By Jason Pribila – Bethlehem, USA: A fan of any sport often looks at the upcoming schedule and highlights the match-ups that he or she is looking forward to most. When I look at the upcoming boxing schedule, I first look at the match-ups that I’m most looking forward to as a fan. The level of excitement only goes up when I realize that there is the opportunity to cover an event from Press Row.
On Tuesday evening, I was thankful for the opportunity to cover the latest PBC installment of their “Toe to Toe” series airing on FoxSports1. Admittedly, the main event between Edner Cherry (35-7-2, 19 KO) vs Haskell Rhodes (23-2-1, 11 KO) did not jump off the page, but I did not hesitate to reach out to ace publicist, Marc Abrams to request my press credential.
Sad news broke over the weekend that veteran boxing writer, Jack Obermayer,, 72, died at his home on Friday in Lindenwold, New Jersey, after a battle with liver cancer. Suddenly it was important to be ringside to hear stories that were shared by the many that had the opportunity to work alongside a man who had simply outworked them all.
I did not know Mr. Obermayer personally, but his presence became a fixture at any event I covered within driving distance. Whenever I’d enter a venue, I’d often look to see where Jack was seated, so that I had an idea of how to get to my seat. On evenings when my scorecards matched his, I had a feeling of belonging to a fraternity in which he was the President.
Thoughts of the past were soon projected to the present. After a forgettable undercard, the televised portion got off to a quality start. However, the only smiles during the dreadful main event would be when I heard someone asking, “How do you think “KO J.O.” would have called this one”?
My mind was suddenly flooded with questions like, “How are the announcers describing this?”, “How are the judges scoring this?”, and “What if this was your first live boxing experience?”
Boxing at the Sands Events Center is still in its infancy. The first phase could not have asked for a better scenario. Bethlehem had a homegrown ticket seller in Ronald Cruz, who was knocking out everyone that Hall of Fame promoter/matchmaker Russell Peltz put in front of him. The Peltz Boxing relationship with Main Events soon brought us televised fights featuring then unknown Sergei Kovalev, an undefeated heavyweight prospect in Bryant Jennings, and fan-friendly Gabriel Rosado; to name a few.
Soon there were a few missteps where dates were promised to promoters without any promotional experience. Not even the opportunity to see Mike Tyson literally sleep thru fights he promoted was enough to boxing fans willing to open their wallets. So, the place was papered by passing out complementary tickets. Thus, destroying the market that Peltz and Main Events had created.
Currently Al Haymon’s PBC Banner hangs over the Bethlehem ring. He needs to put on televised fights in order to keep his vast number of clients busy. While the PBC cards do not always take place in venues that make much sense as far as cultivating talent in regional markets. Most fans who have been to a PBC card are almost always guaranteed to see at least world class prospect.
The PBC cards also work because Haymon works with longtime local promoter Marshall Kauffman who is able to provide fighters under his Kings Promotions banner based out of nearby Reading, PA. In many cases, boxing fans will pay to support local fighters and then stick around for the televised portion of the card.
On Tuesday Night, nothing seemed to work from the opening bell until the PBC went off the air. The following is my list of why this card was doomed from its inception.
The PBC: Fox Sports 1 is one of the many outlets that televise PBC cards. They join the roster of CBS, NBC, ESPN, NBCSN, SPIKE, and Showtime. My thoughts the PBC first shared their Mission Statement was that boxing finally has the chance to create cross-over stars. At the very least, I thought that free television would at least create a worthy challenger for Floyd Mayweather Jr. At this point, there simply doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the Haymon Madness. Why not have different stations focus on showcasing similar divisions. Have fights set up the next televised card. Allow fans to be able to connect with the channel and the fighters who appear on that channel. Instead, even the PBCs biggest stars like Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, and Adrien Broner seem to be fighting on a different network each time out. Making matters worse is that win or lose, if you’re a Haymon fighter your next fight is guaranteed to be televised…somewhere.
The Promoter: Tuesday’s card represented the first of two fight cards that Kauffman is promoting in a five day span. He is also promoting the PBC card on ESPN this weekend, live from Reading. On paper, the ESPN card is much better top to bottom. Former welterweight titlist, and Reading native, Kermit Cintron is buried on the undercard.
So while it’s understandable why Kauffman may have been looking ahead, he still owes an effort to those who bought a ticket on Tuesday Night.
Until one could actually see the ring, one had no idea that they were at a sporting event. A curtain separating seating from the concession stands was thick enough to drown out the sound from the arena. I know this because I was taking part in a one-on-one conversation with the woman serving personality by the pint, who had asked me if I thought it would get any busier.
While in the arena the DJ was spinning the type of uninspired tunes that led me to listen to sports talk radio. The screens that usually showed the action in the ring and more importantly highlights between rounds were dark. No sighs of any ringcard girls. No sighs of any type to alert the crowd what round was upcoming. This confusion was echoed when the PA announcer stated that a fight ended in knockout in round eight, even though the seventh round never came to an end.
Unless one was there to support a fighter on the undercard, I would have a hard time convincing anyone that they weren’t better off watching the fight on DVR.
The fighters: At the end of the day the majority of the blame should fall on the clenched shoulders of Edner Cherry and Haskell Rhodes. I hate to be critical of fighters who show the hard work and dedication to get into shape long before displaying the courage to step into the ring. However, fighting on a televised Main Event for a sport that has proven that they are unable to buy ratings; these guys should be barred from television for at least one year.
First of all, I’m pretty sure we have all seen the Edner Cherry ceiling. Nice career, but not quite at the championship level, a gate-keeper capable of pulling an upset. He’s been on much bigger stages with boxing’s elite. He should know how to get a guy out of there who is not interested in trading. He should not be throwing wide, off-balanced punches that continually missed their target by feet not inches.
This was the first time that I’ve seen Haskell Rhodes fight, and I’m confident when I say that this sport is not for him. I know that somewhere out there are 23 people that Rhodes defeated inside of the ring. And because they too are responsible for inflating Rhodes record, I believe that they should also retire.
I would wager that the only one in the ring during the main event that woke up sore was referee. Gary Rosato, who unfortunately drew this assignment, must have woken up with sore triceps after being forced to continually push the fighters apart from each other.
The most disappointing part of the entire debacle was the reaction that the fighters had after the fight. When the final bell rang the fighters actually embraced as if they completed a fight that would demand a trilogy. Did they not hear the chorus of boos that they inspired throughout the fight?
Perhaps I’m being a bit selfish with my assessment of the evening. I’m thankful to have the best athletes on the planet participating in one of the world’s greatest sports in my backyard. I’m thankful to those who are able to dedicate their time and money to ensure that productions like this are able to take place. I appreciate those who report on the sport. The majority of whom do so for little or no pay, but they continue to show up because they know that on any given night they could witness something that could inspire award winning movies and books.
Unfortunately there is no true recipe for success. This sport, more than most, is the theater of the unknown. An epic promotion could create an event, but not always a great fight. There are times when two counter punchers produce fireworks, and even times when a crowd could create an atmosphere more memorable than what happens inside the ring.
I have seen great things from the PBC, Kings Promotions, and fighters in the very ring from the very spot that I sat on Tuesday night. This is why I’m confident that June 28th will be the exception and not the norm.
Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. I could be reached for questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on twitter.com @PribsBoxing