC is bringing to its telecasts. All four fighters on the card have appeared on HBO or Showtime and are well known to fight fans.
“I think it’s great for the sport,” Showtime Sports vice president Stephen Espinoza said. “We’re not threatened at all. I’d love to see it succeed. In the long term, the more exposure for the sport is a good thing.”
Guerrero (32-2-1, 18 knockouts), who lost a 12-round decision to Mayweather in May 2013, last fought June 21. The 31-year-old won a 12-round unanimous decision over Yoshihiro Kamegai of Japan in Carson, Calif.
Thurman (24-0, 21 KOs) retained his title with a 12-round unanimous decision over Leonard Bundu on Dec. 13 at the MGM Grand Garden. The charismatic and articulate 26-year-old Thurman is popular with the fans and the media.
Broner (29-1, 22 KOs) has won two straight since his 2013 loss to Marcos Maidana. He can be brash and crude when he hypes himself, but remains a talented fighter.
Molina (27-5, 22 KOs) has lost two straight, the most recent a 10-round unanimous decision to Humberto Soto on Sept. 13 at the Grand Garden.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.